“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God” (2 Timothy 1:7-8).
Do you enjoy experiencing suffering? Generally, we do all that we can so we do not have to endure suffering. We take medications to relieve us when we feel pain and often we try to avoid situations such as strenuous work or exercise which will lead us to having sore muscles.
However, how do we feel about having to suffer for the cause of Christ? Do we avoid this like we avoid other types of suffering? Do we fail to stand up for God’s truth as revealed in the Bible because we don’t want to have to endure persecution from others? As the opening passage above describes, Paul was encouraging Timothy to “share with me in the sufferings for the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:8). It appears Timothy struggled with doing this because Paul reminds Timothy that “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7).
It is understandable for Timothy to not want to have to suffer. However, enduring suffering is one of the challenges that all soldiers of Christ must face. Paul told Timothy, “You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier” (2 Timothy 2:3-4).
Paul had endured much suffering for the cause of Christ (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:23-28). As he writes to Timothy, he is in a Roman prison cell uncertain if he will be released. He believed the time of his departure from this earthly life was at hand (2 Timothy 4:6). How was he able to endure this suffering? He had committed himself and his care completely to God. Paul states, “For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless, I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (2 Timothy 1:12). Paul knew that he had been faithful to Christ and, regardless of what fate awaited him regarding his earthly existence, he knew what was awaiting him in Heaven. He wrote, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).
As strong as Paul’s faith in God was, he still needed encouragement from his brethren. He needed them to share in his sufferings (2 Timothy 1:8). One brother in Christ named Onesiphorous had done precisely that. Paul writes, “The Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain; but when he arrived in Rome, he sought me out very zealously and found me” (2 Timothy 1:16-17). Onesiphorous had sought Paul out and did what he could to refresh Paul while he was in chains for the gospel of Christ.
Jesus suffered for us. Part of living the Christian life is experiencing suffering for the cause of Christ. If Jesus faced suffering so must we as His followers (Matthew 10:24-25). However, we do not have to experience suffering alone. Jesus promises to be with us in the midst of our suffering (2 Timothy 4:16-17) and we can be there for one another to “share” “in the sufferings for the gospel”. Today, I am willing to endure sufferings for the cause of Christ and will do what I can to share in the sufferings of those who stand up for the gospel of Christ by upholding them and refreshing them!
“Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12).