Why Paul Suffered

New Horizon Conference | Northern Ireland

One of those saints in the line awaiting us is the apostle Paul. And I am very eager to meet him a thousand years or so, perhaps, after I’ve spent time getting over my first glimpse of Jesus. But I am eager to meet him and talk about him tonight, along with his life. The order of our services has been to focus on the world and why it is the way it is on the first night together, and then to focus on Christ’s sufferings last night and the seven great achievements for us that could only come through suffering in order to win our praise for his grace. And then tonight I want to focus on the suffering of the apostle Paul and how our suffering relates to it, especially our missionary suffering or our ministry suffering. So let me pray one more time and ask God’s help in this regard.

Of All People Most to Be Pitied

It’s interesting that the names Josephson, and then at supper tonight, Richard Wurmbrand, came up, because both of them figure into this message. Richard Wurmbrand was a pastor in Romania that suffered much and wrote a book called Tortured for Christ. He told the story of a Cistercian abbot. That’s a movement in the Catholic Church where the monks are in solitude and silence all of their lives, and they only talk to each other when they sing in worship, and they only see each other when they come out to eat together and worship together. So that’s the Cistercian grouping in the Roman Catholic leadership. And there was an abbot in the Cistercian leadership, a leader in that movement, who was asked one time by an interviewer with an Italian radio or television station this question. Wurmbrand is telling this story, and the interviewer asked:

What if you were to realize at the end of your life that atheism is true and that there is no God? Tell me, what if that were true?

And the abbot replied:

Holiness, silence, and sacrifice are beautiful in themselves, even without the promise of reward. I still will have used my life well.

Now, the question I have is why the apostle Paul answered that question so differently. And the verse I have in mind is 1 Corinthians 15:19, which goes like this, “If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied.” So Paul totally disagreed with the Cistercian abbot. Paul said, “If it turns out that we were wrong and there is no God and no resurrection, I am an absolute fool for the way I have lived my life.” That’s a very serious statement. Why did he make it?

Strange Words for a Land of Prosperity

I don’t know if it sounds strange to you, because in America anyway, I think almost no Christians could say that. That may be an overstatement. I hope it is. And I only speak out of the worldliness of my own context, not yours. You can apply it if it fits. I think most Christians today in the West would say, “Well, look at the psychological benefits of faith. Look at the relational benefits of faith. Look at the prosperity of our business when we follow the principles of faith. If it turns out to have been false in the end, it will have worked really well anyway. So what’s the big deal, Paul? What’s wrong with you? Where’s the good life? Why do you say that if in this life only we have hoped in Christ and there is no resurrection, we are of all people on planet earth to be pitied for the way we are living our lives?”

I just think that’s a massive indictment. What’s wrong with Paul? What is wrong with him? Isn’t he living the abundant life? Why would he say that? It doesn’t seem pitiable to most of us, the way we’re living. If it turns out to be false, it’s still been a good life. It’s been a good marriage with a nice car, a good house, health insurance, hospitals everywhere, and there is plenty of food, clothing, drink, and water. That’s the good life in the West. What is wrong with the Apostle Paul? Now here’s why I believe he said that: Paul’s life was a life of freely chosen suffering. He chose to live a life that he knew in every city would be trouble.

Fools in the Kingdom of God

Now I’m going to try to make clear before we’re done that Paul’s life was massively joyful. He was sorrowful, yet always rejoicing (2 Corinthians 6:10). That’s still true. But my goodness, his life was so full of pain, which he didn’t have to have if he had chosen another way.

There is a better way to maximize the pleasures and comforts in this world than to be a Christian, I promise you. There is a better way to maximize comforts and worldly pleasures than to be a missionary or a pastor or someone who cares about the souls of lost people. There’s a better way, and Paul told us what it was right there in I Corinthians 15:32. He said, “If there is no resurrection from the dead, let us eat and drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” Now when he said, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die,” he did not mean, “Let’s all become gluttons and drunkards because gluttons and drunkards are to be pitied if there’s no resurrection also, because they’ve just blown it.”

