2 Timothy 2:3, “Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.”
C.S. Lewis once wrote, "Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny." Paul, an apostle of Jesus who knew a great amount of suffering in his life and ministry, said, "Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus." (2 Timothy 2:3) I hear this and think, 'Is Paul some sort of masochist?' I do not believe Paul wanted to suffer anymore than anyone else did. I do think that Paul had a much different attitude towards suffering than we have today.
I think the difference is between being resigned to suffer or accepting suffering. Resignation and acceptance are two different things. We have all met people who are resigned to fate. They say, "This is just my lot." They have given up fighting. "That's life," they say. I think of Eeyore the donkey from Winnie the Pooh. He used to say in his morose way, "Could be worse. Not sure how, but it could be." On the other hand the Christian accepts suffering and uses it as a springboard, a platform. "Resignation is surrender to fate; acceptance is surrender to God," says Elisabeth Elliot. She says, "Resignation lies down quietly in an empty universe. Acceptance rises up to meet the God who fills that universe with purpose and destiny. Resignation says, 'I can't,' and God says, 'I can.' Resignation says, 'It's all over for me.' Acceptance asks, 'Now that I'm here, Lord, what's next?' Resignation says, 'What a waste.' Acceptance says, 'In what redemptive way can you use this mess, Lord?'"
And who is Elisabeth Elliot? A woman whose husband lay flat on his face, dead in a river with an arrow in his back—martyred for Jesus Christ. What did Elisabeth Elliot do? She said, "In what redemptive way can you use this mess, Lord? I know that my Redeemer lives. He died to make me fit for heaven; he lives to make me fit for earth. Now, what are you going to redeem, buy back, out of this situation?" Elisabeth Elliot took the hand of her 6-year-old daughter, and Marge Saint, the wife of another martyred missionary, took her daughter's hand, and they all walked back into that tribe that had killed their missionary husbands. They weren't killed; they were accepted. They translated the Bible, and the whole tribe came to Christ.
Marge Saint's daughter, who went with her mother into that tribe, recounts what God did in that village. She says, "I remember at 15, I stood in the river where my father had died, and I was baptized by the man who killed him. That man is now the pastor of that tribe." In what redemptive way can you use this mess, Lord? Paul was not simply resigned to suffer but accepted his suffering as a "good soldier of Christ" knowing God can redeem any and all messes and use them for good.
Prayer: Father, we can’t always understand our suffering. We don’t know how You can use it, change us through it and work it out for good. It is not our task to understand but to push forward in the battle as one who is willing to suffer for Your purpose and glory. May that glory be seen in us today as we “fight the good fight” and seek Your will. We love You because You first loved us through Jesus, amen!