If you were to honestly ask yourself, “Am I willing to suffer?,” what would the answer be? This is a question that you really need to figure out because the Bible makes a BIG deal about suffering. Look at 2 Timothy 2:3: Paul says, “Share in suffering. Share with my suffering in the gospel.” Simply put, Paul commands Timothy and, by extension us, to suffer for the sake of the gospel.
Now, a few caveats: Paul is NOT saying that we should go looking suffering. Rather, the emphasis is on our willingness to suffer. Are you willing to endure hardships for Christ and His church? That is the point.
To stress the necessity of suffering and hardship, Paul uses three analogies or metaphors in this passage. These three analogies establish the point that believers must be willing to suffer. So, what is the first analogy? Look again at verse 3, what image does Paul use? Paul brings up the imagery of a soldier. But why? Why do you think Paul uses this analogy of a soldier? We believe he uses it because, if anything, soldiers suffer. They train hard to the point of exhaustion. They put themselves in the way of danger. They fight and they risk their lives. Soldiers know that they may die; they may never return to their family. Soldiers know this but it does not deter them. They are willing to suffer these things because they are fighting for a greater cause.
Here is the point of Paul’s solider metaphor: in the same way, brothers and sisters, you are soldier of Christ. He is your Master. He is your Captain. He is your General. You report to Him and you belong to Him. You belong to the army of Christ. So, similar to earthly soldiers, we will suffer. We train hard in service to Christ and His kingdom. We fight against false teaching. We use the weapon of God’s word against false teachers. We put ourselves in the way of danger. We risk our lives for the gospel. In this way, we will suffer as a soldier of Christ.
So, do you see why Paul uses the imagery of a soldier? Like earthly soldiers, we will suffer. Now, Paul does not stop there with the soldier image. He continues it in verse 4: to be a good soldier, we cannot let anything distract us from our work. Just as earthly soldiers strive to please their commander, we must live to please our Lord Jesus Christ. Even though our work involves suffering, we do it gladly to please Jesus. Brothers, hear me out: when you suffer for Jesus, He is pleased by it. He receives glory as you endure through hardships because you are doing it for Him. Good soldiers honor Jesus.
Now, before moving to the next analogy (in tomorrow’s poste), let us ask you a question: What distractions are present in your life? What distracts you from serving Jesus and His church? What gets in the way of your gospel ministry? Brothers and sisters, we need to ask ourselves these questions because there are many distractions.
Perhaps, the biggest distractions are money and comfort. Do you know what we mean? We use money to please ourselves. We use money to make ourselves look better. So, this focus on money takes our focus away from the true mission. As for comfort, we can abuse rest and relaxation. There is a temptation to give ourselves more rest than we need. The effect is that we do not work as hard as we should. So, are money and comfort distractions for you? If not, what is it? You must ask yourself this question because you are a soldier of Christ, and as a soldier, you live to please your Lord Jesus.