As I continue to converse with others regarding Sunday's message ["The Satisfaction of Suffering"], I find the most common comment has been a clarification between suffering for being a Christian and suffering for simply being human. Peter writes, "If you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name" [1 Peter 4:16]. This means there is a suffering that is distinctly "Christian" and is different from other sorts of suffering experienced by people everywhere.
So, in Colossians 1:24, when Paul writes, "Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church," he isn't rejoicing in his cancer diagnosis, his job loss or the untimely extra expense of replacing his air conditioner. He is talking about the unique suffering he experienced because a) he was a Christian and, b) was making Christ known with his life.
In a conversation with one of our elders, I described it this way: We should suffer to communicate the Gospel and we can communicate the Gospel in our suffering. In the first case, we accept difficulty, inconvenience and loss along the way as we choose to make Christ known. In the second case, we have opportunity to make Christ known through the unexpected and usual suffering we face in our life. In both cases, Christ may be exalted. But there is a distinctive difference in the suffering.