“Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus”
Jesus gives us one mission when we become His follower: “Go and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19-20) This mission demands knowledge and training, but the most important ingredient is strength. In the Bible, strength is defined as the ability to perform the task at hand. It describes the energy we need to be who God calls us to be. Fear, doubt, discouragement, sickness, and various anxieties can serve as major obstacles in fulfilling His mission. This is exactly why Paul urged the young disciple, Timothy, to “be strong.” He reminded Timothy of the reality of suffering when we commit to following Jesus. In a culture that seeks comfort as the highest goal, this reminder serves us well today. If we aim to serve the toughest Man who ever lived, we should not expect a life committed to following Him will be easy.
Paul gave the young disciple three pictures that illustrate the strength it takes to follow Jesus:
1- Committed followers of Jesus should expect to suffer like a soldier. Suffering can take many forms. Athletes are accustomed to the benefits of physical suffering that can produce self-discipline. But, we can also suffer loss of reputation when we stand up for Christ. When we face the fear of ridicule it forces us to root ourselves deeper in love with our Lord.
2- Committed followers of Jesus should expect to train like an athlete. Meeting the standards of competition is what makes athletics difficult. It takes intense training to do things well. If this is true in athletics, why wouldn't it be true in our spiritual walk with Christ?
3- Committed followers of Jesus should expect to work like a farmer. Farmers don't mind getting their hands dirty. They get up early and never truly clock out of the job. It makes sense the Bible would compare this kind of work to the Christian life. There are no days off. The work of Christ is extremely demanding. But, the fruits are out of this world.
“When life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner. If you’re abused because of Christ, count yourself fortunate. It’s the Spirit of God and his glory in you that brought you to the notice of others. If they’re on you because you broke the law or disturbed the peace, that’s a different matter. But if it’s because you’re a Christian, don’t give it a second thought. Be proud of the distinguished status reflected in that name!” – 1 Peter 4:12-16 (MSG)
1- How have you been willing to suffer to experience positive benefits in your fitness?
2- How have you been blessed from experiencing suffering in your spiritual life?
3- How have you suffered when trying to spread the gospel?
4- What has kept you from being bold in sharing the gospel? Why?