When he says, “Let’s eat and drink, for tomorrow we die,” he means, “Find the middle way of the middle-class, Northern Irish, American life way of eating and drinking and normality. Have a good, nice home and family and children and school and car and health and holiday. Have it the normal way. Maximize earthly comforts and earthly pleasures. And then when you die and there’s no resurrection, you will have maximized it and that’s as good as it gets, and then you’re gone.” That’s what he meant, which is the way most Christians live. What does he want us to do? What did he do so differently? He said, “We are of all people most to be pitied if in this life only we have hoped in Christ.” That’s strange, really strange.

Listen to the way he described the life that he had chosen to live under Christ’s Lordship. This is 1 Corinthians 15:31–32:

Why are we in danger every hour? I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day! What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus? If the dead are not raised . . .

“If I didn’t believe in the resurrection of the dead,” he’s saying, “I wouldn’t choose to live the way I live, walk where I walk, sail where I sail, preach where I preach, or travel where I travel. It’s too dangerous. There is danger on the streets, danger in the cities, danger from false brethren, danger from the seas. I live a life of perpetual risk. I put my neck on the line every day. I am an absolute fool if there’s no resurrection from the dead.” That’s the way Paul chose to live.

Reckoning with Paul’s Sufferings

One of my goals tonight, at this morning in the mission section, is not to say that everybody must take the maximum risk, but that many, many, many must, because the Great Commission won’t be finished unless people do. The only places left to reach for Christ — and there are thousands of groups left to reach — are almost all places that don’t want you to come. And we have this Western mindset, this modern mindset, that says, “If they don’t want you to come you shouldn’t go. You shouldn’t go to Muslim places, Hindu places, or Buddhist places where they might kill you. You shouldn’t go. You have kids or a wife or a life to live. You’re only 25. You haven’t had your chance yet.” None of that makes any sense to the apostle Paul. We’ve got Christianity so domesticated in the West that I don’t know if Paul would recognize it.

He said, “I die every day.” And he didn’t mean he’s on a strict diet trying to lose weight. He meant he could be killed any day in the choices he made. He was going to a city, and he thought, “Now what will they do in this city? Will they beat me with rods? Will they stone me? Will they put me in jail? Will they lacerate my back again?” Do you remember, in the list of sufferings that the Apostle Paul gave in 2 Corinthians 11, what he said about his beatings and his 39 lashes? He said, “I was beaten with rods three times and I was lashed five times with the 40-less-one lashes” (2 Corinthians 11:24–25).

Has that ever sunk into you? Has it ever hit you what that means? You take long strips of leather, sometimes they have shells in them, sometimes not. There’s a man who’s especially good at this so that it snaps. Do you know why flags pop when they unfurl? It’s because they’re breaking the speed of sound. If you can get a whip to pop exactly right, it’s moving at over 700 miles an hour when it hits the skin. If that hits your back 39 times, it’s jelly when you’re done.

And they throw you on the ground and it gets dirt in the cuts and you get infected and you have a fever. And it takes months to heal. And then it happens a second time, maybe a year later. He didn’t tell us. And again it takes months to heal. And then it happened a third time and it took months to heal. And it happened a fourth time on the same back. Now, wouldn’t you, if you were following King Jesus in obedience, say to him at that point, “Is this the way you treat your servants? I don’t understand. This is the only back I’ve got. There’s not anything left back there to be torn off.” And then it happens again.

I mean, you have to let this land on you what this man lived when he said, “I die every day.” Imagine yourself shipwrecked in the sea, holding onto a board. And you just want to do evangelism for Jesus who rules the waves and the sea. If you ever find fault with God in your suffering, I suggest you go back to the apostle Paul and learn how to bow down. What was going on? We have to figure this man out. Because I’m calling some of you to live that. I’m calling for martyrs. I’m calling for young people and retired people.

Tempted to Coast

Let me give you a little parenthesis here about retirement. I hate retirement. I hate the concept. I hate the American way of retirement. They kick you out of your job at 65. I’m 60. I hope I’m really healthy at 65. Maybe I won’t be. Maybe I’ll be dead. But right now I could retire. What would I do? Do you know what they tell me to do? They spend billions of dollars to persuade me to do this. They tell me to go to Arizona and play golf till I rot. That’s the most absurd way to prepare to meet King Jesus I have ever heard in my life. And it’s just told over and over again in America. People say, “Come on now, you’ve paid your dues. Enjoy heaven now because there ain’t nothing later.” Now, Christians believe there is something later, and therefore that’s not the way to spend your retirement.

