“Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” 2 Timothy 2:3
In a culture that preaches instant gratification, aspirin for every headache, and a health-and-wealth gospel, the command from Paul to Timothy hits us like a slap in the face: “Suffer hardship with me!”
Suffer hardship? Why would I want to do that? I want to avoid suffering at all costs, thank you very much!
But Paul knew that the Church was at war in the world against the forces of darkness, and by extension, each Christian was a soldier of Christ Jesus. Soldiers are not in the army to sit idly by, munching popcorn and watching movies. They are there to do battle … and both the preparation for battle and the battle itself entail significant hardship. A true soldier accepts this fact.
Consider just a few of the hardships a soldier must endure:
He trains rigorously to achieve his top physical condition.
He studies the enemy’s tactics.
He enters enemy territory.
He experiences physical pain and emotional stress.
He risks his life for a greater cause.
Each of the above points has a spiritual corollary to the Christian life. Examine yourself and honestly answer these questions:
Am I in top spiritual condition? How am I doing in each of the spiritual disciplines (prayer, study, meditation, worship, giving, etc.)? Where do I need to strengthen myself?
Am I practicing discernment every day about what is going on around me? Do I know where danger areas lie – in my relationships, in what I hear on TV, in my own thought patterns, in my church life, etc.?
Am I willing to take the fight into the enemy camp? Confront sin in my own life, or in the lives of others? Volunteer with organizations on the front line of missions, justice, or peace?
Am I willing to undergo need, deprivation, pain, and stress if that is what it takes to accomplish God’s will?
Am I willing to die for Jesus Christ?