Endure suffering along with me as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. Soldiers don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them. And athletes cannot win the prize unless they follow the rules. And hardworking farmers should be the first to enjoy the fruit of their labor. (2 Timothy 2:3-6)
The saying goes, “soldiers are made not born.” The athlete has to discipline themselves to win through training. The farmer must see his labor through to the end. The common thread is these are done in what appears to be uncomfortable but necessary spaces. It is in the midst of suffering that results are forged. It allows us to look from where we have come from and see the results of endurance. I will be the first to admit, the word endure just seems strenuous and grueling. It is not appealing. However, it describes a state of discomfort that is necessary for growth. Oftentimes what we are willing to endure reaps many benefits.
The plan is laid out by Paul to Timothy to the church for encouragement of what they are about to enter, a season of suffering. It is inevitable and there is no way to get around it. For those that desire to be a registered, proven member of Christ’ army this is what it will cost. The reference of a soldier represents a perfect analogy of the price that must be fulfilled. I want to focus on that particular reference but I believe that the theme runs through all three examples of our scripture verse. To endure suffering means that we have to go through it. It is necessary to embrace. We must go through, in order for growth to be produced. Can you look back over a time when what you went through made you stronger? Oil cannot be seen until the olive is squeezed and pressed to bring forth that which is already inside. There is something unique about suffering for a purpose or a cause that the Lord uses to get glory.
Consider a soldier or an athlete and the rigorous training they must go through to prepare for the road ahead. I know this seems like a harsh comparison but that is exactly what it is, whether through sending enlisted volunteers away to what is called boot camp or training and grueling discipline for the athlete. Both examples have a single purpose birthed in suffering. Discipline does not feel good at times but how we embrace it can be a measure of our faith. Think about this statement, we will never do our best unless we are willing to go through the preparation designed to break, shape, and mold us for work in Christ kingdom.
Battle is not pretty, it is costly and it requires everything we have to obtain victory. In boot camp soldiers are given the tools and strategy to fight. Boot camp is where soldiers learn everything needed for battle. The saying goes “You play how you practice”. Jeremiah 12:5 reads, “If you can’t run with the footmen and they have wearied you, then how can you contend with horses? And if in the land of peace, wherein you trusted, they have wearied you, then how will you do in the swelling of the Jordan?” Focus on the part of the verse discussing the land of peace. I know this may sound eccentric but the suffering represents that peace. The peace, God is describing to Jeremiah represents boot camp for the believer because this is where the suffering produces faith. In this controlled environment, Jeremiah, just like the soldier is challenged to grow. If he is not able to take the suffering in this capacity how will he endure the war? This is where frustration and pain attempts to derail us in our pursuit to purpose. Don’t give up. The connection is grounded in the fact that all have given up their freedom for a greater cause, to serve outside of themselves. Boot camp is there to prepare the soldier to be ready for battle by separating them from everyday life and placing focus on preparation for battle.
To endure is to suffer patiently; to experience without giving in; to undergo a thing. Paul sets the tone for us by giving us information as to what is needed to P.A.S.S. Their thinking must be challenged and their faith is increased by the challenge. Like training we must commit to putting our best effort and doing all we can to reach our goal. Suffering is tough but the mental surpasses the physical. Yes your body has to be engaged but in order to endure you must envision the end before you get there. This is how faith must react to the circumstances before us. It is not what we see but it is what we believe. Faith requires us to encourage ourselves to have the right outlook. Paul is really explaining in order to P.A.S.S we must develop in key areas that Christ requires of us all.
P– Patience, in order to make it or endure we must increase patience. Patience cannot be rushed but is steady and builds overtime. Patience is gained while you are enduring the suffering. It is only picked up when you decide to have single focus. It teaches the ability to disciple self. No patience no discipline.
A – Accept, We accept the responsibility to focus on achieving the goal of serving Christ. Accept the responsibility that once we begin this journey we see it through, no matter what. Giving up whatever is necessary to be successful. This is enduring suffering that Timothy was mentioning. This was the call to serve but it must be met by acceptance. Paul was letting us know that we have a decision to make when we decide to accept this call. Just like the soldier in boot camp you must consider what you are accepting and know that hard choices must be followed through. Are you willing to accept the challenge?
S – Sacrifice, We must sacrifice those things that we cannot control. We cannot control the outcome of suffering but we can sacrifice to make the tough decisions for purpose. It is not a sacrifice if it does not cost us anything. Boot camp requires us to separate ourselves from family, friends, ideology and take on a whole new perspective. Remember when we sacrifice, we are giving some things up but we are gaining in other ways. The sacrifice must not be perceived as not having any value or purpose. When we are enduring the suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus that is the gain- we gain Christ.
S – Strength, We gain strength by suffering. It builds the inner man and increases our ability to trust the Lord. Strength can only build when we continue to push. Strength is the result when we do not quit. We will never know how much strength we truly have until we find ourselves in the midst of a battle.
If we develop through the suffering, like the soldier we have to give up worldly security and endure rigorous discipline like the soldier. Like athletes, we must train hard and follow rules. Like the farmer, we must work hard and be patient, with the expectation to P.A.S.S.