I spoke at Global Connections, which is a British coalition of mission groups, and a couple came up to me in their mid-seventies, and they were American and they had big smiles on their faces. They knew my attitude towards retirement. And they said, “Hello, John. We are here in our seventies ministering to Muslims in London. And we left 13 grandchildren behind in America, and we’ve never had such a good time in our lives. Nobody understands, but you do, and we thought we wanted to tell you.” And I do and you will. The reason they give senior saver discounts on airlines is so that you can fly to unreached peoples. It’s cheap.

I say it now with some qualification because I said this once in my church — we have a lot of old people and a lot of young people — and a lady came up to me very seriously, so I want to say this to balance things out. She was probably 80 years old and spry. And she said, “Pastor Jon, I’m still taking care of my mother.” And I said, “I think you’re doing exactly the right thing. You just love that old, old woman until she meets Jesus, and then the Lord may have something else for you. We’ll see.” In other words, life is complex and I think you understand what I’m getting at.

Filling Up What Is Lacking in Christ’s Afflictions

Would you open your Bibles to Colossians 1? I want to take you to one verse that explains why Paul made the choices he made. Why did he choose this? I know that Christ called him on the Damascus road and said, “I will show him how much he must suffer for me” (Acts 9:16). This is under Jesus Christ. This is no slip-up. This is a plan. The risen Christ said, “I will show him how much he must suffer for me,” when he called the apostle Paul. How would you like to be chosen like that? He said, “I choose the apostle Paul to suffer for me.” That’s what his destiny is, and that’s what some of yours is.

Now, what’s the meaning of it? What’s the meaning of missionary, apostolic suffering? Or just percolate it down to your level of pastoral suffering, or small-group-leader suffering, or Sunday-school suffering, or crossing-the-street-to-witness suffering, or wherever you are, bring this principle now from Colossians 1:24 down to you. Here’s the verse:

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church . . .

My, my, that is a rich verse. It’s a controversial verse, and it’s explosively relevant for missions. Let me read it again, and point out a couple of things. He says:

Now I rejoice (we’ll come back to that shortly because it’s very important) in my sufferings (that’s absolutely crucial) for your sake (the church and those who I’m laboring to gather in), and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions . . .

In other words, Paul says, “In my bodily sufferings, I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.” Now the reason that’s controversial is that you could take it blasphemously, couldn’t you? You could say, “Oh, he’s teaching that the afflictions of Christ are inadequate or insufficient in what they were designed to do in atoning for sin.” In other words, this would mean last night’s message was incomplete, because without our suffering sins don’t get forgiven. That would be blasphemy. That’s not what it means. And I’ll try to show from the wider context that it’s not what it means. So let me suggest an alternative meaning for “I am filling up in my sufferings what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.”

A Signpost to the Suffering of Christ

What’s an alternative interpretation to saying his afflictions were inadequate in their atoning merit and we have to make a contribution to that? That’s wrong. Here’s the alternative. The incompleteness of the sufferings of Christ is not that they lack atoning merit; the incompleteness is that those for whom they were designed don’t know about them and have never seen them and cannot be moved by them. And Paul, as a missionary, penetrating the nations, goes out there, and as a member of the body of Christ, he suffers.

He said, “I bear in my body the marks of Jesus” (Galatians 6:17). He bears the suffering and says, “This is the suffering of Christ being completed for their observation, not their salvation. They don’t get saved by my suffering, but they observe Christ’s sufferings in me.” I think that’s the meaning. Now how can we decide if that’s the meaning? How can you show biblically that that’s the meaning?

The Ministry of Epaphroditus and Paul

If you’d like to follow the argument with me, put a finger in Colossians 1:24 and go to Philippians 2:29–30. Here’s the situation. There’s a parallel that I think is so illuminating. Do you remember the man in Philippi named Epaphroditus? Epaphroditus was charged to take the ministry — we don’t know if it was money, food, books, clothing, etc. — from the Philippian church to Rome where Paul was in prison, and he did that.

