“Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.”1 Paul, to Timothy
Now come the veterans. The parade has delighted us with bands playing, horses clopping, notables waving, and candy strewn to scampering children. And now come the veterans of war. We smile, wave, cheer and salute, all to honor those who battled to protect our freedoms. Yet our appreciation of liberty is faint compared to theirs, for who can identify with freedom as those who have risked everything, sacrificed dearly, and grieved deeply to preserve it? What words could they possibly speak to convey an understanding only they can know?
Though all of the apostles endured persecution for proclaiming Christ as Lord, Paul’s life was especially characterized by it. He was imprisoned more often, flogged more severely, exposed to death more repeatedly, thrice beaten with rods, and shipwrecked three times, as well; the list goes on.2 We naturally recoil at the extremes of his afflictions, quietly questioning, perhaps, our resolve to endure the same, yet it was in suffering for Jesus that Paul grew to understand Him more deeply, trust Him more completely, and rejoice in Him more fully. “I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties,” reflected the battle-tested veteran, “For when I am weak, then I am strong.”3 Recalling a time when he and his companions found themselves “under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure,”4 Paul ultimately realized, “this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God.”5 He had grown to “glory in [his] sufferings, because … suffering produces perseverance … character … and hope”6 in God whose “love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.”7
Many believers have incurred at least some degree of rejection or ridicule for our faith in Christ, and in some parts of the world we endure terrible persecution. As we consider our journey, though, wouldn’t you agree it is not marginalization or ostracism for the sake of Christ we regret, rather the times we suppressed our faith to avoid it? We cannot “do-over” these weaker moments of our past, but we can let them remind us that the sting of opportunities lost pains us far more than any cost of opportunities seized. Wrote Peter, “It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil;”8 moreover, in these times, we identify more closely with Christ Jesus who endured rejection and wrath for us. So, “If you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.”9 “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”10 Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
Father, however you call me today to share the gospel of your Son or to serve in His name, send your Spirit to lead me, and if I must suffer for doing good, sustain me with joy. Amen.
1 2 Timothy 2:3
2 2 Corinthians 11:23-29
3 2 Corinthians 12:10
4 2 Corinthians 1:8
5 2 Corinthians 1:9
6 Romans 5:3, 4
7 Romans 5:5
8 1 Peter 3:17
9 1 Peter 4:16
10 2 Corinthians 4:17