Some online articles clearly have clickbait titles, meant to trick or goad people into reading them (and their revenue-generating advertisements). I don’t get paid for how many people visit this site, and with a title like this one, that’s probably a good thing!
In the second letter from Paul to Timothy (of those that we have in the Bible), Paul mentions the following:
Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.
2 Timothy 2:3 NIV
It sounds like Paul wasn’t trying to persuade people to follow Jesus with gimmicks or clickbait headings, either!
In this verse, the New American Standard Bible translation uses the term, “Suffer hardship”, which may be a more clear term for us today. When we think of suffering, we might think of the sort of physical and emotional pain that Job went through, and some Christians definitely go through those kinds of trials. However, when we consider a wider range of hardships that we may experience because we follow Jesus, I think that we start to better understand the kinds of things that we choose to give up for something much greater.
For instance, I’ve wondered what I could buy if I didn’t give to the church. Our family has come to the conclusion that giving to our local church (and other ministry organizations) is still better than buying more stuff, but there is a tradeoff there. I believe that this cost-benefit relationship is one that each of us should be willing to consider head-on, rather than overlooking it.
Financial advisers often suggest that their clients have their investments automatically deducted from a paycheck, so that the client never sees these savings in a bank account (being tempted to spend it). However, when it comes to what we give to the ministry of the Kingdom of God, I think that it’s healthy to stop and think through what we might “have” if we didn’t put Jesus first. Here’s why: when the comparison is done fairly, the offer that Jesus makes will always win out over the things of this world, and when we think through what we have given up from the world, as well as what we have (and will) receive from Jesus, I think that it actually can make our choices to prioritize God even easier.
This isn’t just about giving money to support ministry, though. As we serve, I think that it is good to pause and contrast the eternal potential of all of the work that we do for Jesus Christ, versus the temporary impact that other activities might have if we just spent our time on worldly or selfish pursuits.
Still, even giving up money and time for a better purpose isn’t really suffering for most people. Even someone who gives up all that they have in their wallet or purse probably isn’t sacrificing like the widow described in Mark 12:41-44.
On the other hand, even for those who are truly suffering for their faith – whether their persecution or consequences are physical, mental, social, emotional, or material – I think that it is still important to count the cost (see Luke 14:28-30). When earthly pain is compared against the immeasurable glory of God, and the joy in being part of His family, serving God is always the better choice. God does not fear an honest evaluation, because He knows that His blessings always outweigh earthly trials, no matter how severe. Countless followers of Jesus – those who have suffered and even been martyred for their faith – have confirmed the conclusion that there is no amount of pain and suffering in this world that comes close to canceling out the privilege of being friends with Jesus.
What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.
Philippians 3:8-9 NIV
So, I encourage you today to consider what you have suffered, sacrificed, or skipped for the Kingdom of God, and then remember all that He has done – and will do – for you in return. Review the promises of God for those who follow Him, and recall His faithfulness throughout history. For those of us who have followed Jesus for a long time, we already know what the results will be, but it’s good to review the math once in a while, just as a reminder. For those of you who haven’t given Jesus a chance (not “religion” or what someone says about Jesus, but rather His actual teachings and His offer to save and guide you towards your God-given purpose), I hope that you will learn just how great of an exchange this is.
From Sunday School lesson, prepared for and taught on October 11, 2020.
- Christian Standard, Volume CLV, Number 10, pages 83-84. © 2020 Christian Standard Media.
- Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
- The College Press Commentary, 1, 2 Timothy & Titus, by C. Michael Moss. Ph. D. College Press Publishing Company, © 1994.