And on the way there, he almost lost his life. Paul says it in this section in Philippians 2:27 that he almost died. He was sick to the point of death and almost lost his life in that ministry of the Philippians. Now in Philippians 2:29, Paul tells the church in Philippi to honor Epaphroditus when he comes back. And he gives the reason in Philippians 2:30. And the words are very similar to Colossians 1:24. Listen to how Paul says it:

So . . . honor such men, for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me (Philippians 2:29–30).

Now, those words in the original language — “to complete what is deficient in your ministry to me” — are almost identical to the words in Colossians 1:24, which says Paul is “filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ.” Let me read it with those words. Philippians 2:30 says:

For he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.

Now that’s almost an exact verbal parallel between Philippians 2:30 and Colossians 1:24. And what does that mean? What does it mean that Epaphroditus filled up what was lacking in the ministry of the Philippians to Paul in Rome? Now let me read a paragraph from a 120-year-old commentary by Marvin Vincent because I think Vincent nails it. He gets it exactly right. And here’s what he writes about Philippians 2:30, and you see if it doesn’t sound like an explanation of Colossians 1:24:

The gift to Paul was a gift of the church as a body. It was a sacrificial offering of love. What was lacking was the church’s presentation of this offering in person. This was impossible. And Paul represents Epaphroditus as supplying this lack by his own affectionate, zealous ministry.

A Personal Presentation

I think that’s exactly what Paul meant. And now if I take the meaning of the phrase “filling up what is lacking in the ministry of the Philippians,” and bring it over and see if it works in Colossians 1:24, which says, “filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions,” the meaning would go like this: Christ’s sufferings are not lacking in any atoning effectiveness or worth. What they’re lacking is a personal presentation to those for whom he suffered.

Christ died on the cross suffering for the sins of people in all the people groups of the world. They don’t know it. They’ve never heard the story. They weren’t there to see it. There were no videos. How shall they see it and how shall they hear it? Paul’s answer is Colossians 1:24, where he says, “In my sufferings, I fill up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.” That is, he is saying, “In my body, in my willingness to be beaten on my back and lacerated and in danger everywhere I go, I fill up what is lacking by presenting myself as an embodiment of Christ’s sufferings to the world.”

This has a huge implication for missions — a terrifying implication for missions. I don’t know why so many pastors in America try to make Christianity sound easy. It just boggles my mind. Because every page of the New Testament is saying, “This is a terrifying life.” It’s a terrifying life. Jesus says, “Unless you take up your cross daily and follow me, you can’t be my disciple” (Luke 9:23). Do you know how that sounded in the first century? That’s just as extreme a statement as you could make to say, “This is a horrifically dangerous life.” And that’s just said to everybody. God intends for the afflictions of Christ to be presented to the world through the afflictions of his people, especially missionaries and pastors.

Read 2 Corinthians 1:8–11, where Paul talked about his own afflictions as a minister for the salvation of the people, and then in general for all the Christians. In other words, here’s the implication: the Great Commission, and indeed I think the evangelism of your neighborhood, will not happen without suffering. It will not happen without suffering. Because suffering is not simply the consequence of obedience, it is a means of obedience. It is a way of obedience. It is a strategy of evangelism. That’s what Colossians 1:24 is saying. We embrace this risky lifestyle because in our bodies we are completing our ministries by presenting the sufferings of Christ to our neighbors and the unreached peoples of the world so that they can see in us how much they were loved by Christ.

The Problem with Prosperity

I can’t help but stop and take another jab at the evil of the health, wealth, and prosperity gospel for this reason. Nobody in America is drawn savingly to King Jesus because you drive a BMW, or because you live in a rich suburb. People might say, “Oh look, Christians are blessed materially because they ascribe to Christianity. Therefore, I will ascribe to Christianity.” That happens every day; it’s just not salvation. The apostle Paul says exactly the opposite.

It was my third point on the first night here and I fear I may have passed over it too quickly; namely, that one of the reasons there is suffering in the world is so that Christians will have an opportunity to suffer so that they can magnify the sufficiency of Jesus.

