Filling up the Afflictions of Christ: Why I Think You Should Read This Book…

I love biographies and I love John Piper. Fortunately, Dr. Piper has a series of biographical books entitled The Swans Are Not Silent. Each one of these short books contains 3 biographical sketches of historical saints who have committed their lives to the advancement of the Gospel.

The most recent book is 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.

We see the ground work for this book on page 15: “Christ’s suffering is for propitiation; our suffering is for propagation. In other words, when we suffer with him in the cause of missions, we display the way Christ loved the world and in our own sufferings extend his to the world. This is what it means to fill up the afflictions of Christ (Colossians 1:24)”

Piper reveals the bold and biblical truth that God uses suffering to advance his gospel. He begins with a biblical ground work. Passages like Matthew 10:17-18:

“Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to the courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles.”

Piper goes on to say, “Suffering was not just a consequence of the Master’s (Jesus’) obedience and mission. It was the central strategy of his mission.”

These are bold words about God’s purpose for sufferings. So, instead of simply reviewing the contents of the book, I want to give you a few reasons I think you should read it for yourself…

1. “First Bible, Then Biography”
While the bulk of this book 118-page focuses on the lives of Tyndale, Judson, and Paton, the introduction seeks to show that God’s use of suffering to advance the gospel is not just a church history thing, it’s a Bible thing. The first 26 pages are devoted to laying this ground work including the exposition of Collisions 1:24.

2. Church History
Church history shows us God’s faithfulness in pursuing His mission. These biographical sketches are no exception. By God’s grace, we have an english Bible today because William Tyndale made it his life goal to translate it. By God’s grace, the once cannibalistic island of Aniwa worships Jesus because of John Paton. By God’s grace there is a Burmese Bible and 3,700 Baptist congregations in Myanmar who trace their origins to Adoniram Judson. We should know and share these stories.

3. We Need a Bigger View of Suffering
On page 112 Piper says, “My hope for this book is that our hearts and minds have been shaped more deeply by the work of the Spirit so that when the crisis comes, we will be guided more by the ways of God and less by the worldly assumptions of security and comfort.”

4. It’s Free
A less spiritual but valid reason. You can get the book for free in PDF format HERE. Also, the biographical sketches are based on lectures given each year at the Desiring God Conference for Pastors. You can read/listen below:

Always Singing One Note- A Vernacular Bible: Why William Tyndale Lived and Died
-How Few There Are Who Die So Hard- Suffering and Success in the Life of Adoniram Judson: The Cost of Bringing the Gospel to Burma
-You Will Be Eaten By Cannibals- Lessons in the Life of John G. Paton

5. Because We Should All Ask Ourselves..
“Are you sure that God wants you to keep doing what you are doing? For most of you, he probably does. Your calling is radical obedience for the glory of Christ right where you are. But for many of you, the stories in this book are among a hundred things God is using to loosen your roots and plant you in another place. Some of you he is calling to fill up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ, to fall like a grain of wheat into some distant ground and die, to hate your life in this world and so to keep it forever and bear much fruit.”


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