I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you. (Colossians 4:18)
There are a variety of ways to define the word memorial, but for our purposes today, this one is best: a memorial serves to help people remember some person . . . namely, Jesus Christ! For the Christian, there are really three ways to memorialize our Master:
- With our speech
- In our service
- And through our suffering
After years as a pastor, walking through the details of life with countless Christians whom God has given me the privilege to serve, I am convinced that the greatest depth of our devotion to our Master is revealed in the third of these actions—our suffering.
Think of the great apostle Paul and the magnificent memorials he left behind for all the world to read and remember regarding his Master. Paul left us many speeches, sermons, and epistles; he left some magnificent miracles; but he also left us the memory of his many chains. Paul’s suffering is the most powerful memorial of all.
Consider these words he penned for the Christians at Corinth:
Are they [false teachers] servants of Christ? . . . I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move I have been in danger from rivers, from bandits, from my fellow Jews, and Gentiles. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. (2 Corinthians 11:23-27)
To be sure, there are many ways to measure the depths of Paul’s devotion to Jesus, but none plumbs the depths of his suffering. And the same is true for every disciple of Christ, including you and me. In our cultural context today, you and I may never experience the physical dangers and suffering that the apostle Paul endured, although many of our brothers and sisters around the world certainly are. You and I may not be shipwrecked or beaten with rods like Paul, but as we memorialize our Master, we certainly may be shunned. We may not be lashed or stoned, but we can expect rejection.
I will never forget these words from one of my spiritual fathers, the late Dr. R. C. Sproul, which he uttered during a class I was attending at Knox Theological Seminary: “When you are out in the world preaching the Gospel of Christ, if some people are not angry with you, one of two things has happened: either they don’t understand what you are preaching or you are not preaching it!” The Gospel either attracts or repels, and it is our responsibility to share it with others, leaving the results up to God.
So . . . what memorials have you left regarding your devotion to Jesus? May God give us the strength to refuse to shrink back, even when our devotion is revealed in the form of suffering.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!