Here’s a little logical train of thought from Philippians 1:20. It says:

It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

That’s Philippians 1:20–21, and the logic is all important. He is saying, “My desire is that Christ be magnified in my death, for to me to die is gain.” Do you understand that logic? It’s the opposite of the health, wealth, and prosperity logic. It says that the way Christ will be magnified is when I can look death in the face — which means I lose my wife, I lose my children, I lose my health, I lose my job, and I lose my dream of retirement — and call it gain. When that happens in the hospital room, Christ is magnified magnificently. If a person can face the loss of everything on planet earth, look Jesus in the face, and say, “Gain,” Christ is magnified.

It doesn’t magnify Christ to get rich and wealthy and healthy. Not at all. That magnifies where your treasure is. And it’s in the same place the world’s is, and of course, the world is going to embrace a faith that affirms the worldliness they already have. I’ll end that parenthesis on the health, wealth, and prosperity gospel.

Not a Joyless Road

Before I give you closing illustrations of this in real life, it says in Colossians 1:24, “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ.” So mark this, the Calvary road is not a joyless road. It’s a happy road. It just happens to be full of suffering and pain. And if that makes no sense, then you have to go back to another message and read 2 Corinthians 6:10, which says, “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.” Paul saw his triumphant Christ. He saw churches being planted. He saw lives being changed. He saw people being rescued from hell. He saw Christ being magnified. And he saw himself in pain, and he sorrowed and he rejoiced simultaneously all the time.

It’s not hard to find the illustrations of that in the Book of Acts, is it? Like the story of what happened in Phillipi? I mean, why would Luke tell the story of the jail scene in chapter 16? Why would he tell the story of Paul and Silas with their feet in bonds? They had been beaten already. They were in a dungeon, and as far as they know they were going to be killed, maybe. And at midnight they were singing.

How do you do that? Do you do that? Do you sing? Do you sing with your kids? I’m not a singer. I love to sing. Nobody wants to hear me sing. I went online in the last three months and I copied off 52 hymns from public domain, along with some worship songs. They are the kinds of songs we’re singing here. These are just absolutely great. I love these songs. I’m writing down these titles and taking them home. And I put them on paper. I printed it out. There are 13 pages with 10-point type. And I made three copies because there’s a wife and there’s Talitha, who’s 10, and there’s me. And we’re going to sing. We’re going to sing till we drop.

And I just pray, “God, please make me a singing pastor. I want to sing in the dungeon. I want to sing in the pulpit. I want to sing in the hospital room. I want to sing when the biopsy comes back this way or that way. I want to be a singer because I see it in the Bible that it’s such a beautiful way to glorify you.” So please, hear that word rejoice. Paul says, “I rejoice in my sufferings.” The Calvary road that leads through pain is a happy road.

Somebody asked me how my wife did last week. She worked at a disabilities camp about two hours west of London. And I said, “She worked from 6:00 in the morning till 11:00 at night helping a person who could do nothing for themselves in that blazing heat down there in the southern part of England right now. And she came home, and I called her up the night before last. And I said, ‘How are you doing?’ She slept 12 hours the first night she got back and she said, ‘I feel very happy.’” That’s the way we’re wired as Christians. It is more blessed to give, even when it hurts, than to maximize your own selfish indulgence. Nobody sleeps well on self-indulgence. We sleep well on service.

How Beautiful Are the Feet of Those Who Bring Good News

Here are the illustrations and I’ll be done. The first illustration comes from J. Oswald Sanders. I don’t know if he’s a known name here. If you ever heard that name, raise your hand. Oh good, there’s many. He died. I had the awesome privilege of hearing him speak when he was 89 at Trinity Seminary. I snuck in the back. I was on sabbatical completing a one-month writing leave at Trinity. And I heard he was speaking in the chapel and I snuck in the back because I wanted to hear a grand old man, a great old saint. I want to hear what he said at age 89 about walking with Jesus for that long.

This is a parenthesis. He said, “I’ve written a book a year since I was 70.” So he wrote 19 books after 70. And inside I said, “Yes, that’s the kind of retirement you’re supposed to have.” And then he told this story, and I wrote it down when I heard it. I think I’ll just paraphrase it so I can look at you while I’m telling it instead of reading the actual words that I wrote down.

