April 11 I Sunday
1 Samuel 17-18
“Endure hardship as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.”
—2 Timothy 2:3, NKJV
In later years, Timothy 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 that Timothy was not a bold, courageous man. He 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. Paul tells him to, “Endure hardship as a good soldier.” Soldiers are tough, trained and disciplined. Paul writes, “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…”(2 Timothy 1:7-8).
The image of a soldier may seem far removed for many Christians, but Paul, a guest of more than once in Roman prison, would have often talked with soldiers, and likened 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 there were tough, painful days ahead for his young protégé. Timothy had yet to realize that he was not just engaged in an internal spiritual warfare, but one that would play out externally in his life. Paul prepared him not to shy away from hardship and suffering, but to expect it and endure it.
- T. Studd was a great missionary a century ago who opened up parts of China, India and Central Africa to the gospel. He wrote a booklet called The Chocolate Soldier, and its basic premise was that many Christians who think themselves committed to the good fight melt when the heat is on. This is true for many of us, but if we continually draw on the internal presence of Christ, which leads to dependence on Him, and practice the external disciplines that lead to obedience to Him, Christ will be our strength and we will not melt.
We can sit under the umbrella of Christianity, content with our own agendas as long as we have salvation, or we can become a soldier for Christ, content with nothing less than His agenda. For every demand God makes of us and every discipline required, Jesus Christ is the dynamic, the soldier in us who fights for a better world.
Prayer: Beautiful Lord, even in our day, persecution and opposition to the gospel increase each day. Be the soldier in me to endure hardship and keep me in Your strength. Thank You, Lord.