“Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” 2 Timothy 2:3
The idea of suffering hardship for one’s faith is foreign to most American Christians. Yet, believers around the world suffer persecution regularly. The fact that Christian living entails continual warring against the forces of evil was not lost on the Apostle Paul. After all, he was writing to Timothy from his own imprisonment. His advice rings just as true today as it did in the first century. If you follow Jesus, then be ready for suffering.
Like Timothy, we should have no illusions regarding following Christ. Being faithful to the truth inevitably leads to difficulties. Just ask those who come to faith in countries where conversion is punishable by imprisonment, beating, and even death. Still, many Christians continue to proclaim the Gospel against the constant threat of persecution.
In our own country, some reject and cut off Christian family members who are unwilling to compromise on God’s Word. That’s a form of suffering for one’s faith. According to Paul, none of this should really surprise us. He compares our faithfulness to a soldier’s service to his king.
Bible commentator William Barclay helps us understand the characteristics of a “good soldier.” While on a campaign, a soldier is not involved in the ordinary business of life. All concentration is on serving. Early training conditions a soldier to obey commands without question. There may come a time when such instinctive obedience saves lives, including that of the soldier. Loyalty and sacrifice are a way of life. When a Roman soldier joined the army, he took the sacramentum – the oath of loyalty to his emperor. As believers, we serve Jesus Christ. He deserves our loyalty through all the chances and changes of life, down even to the gates of death.
So, is your faith ready for suffering? Proclaiming the name of Jesus Christ is increasingly difficult in our country. How willing are you to stand on the truths of Scripture if it means rejection and hardship? Paul’s advice reminds us that following Christ is costly. Remember, the only kind of faith that has no suffering is one that demands no sacrifice.