There was an indigenous missionary in India. He didn’t give a lot of details so these are generalities, but you’ll get the point. There was an indigenous traveling itinerant missionary in India, going from village to village, preaching the gospel because he had been wonderfully saved. And he went to a village at the end of a long trek up a mountain, very tired, and decided that before he rested, he would share the gospel in the village square where people were gathering. And they did not want to hear him. They scoffed and drove him out of town. Discouraged and exhausted, he laid down under a tree and went to sleep, and he was startled and awoke at dusk with the main men of the city around him and the village gathered. And he was terrified and they comforted him, saying, “We came out to see what was happening with you and we noticed your blistered and bleeding feet that you must have gotten walking here to tell us what you were trying to tell us. So we have concluded you must be a holy man and we would like to hear what you have to say.”

I don’t remember the outcome of the story. All I know is I wrote it down as an illustration of Colossians 1:24 because in it Paul says, “In my suffering, I am completing, I am showing, and I am transporting (as it were, from Philippi to Rome, or from anywhere to anywhere) the sufferings of Christ in the hopes that people would see me in my suffering and be won over to listen to how much he loved them because he suffered so much for them.” How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet. Have you ever wondered why Isaiah said that? Why are those feet beautiful? Maybe it’s because they’re bloody.

Unremitting Determination

Here’s one more story. Billy Graham put on the Itinerant Evangelist Gathering years ago in Amsterdam. And he brought something like 4,000 evangelists from all over the world. These were people who were not pastors but evangelists. They would travel around and preach the gospel, lead people to Christ, and try to graft them into churches. And a very unlikely person was there, namely, Joseph the Masai Warrior. And this story was written up, interestingly enough, by Michael Card, the singer-songwriter in America. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of him but he’s a prominent singer. He wrote it up in the magazine called Virtue. And I’m going to read this one because it is simply amazing, and then I will close in prayer. So let this story unpack for you the meaning of Colossians 1:24 at the level of missions and its application to your life:

One day, Joseph, who was walking along one of these hot, dirty African roads, met someone who shared the gospel of Jesus Christ with him. Then and there he accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior. The power of the Holy Spirit began transforming his life. He was filled with such excitement and joy that the first thing he wanted to do was return to his own village and share that same good news with the members of his local tribe. Joseph began going from door to door, telling everyone he met about the cross, that is, about the suffering of Jesus and the salvation it offered, expecting to see their faces light up the way his had.

To his amazement, the villagers not only did not care, but they also became violent. The men of the village seized him and held him to the ground, while the women beat him with strands of barbed wire. He was dragged from the village and left to die alone in the bush. Joseph somehow managed to crawl to a water hole and there, after days of passing in and out of consciousness, he found the strength to get up.

He wondered about the hostile reception he had received from the people he had known all his life. He decided he must have left something out, or told the story of Jesus incorrectly. After rehearsing the message he had first heard, he decided to go back and share his faith once more. Joseph limped into the circle of huts and began to proclaim Jesus. “He died for you so that you might find forgiveness and come to know the living God,” he pleaded. Again, he was grabbed by the men of the village and held while the women beat him, reopening wounds that had just begun to heal. Once more they dragged him unconscious from the village and left him to die. To have survived the first beating was truly remarkable. To live through the second was a miracle.

Again, days later, Joseph awoke in the wilderness, bruised, scarred, and determined to go back. He returned to the small village and this time they attacked him before he had a chance to open his mouth. As they flogged him for the third, and possibly the last time, he again spoke to them of Jesus Christ the Lord. Before he passed out, the last thing he saw was that the women who were beating him began to weep. This time he awoke in his own bed. The ones who had so severely beaten him were now trying to save his life and nurse him back to health. And the entire village had come to Christ.

Not all evangelism has to be that way. I’m arguing that Colossians 1:24 says that’s more normal than we think it is. That is one strategy God intends to use till the end of the age. Remember that verse in Revelation 6:11 where the martyrs under the altar cry out, “How long, oh Lord, how long until you vindicate us?” and he clothes them with white robes and says, “Be still until the full number of those who are to die, your brothers, comes in.” There’s a number of martyrs appointed. When the number is full, the kingdom will come.