Scripture

2 Timothy 2:3-5 (NIV)

3 Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. 5 Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules.

Observation

There’s something about the word “suffer” that is just plain awful. No one wants to suffer and yet most of us have suffered at one point in time or another. Let’s see what Merriam-Webster says about suffer:

1 a: to submit to or be forced to endure

This is the suffering to which I am referring. Like Jesus suffered betrayal, torture, and crucifixion. Why does Paul invite Timothy to “join [him] in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus”? Is it misery, loving company, or is it something more?

I’ve often looked at these verses and thought upon my time in the military and being a soldier. No matter what you do you represent someone or something beyond yourself. When I served in the military I represented the United States Air Force and was expected to behave in a manner that didn’t bring disrespect to the USAF or my country. When I served, I never really thought about the role of God in the hierarchy of whom I served; “God, Country, Family, Self” was the mantra I learned. I never gave God much thought. I think I understand being a soldier and serving God, as my commanding officer, while not being concerned with things that have no eternal value.

I never really thought upon Paul’s mentioning of being an athlete and competing according to the rules until today. There are rules to wanting to be like Christ. It seems so obvious when I think about it. If I want to be like Jesus then that means suffering like Him. Doesn’t it? Somehow, I guess, I thought that I could be like Christ and suffer as an option. I’ve gone through suffering as a Christian. Betrayal, I know thy name, but I haven’t gone through any physical torture, as far as I know, for being a Christian. Although we don’t know what causes IBS, I’m not going to lay that at the feet of being a Christian. There is, however, the matter of taking up one’s cross and following Jesus.

Jesus tells His us “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23 NIV). This is, I believe, the principal rule in what it means to be like Christ. It’s also, perhaps, the broadest in scope in how to looks to each one of us. However, I think that Matthew 16:25 can be very helpful in getting a bead on what it looks like to take up one’s cross and bear it daily. “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it” (NIV). Let me see if I can put these two verses together to come up with something that makes sense.

Look at your life, and what you think is important, and forget about it. Now, look to God and ask Him what’s important to Him and then do what He says.

I don’t know how well I did with that. I know that when we stop living for our selfish desires and focus on what God wants us to do. Loving Him and loving other people, that those selfish desires wither and fade. I suppose one day they will eventually die, but the denial of them, each day, can be torturous, like bearing a cross. We still experience many of the same issues as a Believer that we experienced as a non-believer. Such as heartache.

I had my heart broken before I knew God. I was lied to, cheated on, and betrayed long before I gave my heart to Jesus. However, the principal difference in suffering as a Believer, all of these aforementioned woes of love, is not in the acts themselves, but in the aftermath of those and how I dealt with them as a follower of Christ. It’s wrong to think that, as a Believer, that I could just ignore the pain from heartache. There is a time for grieving whether or not you believe in God or not.

We do not grieve as the world grieves. We know that our hope is in God. We know that we have an eternity with Him. We know that He works out all things to the good of those who love Him and who have been called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28 NIV). I may feel shattered, and feeling despair, but God. The eternal hope that we have in Him allows us to walk through our suffering, denying ourselves and the pain that we want to wallow in and seek Him. We know nothing happens without a reason. We can turn to God, the One who planned our lives before we were born, and ask Him, “What are you doing in this? What do you want me to learn?” instead of doing what we once did, when we were in the world and coming to our conclusions.

This is the difference between those who bear their cross, whatever it looks like, each day and those who do not. We turn to God, when we cannot bear the weight, and ask Him for help.

I am well aware that we have brothers and sisters, around the globe, who also suffer for Christ. They are denied by their families, tortured, and martyred because they love Jesus. I do not have the words to express to these faithful soldiers of Christ. I believe that Peter’s advice, to those suffering in His time, speaks the truth of God, today.

However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? (1 Peter 4:16-18 NIV).

Do you know God? God knows you and He loves you. He sees you as significant because you are. Nothing is insignificant to Him. He’s with you today, right now, and He wants you to know Him. Jesus died for your sins and mine so that we could be free of guilt, be freed from death, and live eternally with Him. Eternal salvation is just a prayer away.

Pray this prayer with me to accept the gift of salvation today:

Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and I ask for Your forgiveness. I believe You died for my sins and rose from the dead. I turn from my sins and invite You to come into my heart and life. I want to trust and follow You as my Lord and Savior. Amen.

If you prayed that prayer then congratulations! You are on the first step of a brand new life. Allow me to be the first to welcome you to my family, the family of God. There are abundant resources available online for new Christians. You can visit here for more information on what to do next. You can also leave me a comment and I’ll do my best to help you on the next step of this incredible journey.