“Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus." 2 Timothy 2:3
Timothy, a young disciple of Christ, much beloved and mentored by Paul, was left to head the church in Ephesus. About a thousand miles away, Paul, in chains for Christ, was languishing in a Roman prison, knowing his death was imminent. The years had shown Paul Timothy was not a bold, courageous man, but lacked confidence, was timid, frail, and at times, embarrassed by his mentor being imprisoned like a common criminal.
Paul knew Timothy loved the Lord Jesus and that God had begun a work in him. Writing from prison, he supports, encourages and instructs Timothy. He tells him to, "Endure hardship like a good soldier." Soldiers are tough, trained and disciplined. Paul writes to him, "God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God who has saved us and called us to a holy life…" (2 Timothy 1:7-9).
The image of a soldier may seem far removed for many Christians, but Paul, a guest of Roman prisons more than once, would have often talked with soldiers, and likens their training and disciplining to that of discipleship. Timothy not only needed to prepare himself to endure hardship, but to fully grasp the cost of becoming a disciple. The church of Jesus Christ was built on persecution, and Paul knew only too well these were tough, painful days. Timothy had yet to realize he is not just engaged in an internal spiritual warfare, but one that will play out externally in his life. Paul prepares him not to shy away from hardship and suffering, but to expect it and endure it.
One of the agents of growth in the Christian life is hardship, which often comes at a time of opposition and persecution. Paul writes further, "No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs - he wants to please his commanding officer" (2 Timothy 2:4). Jesus Christ was Paul's commanding officer, and it was not politics, nor civil affairs, but the agenda of Christ that took precedence in his life.
C.T. Studd, a missionary of the late 19th century, wrote, "Too many Christians are chocolate soldiers. They melt when the heat is on.” If we continually draw on the internal presence of Christ, which leads to dependence on Him, and the external disciplines that lead to obedience to Him, we will not melt! For every demand God makes of us and every discipline required, Jesus Christ is the dynamic, the soldier in us and our Commanding Officer.