26 Helps for Suffering: A Primer For Suffering From 2 Timothy
In one way or another, suffering for the gospel is coming. You might as well get ready. To do so, there is no better place to go than the letter of 2 Timothy. Over and over again, Paul is preparing Timothy to suffer. We can get ready too, if we pay attention and take heed to this letter. Buckle down, open your Bible, and let these instructions sink in. Read the verse; then read my summary of its instruction.
1:6 – Suffering tempts us to tone down, or neglect, our spiritual gifts. Make sure to do the opposite; kindle them afresh. Let them burn with a brilliant blaze of the Spirit’s power. Let those giftings bless, convict, and point people to Christ as far and wide as God would be pleased to allow.
1:7 – Any desire to be timid and self-preserving is not from God. Quite the opposite. God gives power for spreading of the gospel. He gives love for enemies. He gives self-discipline so we won’t use our giftings for sinful purposes.
1:8 – Do not be ashamed to suffer because you have been granted access to the power of God for your suffering. He will not leave you in your suffering. God but he gives you all you need to endure it and show everyone that your treasure is Christ.
1:8-11 – This God who will give you power, is the same God who has given you everything else as well. He has saved you, called you, drew you according to divine purposes, abolished death, and given you life and immortality. Why would you want to give your life to anything else?
1:12 – Shame is coming to those who are foolish. But in his suffering for Christ, Paul knew he was the farthest thing from foolish. The omnipotent Christ guards all that is entrusted to Him and He will be its security till the end of time.
1:14 – When you guard what is true, you will find the Holy Spirit will empower you. You have joined in on the very thing the Spirit wants to accomplish.
1:15-18 – Be encouraged by examples around you. There are not many. But, like Onesiphorus and others, you will receive mercy from God on that final day, if you join those who are also not ashamed.
2:3-6 – There are obvious reasons to suffer. First, soldiers suffer and you have been enlisted. Therefore, complete your mission. Second, any athlete will suffer in training. Therefore, do not attempt shortcuts that cause disqualification. Third, the good farmer knows back-breaking labor, but does in hope that he will be the first to share in the harvest. Therefore, walk into suffering with the same hope.
2:9 – Though you are just a man, your work for the Lord is untouchable by other men. The Word of God cannot be restrained or imprisoned. Souls cannot be snatched from the Father’s hand. Joy in Christ cannot be conquered. On and on the list goes. The gates of Hell will not overpower Christ in His church-building mission.
2:10 – Your suffering is the actual vehicle that brings eternal life to those who are chosen. Never underestimate the power, reach, and influence of your suffering. It will be used in countless ways, not the least of which is the salvation of many souls.
2:11-12a – Don’t get sucked into myopic thinking about your suffering. If you die with him, you will live. If you endure, you will reign. These are the far-reaching, over-arching, glorious realities that define your life. Don’t ever let them fade to the background of your daily thought life.
2:12b-13 – Don’t ever forget the cost of fence-riding. You are either for Christ or against Him. If you deny him, you will be denied. If you are faithless, He will be faithful to exalt his infinite worth by demonstrating His wrath upon your miserable self-preservation.
2:24-26 – You will be wronged, yet be patient in bearing that pain. You will be opposed, yet be gentle with those who make your life hard. Why? Those people are incapable of truth, because they are ensnared by Satan. You just may be the voice of correction that God uses to impart repentance.
3:1-5 – Things are going to get worse, primarily inside the church. Get ready.
3:10-11 – Timothy saw Paul suffer, and we get to read about it. We see his love, purpose, perseverance and endurance through it all. We also see how God sustained Paul and used that suffering. Think about that. Be encouraged by it.
3:12 – If you are going to be godly, you are going to suffer. Count on it. Prepare for it. Such a reality can serve as an authenticator. Just as real gold is authenticated by a tooth mark when bit, so real faithfulness can be authenticated by the anger of godless people. Notice I did say “can.” This isn’t a one-for-one comparison. Not all suffering is because of godliness.
3:17 – True godliness will bring about persecution, as verse 12 says. How will you be equipped for this? The Scriptures will equip you to know and walk in this true godliness and to endure the opposition it will incur.
4:1-2 – God is watching all you do, as well as the Christ who will judge, who will come, and who will reign. Therefore, preach the whole truth of Scripture for whatever the need may be, and do this every moment regardless of who is listening or what the situation might be.
4:3-4 – Understand that such preaching will be delighted in by some of the people all of the time, and by all of the people some of the time, but never expect it to be endured by all of the people all of the time. You will be opposed. And those who won’t endure sound doctrine will not only accumulate teachers to tickles their ears, they will also condemn and scorn and ridicule you. They have to do this lest they look bad for turning away from you.
4:5 – Put your head down in prayer, and put your head down in determination. Do what you are called to do and don’t be rattled by such opposition. Be sober, be enduring, be hard working, and be task fulfilling.
4:6-8 – For those who fight the good fight, a reward is coming. It is for all those who keep their eye on the prize. Don’t lose sight of what is coming.
4:10-12 – Don’t consider yourself an island with no need for anyone else. You are not all-sufficient. You are a part of a body. Yet, don’t be surprised when some you trusted end up being false brethren. Sometimes members of the body turn out to have been there by plastic surgery. They are not organic, but only artificially attached by emotional or cultural connections, or even by devious purposes. This will happen. It will be heartbreaking. But at the same time, there will be those like Mark. Initially they appear weak and questionable (Acts 15:37-38). But they will prove to be authentic and invaluable. Remember, Jesus entrusted Judas with the moneybag. There is no “inside man” who can fully destroy the church that Jesus is building.
4:13 – Desire personal godliness more than anything else. Cloaks bring warmth, and books bring instruction, but the scriptures are food for the soul, counsel for the ignorant, light for those in darkness, and a sword for the embattled. If you can have a few things, try to have freedom and helps for growth. But if you can only have one thing, choose knowing and loving and following Christ above all.
4:14-17 – Remember Jesus called us to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Don’t walk blindly into any situation. Sometimes it will be wise for you to avoid some situations. Vigilance is a mark of a shepherd. If you can see the threat, you can prepare for it. You will save yourself some needless losses and pain. Yet, don’t fret if you realize too late that danger is upon you. The Lord will stand with you for the advancement of the good news, however He desires it to advance.
4:18 – Don’t worry. You will be rescued. Not a hair on your head will perish, even if they scalp you (Luke 21:16-18). There is a death by which you will glorify God (Jn. 21:19) and God determines what kind of death that will be. For some it will be martyrdom, others it will be risk-taking that gets them killed, and for others it will be difficult service all the way through old age. God is going to get the glory in all things. Trust in that and let come what may.
4:22 – Grace be with you. Rest in that grace. Be strong in that grace. Hope in that grace. Stand faithful by that grace.