Be Tough

2 Timothy 2:3-7

Christians need to quit whining. At least in the USA. Many people, Christians included, seem to believe there’s whole new class of rights guaranteed to Americans. Right to not be offended; to have whatever we need… now; to be free of any sort of pain or discomfort whether physical, emotional or financial; for anything with a Christian label to advance unhindered. When those imagined rights are infringed on, oh what an outcry of fussing and complaining and threatening.

Here’s the problem: whether those rights are in constitution or not, they for sure aren’t in the Bible. In fact, Bible promises repeatedly that Christians who are living Christianly will be offended, will suffer all sorts of hardships, and cause of Gospel will be opposed. The sooner we all come to good understanding of “real life”, the more effective we’ll be in doing our part for Kingdom of Christ.

Good example of bad example: woman bought in to idea she shouldn’t have to suffer, in her case cancer. Believed if she and enough of her friends prayed hard enough and the right way, she would be cured, next time she went for scan, would be cancer-free. Date on calendar came around, did scan, cancer had progressed, told to get affairs in order, did not have long to live. Response?? God doesn’t love me any more, didn’t heal me, didn’t answer our prayers. Got angry, incredibly so, at God; from that time her Christian witness was done.

Had read her Bible selectively, didn’t believe portions that say: “endure hardship”, “share in suffering”, “love bears all things, …endures all things”, etc. We must know what to expect, be prepared to endure well whatever comes our way. Paul doesn’t give all reasons why we must endure hardship, does give examples of the kind of situations we’ll encounter and exhorts us to be tough. Expect tough going – think of yourself as soldier who endures opposition, an athlete who endures competition, and farmer who endures frustration.

A. expect tough going v.3a

if you intend to live like a Christian, expect hardship

if all you’ve been prepared for is “God loves you, has wonderful plan for your life”, what happens when plan doesn’t seem so wonderful

much more easily become discouraged, even disillusioned, wimp out on how we’re supposed to live

remember how section began: v.1 – be strong in grace; now, be tough, endure hardship, “take your share of suffering” NET

Christian life not without great joy, pleasure – some of greatest joys follow seasons of great hardship; in fact, may come simultaneously

Heb. 12:1-2Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

if you intend to live like a Christian, plan to endure hardship

remember Jesus – he endured the cross; didn’t give up part way through, he endured to the finish

can’t decide in the middle of tough stuff to persevere to the end; must be the plan from the beginning

have to start strong in God’s grace in order to finish strong in his grace

just like a marriage – if divorce is an option for when it gets difficult, the couple will divorce

all of this is especially true for minister of the Gospel like Timothy

gospel life and ministry is hard work – comes with great blessing, also great difficulties and setbacks and challenges and opposition

you ask “why does it have to be that way?” – greatest enemies of the Gospel – sin, self, Satan – don’t give up territory without a fight

Someone asked C.S. Lewis, “Why do the righteous suffer?” “Why not?” he replied. “They’re the only ones who can take it.”

B. soldier endures opposition v.3b-4

good soldier has some characteristics that make him effective

toughness

one purpose of boot camp: weed out those who aren’t tough enough; same is true of later training beyond boot camp

even modern military service involves hardship – weather, topography, lack of supplies, determination of the enemy, injuries, casualties

“describ[ing] the soldiers of the Battle of the Bulge: “What was unacceptable to the G.I. in that foxhole,” Ambrose explained, “was letting his buddies down. They knew the difference between right and wrong, and they didn’t want to live in a world in which wrong prevailed.””

if GI’s in WWII got that, we certainly should understand nature of our conflict – spiritual – and depend on God for toughness to endure, to do our part in battle to make sure wrong does not prevail

singleness of purpose

bi-vocational soldiers aren’t effective in battle; pick the worst times to check out, go home

commander cannot make effective battle plans, wise use of resources if he can’t count on soldiers to be present and focused

one who is distracted will put both himself and others at risk, will not carry full load

remember who Paul is writing to: pastor of local church in Ephesus – tells him “don’t try to hold down two jobs; soldiering in Gospel ministry is enough. A second job will just tie your hands and feet, prevent you from full effectiveness as a soldier.”

desire to please

here’s what sets this military service apart from all others: desire to please the CO

motivation for Christian in all areas of life and ministry: desire to please Lord Jesus, our King and Commander

same desire establishes parameters for how we serve: must do all we do in right way and for right reason – ones that please God

C. athlete endures competition v.5

successful athlete, to endure competition must

be trained

to develop skill; strength and endurance; understanding of the “game”, winning strategy

winners don’t just happen – they win because they are disciplined, focused, have been trained, put all their energy into winning

follow the rules

failure to do so means athlete is disqualified – Olympic athletes have lost medals, professional athletes barred from play because of cheating

to receive winner’s crown from God, Christian must follow rules found in God’s Word – isn’t a free-for-all

can’t use other team’s tactics in effort to gain advantage, even though they’ll use every trick in book

important: competition notchurch across town; is Satan, competing with Christ for souls of men, women, boys, girls

cross the finish line

Yogi Berra: “It ain’t over till it’s over.” – winner doesn’t receive prize until goal has been achieved

can’t quit running just because no one else appears close enough to win; can’t quit running when winning looks impossible either

must persevere to the end, cross the line, receive the crown of life

D. farmer endures frustration v.6

hard, tiring labor with no obvious results

much labor just to get the field ready for planting – you’ve seen process, effort it takes just to grow grass!

plow it, disk it, remove rocks, maybe plant other crop just to turn under to improve soil, plow it, disk it, seed it, roll it, wait and hope seed sprouts

poor yields, even crop failures

unproductive weather: too cold, too hot, too wet, too dry; too many bugs, not enough bugs, wrong kind of bugs

wrong conditions for fruit to set or mature, late frost, hail that destroys crop

most of these things are outside control of farmer – all he can do is his job to best of his ability and trust God for the results

delayed reward – at the end of the season, not the end of the day or week

no instant gratification or even quick results in farming; must wait out the process, might even take several years for fruit trees or other crops

but farmer who perseveres, does what he knows is right, labors diligently and well receives reward at harvest-time

just like work of Gospel ministry – planting seed, watering the seed, tending to weeds and rocks and pests and seeing mixed results

some reject the Gospel, some listen for a while then turn away, some sprout and then never grow to produce fruit, some produce fruit in abundance

Christian life not for sissies, not for the faint of heart; it is for those who are “strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus”. Our Commander doesn’t expect us to succeed on our own; not like the Continental Army where you brought your own supplies and own weapon. Lord Jesus is committed to supplying everything we need to please him – our task: to faithfully endure whatever hardship comes our way while advancing toward the goal. We don’t get to hunker down and wait it out; must keep fighting the enemy, competing against the opposition, planting and cultivating and nurturing until the harvest comes. We must be soldiers of the Cross, following the Lamb along the path he’s already gone, depending on his grace and strength for each day.

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