Imagine you just got a new job. You’re filled with excitement about the prospects that are ahead of you. You’re anxious to receive your “marching orders.” You wonder how your talents and abilities will be used and to what end goal. You open the letter with your job assignment and read these words:
- Be strong.
- Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier.
- Don’t get sidetracked. Serve your commanding officer.
- Compete according to the rules given you.
- Remember your orders and wait for further instruction.
You start to wonder what kind of a job you’ve been given. But there’s no backing out. Despite what others say, you know this is your true calling. And you are ready to live according to the call on your life for the one purpose that really matters.
In some sense, these are the instructions given to Timothy from his mentor, Paul in 2 Timothy 2. It’s not a call to easy living but a call to suffering, to endure hard battles so others might be rescued from the darkness. It’s your reason for living. It’s a call to live as if you’d died to everything convenient and trivial and to live a life of real faith.
The call? It’s to be a Christian, a fully devoted follower of Jesus. Not just someone who said a prayer and lives it up until it’s time for heaven. No, your job description inherently involves some degree of suffering. Did you know that every single book of the New Testament speaks to the role of suffering when following Jesus? If you were to cut it out from the bible’s description of a real Christian, you’re bible would be in tatters. You won’t read it in the popular Christian books. You likely won’t hear much of it from the pulpits. But it’s the message of 2 Timothy 2 and it’s a common thread woven into the entire story of God’s Word. The truth is, every life (Christian or not) bears the scars of suffering. But for the Christian, the suffering comes with strength to endure. If your eyes are open, if you’re serious about following the call of God on your life as a Christian, sooner or later you will encounter this part of your job description.
The warning and the call is twofold: flee from evil and pursue faith, love, and peace. Flee from a wasted life spent pursuing everything that doesn’t last. Pursue the life that is daily marked by an enduring faith, an abundant love, and a peace that transcends the circumstances around you. Paul says your job is to warn others against meaningless quarreling and godless chatter that spreads “like gangrene” and “to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” Your job is to keep your spiritual senses about you. Moment by moment, you’re to be constantly vigilant in your stand for truth, not distracted but rather keenly focused on the goal.
Suffering is not without reward. You know that. So does the good soldier, the runner of the race, and the farmer who plants his crops. Every worthwhile goal that seeks a reward comes at some cost, some degree of “suffering.” But the end is worth it. The end is a firm faith, an abundant love, and a peace that transcends all understanding. Cancer can destroy a body but it doesn’t have to destroy a life. Paul’s message wasn’t just for young Timothy. It’s for you and me. It’s a call to follow Jesus throughout our day, to live for him, rejoice in him, and when necessary, to suffer with him. . . nothing else draws us closer to God. It’s a reminder that to not get sidetracked from our real life purpose or be taken captive by the enemy.
It’s a reminder that life is not a game. It’s a calling to live with the purpose and passion that God placed upon our lives when we said we wanted to follow him.