Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules. The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. 7 Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this. 2 Timothy 2: 3-6
This is the last of Paul’s letters that we have, written from the Roman Death Row to the too-young, too-timid friend Paul had selected to head the church in Ephesus. In the revolutionary change-over from paganism to faith in Jesus in the Mediterranean world, Ephesus was the tipping point, in part because Timothy decided to follow these heartfelt instructions. Notice that Paul gives Timothy three ways to think about his work: a soldier; an athlete; and a farmer. These are all roles that require an abundance of discipline, hard work and patience. Paul is telling Timothy that Godly things get done when we are willing to humbly undertake the suffering necessary to fulfill our role. Paul didn’t call Timothy a Commander, a Super Star or a Land Baron, but eventually he had more impact than all those put together. This passage has me asking: God what do you want me to suffer for your plan? Facing difficulty is not always the sign we are off track; it may be the confirmation are right where God wants us to be. Embrace the suffering lovingly, because God’s outcome is so amazingly worthy of all your best discipline, hard work and patience.
Lord I do want to please you. I have to trust you because I can’t completely see the outcomes I am working toward. I have been running from suffering, but see now I have to run towards it. Amen.