To persevere. To endure. These two words are similar in meaning. They mean to remain, to bear up under pressure, or to have the ability to withstand hardship or adversity. They especially mean the ability for a person to sustain a prolonged stressful effort, activity, or suffering. As you are reading this, you may be thinking that we have all had to persevere through hardships due to the coronavirus disease pandemic. The impact of this virus has caused worldwide social and financial turmoil. Our whole world has had to persevere and endure.
When Paul wrote his exhortation to endure, he had a different mindset than a pandemic through which they were to persevere. More importantly, he wrote to his disciple, Timothy, encouraging him to be strong and endure hardship for the sake of the gospel. Hardship is a condition that is difficult to undergo. With hardship comes lack of comfort, constant toil, or danger. To do this difficult task of enduring for the gospel, Paul first tells Timothy to be strong in grace.
2 Timothy 2:1. You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
How does grace help sustain us when under stress and pressure? Grace gives us a place of rest knowing that we are loved by God. We can do anything He asks of us because we are loved and strengthened by Him. Accepting Jesus as our Savior, God’s Son, we have the ability to love and be loved in this way.
Next, Paul tells Timothy what his focus is to be.
2 Timothy 2:2. The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
Timothy was to teach the gospel as Paul taught him and not to change any part of it or make it more palatable to unbelievers. He was also to teach it to responsible believers who would do the same. Why would Paul have to be so intent on encouraging Timothy to speak the Word that Timothy loves? Timothy needed to prepare for what was to come. Just because we are Christians does not mean everything in our lives miraculously becomes perfect. Speaking the gospel will bring suffering. Timothy experienced Paul’s suffering and joys firsthand.
2 Timothy 2:3. Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.
What a mind picture! Timothy is being asked to suffer hardship as a good soldier, not a Roman soldier or Temple guard, but as a soldier of Christ Jesus. This is even more intense than the other two ways of soldiering.
To be a good soldier takes a lot of training, discipline, character, patience, boldness, and endurance. Some have experienced war firsthand. They see the hardships of being physically depleted of all strength, having incapacitating fatigue, witnessing unspeakable atrocities and horrors, and encountering unmeasurable losses. Paul goes on to explain an important characteristic of a good soldier for Christ.
2 Timothy 2:4. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.
Our struggles may not be exploits like finding our way through the Amazon jungle. Our struggles will be internally driven and externally motivated. Internal doubts, personal biases, laziness, complacency will plague us. Friends, relatives, and governments that are naysayers along with the pleasures and pressures of the world will fight to take our minds from the things of God.
2 Timothy 2:5-7. Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules. The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops. Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.
A good soldier wants to use his training, obey his commander, and win. An athlete competes in the games by training his body and following the rules. A farmer toils—day after day, rain or shine—to reap the harvest. As a soldier, athlete, and farmer are rewarded for their labors, Timothy will be rewarded for his labors of moving the gospel. Going through the hardships of spreading the gospel message has very satisfying rewards. One such reward is to help people who were dead in trespasses and sins to choose righteous living and await the return of Christ and the Kingdom of God.
2 Timothy 2:8. Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel, for which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned.
Paul was falsely accused, beaten, and undermined by those who were supposed to support him. Why would anyone go through this? He could have stayed home, raised a family, and rested in the synagogue daily reading the scrolls. Instead, he had the exhilaration of being rescued from his hardships in phenomenal ways and the joy of seeing the Word freely taught and received. Hardships, suffering, and rescue were the standard for Paul.
2 Timothy 3:10-12. Now you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance, persecutions, and sufferings, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra; what persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord rescued me! Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
Paul tells us very clearly why he endured and persevered day after day.
2 Timothy 2: 9-13. For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory. It is a trustworthy statement: For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him; If we endure, we will also reign with Him; if we deny Him, He also will deny us; If we are faithless, He remains faithful for He cannot deny himself.
We are able to endure hardships due, in part, to the prize ahead. A battle may be lost, but the war is won. A hamstring may be torn, but a gold medal is won. Hands may have callouses, and the body is exhausted, but crops are abundant. Am I willing to go out of my comfort zone to lead one of God’s lambs to Him? Am I willing to follow Christ’s leading and preach the gospel to those at work, home, or anywhere? This is not for our reward but for the joy of having another believer for Christ, someone saved from the muck and mire of the world and placed on a high place for Yahweh. We can endure for one more believer to sing praises for all eternity.
Today, we have many imposing stressors that take our minds away from the necessity of speaking the gospel message to others. Not necessarily something we want to hear, but these earthly stressors pale in the shadow of hardships we could be under for speaking up about Christ, teaching Scriptures, and taking a stand to live as the Scriptures teach. We have the same spirit that Paul did. We are enabled to endure hardships for our Savior, who died for humankind. Now is the time. Today is the day. The harvest is plentiful. Go speak God’s Word.
Mark 13:13. You will be hated by all because of My name, but the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.
James 1:12. Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.