Recently I spent a number of weeks studying 2 Timothy in anticipation of teaching an overview of the book to an equipping class at our church. Being very familiar with this letter from Paul after many, many readings and after much meditation, I was pleasantly surprised to find several passages that caught my attention and made me dig a little deeper. I will devote several blogs to these studies and meditations.
In this writing I want to consider a major theme of 2 Timothy that appears over and over again in this epistle; namely, the theme of suffering for the gospel. Paul exhorts Timothy that he is to “join with me in suffering for the gospel” and in several places Paul urges him to “suffer hardship.” Perhaps the most jarring of the apostle’s exhortations in this regard is the one that comes in chapter 3, verse 12: “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” It is apparent that Paul fully expected Timothy to suffer greatly as he discharged his gospel ministry and he wants to prepare Timothy for the rigors of suffering and persecution. “Forewarned is forearmed,” so to speak. And so Paul pulls no punches as he declares to Timothy the very real perils of this most glorious of labors.
Of course, this is nothing new for the reader of the New Testament. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself had made it clear that His followers would be hated in this world even as He had been hated and rejected by this world. The book of Acts is full of the hardships, opposition and martyrdom that was experienced by the early disciples and there is no reason to think that persecution and suffering will diminish in this fallen and pagan world. As the world is proceeding from bad to worse, so the persecutions of believers will become more intense as this evil age unravels.
But what I wanted to consider is the huge disparity in the suffering that one part of the Body of Christ endures when compared to another part of the Body. Indeed, all believers will not be called to suffer the same hardships nor will they be persecuted in the same way or with the same intensity. Some will be called on to suffer greatly for the gospel and to endure withering persecutions for their faith in Jesus, while others will be called to a life of relatively light suffering, of easily bearable persecutions and of relatively pleasant circumstances. The church in India or China or Nigeria or Sudan suffers greatly while the church in America enjoys freedom and lives relatively free from any real persecution. I cannot understand why this is (Psalm 131), but the Lord knows and He is the one who ordains all these things and determines who will suffer and die for the gospel and who will believe with ease.
But all believers have made the same commitment to Jesus Christ. All believers have declared that there is no hardship and there is no persecution, indeed there is no circumstance that can arise in the life of a believer that will stop them from following Jesus. This is what it means to be a Christian, an unconditional commitment to Jesus. Our Savior has conquered death for us (“abolished death . . .” 2 Timothy1:10) and our task is to follow Him to the end NO MATTER THE PATH. Wherever He leads, we will follow, regardless and no matter. We will persevere to the end.
“It is the one who endures to the end who will be saved.” Matthew 10:22
SDG rmb 1/24/2018