I was preparing a lesson on Doctrine for Sunday morning when I was struck by this phrase from 2 Timothy:
“Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.” (ESV 2016; 2 Tim 2.10)
Here are the thoughts that came to my mind as I chewed on this verse:
- Do I believe that God has chosen to save men and women and that I and our church are a tool in his hand to accomplish that great task? Sometimes I look out at the “churched”, the disgruntled, and the nature of our rural area and wonder. I wonder if it is worth the energy and time. I wonder if culture is to far gone, if people are too distracted by their phones, and if there is simply too much religious baggage for people to realize the simplicity of the Gospel. But then I remember how God opened Lydia’s heart to believe (Acts 16.14), and how he reminded a discouraged apostle that he had many people in Corinth yet to believe (Acts 18.9-11). Truly God is at work in our world and in northern Dickinson County with its approximately 3000 people. He sent forth his gospel and nothing has stopped it; not even the foolish doubts of a rural pastor.
- In light of so great a truth am I willing to endure everything for the sake of those who have believed and will believe? It is those two haunting words that I first noticed: “endure everything”. Really Paul, everything? Well yeah. Listen to how he describes his endurance:
“Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?” (ESV 2016; 2 Cor 11.24-29).
I haven’t endured such conditions for the sake of those who will believe, nor is it necessary that I do, but am I willing? Am I willing to face physical, social, and emotional pain for the progress of the Gospel? The Sunday School kid in me wants to shout out “Yeah”! But what about when I know that going to visit that family or make that phone call is going to be difficult and long? Do I avoid it? How about that person I’ve talked with repeatedly but they just constantly reject the Gospel? Do I give it one more try? Or what about that person who has grown hard towards Jesus and his church? Do I pursue them? And still, what of my fear of rejection and hunger for popularity? Will I reject them for the salvation of men and women? The reality is we may never be shipwrecked because of the progress of the Gospel, but we will face the everyday hardships of discomfort, fear, ridicule, and selfishness, to name a few.
These are just some thoughts that this verse blew up in my mind today. I am sure there will be more.
How about you Christian? Have you lost perspective that God is at work in this world to save people? Has it grown hard to have hope that there are men and women God has chosen to save and that he wants to use us to accomplish that work? What circumstances or situations are you unwilling or afraid to endure? You are not alone. Together we can refocus ourselves upon the great work of God and his promise to save people from their sins. God truly has people in North Dickinson that he wants to save and we have the privilege of enduring hardship for them.
Glory to God alone!