“You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” 2 Tim 1:3
John Stott remarks in a book I am currently reading that: “It is surely one of the most characteristic failures of us Christians, not least of us who are called evangelical Christians, that we seldom seem to take seriously this principle of the Incarnation.” p.25, Christian Mission in the Modern World. We must respond to the call to live out the compassion of Jesus. And as we live it out, we will find that we encounter suffering.
We have already looked at the next verse about getting distracted from the work, but here Paul is plainer about the difficult road that lies ahead. Interesting that Jesus said, “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” John 20:21. We know that Jesus was called to carry a cross and to die a shameful death.
From this verse we learn:
1st, that hardship and affliction is unavoidable for a believer
2nd, that all believers will suffer hardship
3rd, that hardship is to be borne with and expected
4th, that a fine or good follower of Jesus expects suffering
5th, that if we are in Jesus we are soldiers
6th, that hardship or suffering is part of spiritual warfare
Perhaps the phrase to ‘suffer hardship’ is closer to the Greek than to ‘endure’. But the adjective ‘good’ also suggests ‘fine’ or ‘acceptable’. In other words, we do not moan and complain, but we tolerate persecution and pain in the cause of the gospel.
How does Jesus respond to the suffering that he experiences? Let’s look at the gospel of Luke. When he is being arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, he heals the servant of the high priest, whose ear had been lopped off. Someone else is more important than him. When being held in the high priest’s house, he is looking at Peter after he has denied him three times, rather than being preoccupied with his own predicament.
In Luke 22:65 we are told that they said many blasphemous things against him, as well as hitting him. We are not told that he responded, but rather that he ‘endured’. Here, surely, is a model for us. In Luke 23 verse 27 the women who are mourning and lamenting his death he addresses, and prophesies the downfall of Jerusalem. He is concerned that they be aware of their immediate future, which they would certainly have remembered afterward. This is salutary in that he gives the bigger picture to these women – who are themselves showing compassion for him. Our compassion for others must always be the compassion of Christ, because it is larger and wiser than our compassion.
Jesus follows his own principle of forgiveness, forgiving his executioners. Even on the cross, Jesus saves the thief next to him. Even in the latest hour of our lives, what glory can be given to God by pointing others to him!
We are not called to be good soldiers, but to be good soldiers of Christ. Even as he is, so are we in this world. Less of me, Jesus, and more of you. Less of my self-concern, and more of your saving concern for others. In Psalm 62 it says twice: “Truly my soul silently waits for God”, and in v.7 it declares: “In God is my salvation and my glory; the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God.” Our Saviour is worth our last ounce of strength, because he is our glory and strength. Wait for Him today!