April 24th, 2021 – Written Saturday Morning
“Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” ~2 Timothy 2:3
If anyone has ever told you that following Jesus leads to perfect peace, deep joy, and wonderful blessings, they told you the truth. Knowing Christ and living in Him and through the power of His Spirit is the most satisfying, fulfilling, and joyous way to live. It leads to great blessing and peace that goes beyond all understanding; it is filled to overflowing with the grace and mercy of God, and it never ends.
If all that is true (and it is), why do we have the verse above? If you would, reread my previous paragraph. Notice that I didn’t mention health, wealth, safety, comfort, happiness (in the worldly sense), or the suspension of all conflict or attack. Following Jesus leads to great joy, peace, and blessing, but it is not necessarily in the physical; God’s perspective is so much greater than any human idea or contortion. For instance, God’s peace is much deeper than just a physical cessation of conflict or turmoil; His peace undergirds us even if we are in the midst of the greatest struggle or persecution. God’s joy is so much more than the temporary pleasures or passing façade of a “happy” situation; His joy gives hope, confidence, and satisfaction even when we are immersed in an “unhappy” circumstance.
What is Paul driving at in his letter to Timothy? Exactly what the above verse says: Suffer hardship as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. Embrace the hardships that come to those who courageously cling to the Rock (and who are kept by and for Jesus Christ); don’t shy away from persecution, trouble, and pain if you are experiencing it for the sake of Jesus’ name. Jesus suffered and He informed those who follow Him that they will suffer too. It is not just a pointless or crazy instruction, but one that recognizes that we are in a battle of cosmic proportions. We are soldiers in the army of the Lord who are tasked with fighting the good fight of faith. This battle entails our faithful suffering for the Captain of our souls and our victorious spiritual warfare against the unseen powers of darkness. Our suffering is victorious when we entrust ourselves to the same Creator and Father whom our Master gave Himself wholeheartedly to and we rely on Him alone for our perseverance.
This may all sound pretty strange if you are not familiar with God’s view of suffering, but I can assure you that these ideas are rooted in and prevalent throughout all of Scripture. If you have found your identity in Christ, then you are His soldier (not someone else’s). If you are His soldier, then you are going to suffer. If you suffer for His sake, embrace it and set your hope completely on Him. Only He can use hardship for His glory and our good and only those who rely on Him find His grace sufficient and complete.