I just finished reading John Piper’s book Filling Up the Afflictions of Christ: The Cost of Bringing the Gospel to the Nations in the Lives of William Tyndale, Adoniram Judson, and John Paton. Great book. I’ve been thinking deeply about the role of suffering in the propagation of the gospel since I first listened to a Piper sermon in 2007 called Doing Missions When Dying Is Gain. If you haven’t listened to this Piper sermon, get on over to the Desiring God website and listen. It’s free. You can listen online or download to your favorite MP3 device.
Speaking of free, you can download Piper’s book for free too. How sweet is that? So if you’d rather burn 128 pages in your printer, you can print your own copy. Or do what I did. I recently purchased an Amazon Kindle 2 (I’ll write about that sometime). I converted the book into Amazon’s Kindle format and read the PDF on my Kindle. It’s not as clean as a true Kindle book, but it worked fine and God stirred my soul at a deep level.
Some of Piper’s thoughts that I can’t get over:
I am saying that this suffering is part of God’s strategy for making known to the world who Christ is, how he loves, and how much he is worth.
… this voluntary suffering and death to save others is not only the content but it is also the method of our mission.
“… Christ’s suffering is for propitiation; our suffering is for propagation.”
[Colossians 1:24] is one of the most important verses explaining the thesis of this book—that missionary sufferings are a strategic part of God’s plan to reach the nations.
In his sufferings Paul is “filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for . . . the church.” What does that mean? It means that Paul’s sufferings fill up Christ’s afflictions not by adding anything to their worth, but by extending them to the people they were meant to save.
So the afflictions of Christ are “lacking” in the sense that they are not seen and known and loved among the nations. They must be carried by missionaries. And those missionaries “complete” what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ by extending them to others.
God intends for the afflictions of Christ to be presented to the world through the afflictions of his people.
Paul’s missionary suffering is God’s design to complete the sufferings of Christ, by making them more visible and personal and precious to those for whom he died.
And these thoughts are just from Piper’s introductory teaching. His exposing the lives of William Tyndale, John Paton, and Adironam Judson and they way they lived out the sufferings of Christ so that “‘the gospel of the glory of Christ’ (2 Corinthians 4:4) spread to all the peoples of the world and take root in God-centered, Christ-exalting churches.” Piper calls this “The invincible purpose of God in history.”
So get on over to Amazon and buy the book. Or get it free from DesiringGod.org. If you need to whet your appetite more, listen to Doing Missions When Dying is Gain. And may we not regard God’s call lightly. It’s why Kay and I are doing what we’ve done for 33 years, but now with greater clarity and purpose than ever before.