Formations lesson for April 10: Speaking of Commitment : Thursday, March 24, 2005
March 23 2005 by Julia S. Ledford

Formations lesson for April 10: Speaking of Commitment : Thursday, March 24, 2005
Thursday, March 24, 2005

Formations lesson for April 10: Speaking of Commitment

By Julia S. Ledford
Focal Passage: 2 Timothy 2:1-13

I grew up in a church that believed in commitment. We were frequently inspired toward devotion to Christ in the words of a hymn that we sang together with gusto, "Give of Your Best to the Master."

It challenged me as a young person to give the strength of my youth in obedience to the Lord. It continues to beckon me to throw my "soul's fresh glowing ardor into the battle for truth."

Such was Paul's call to Timothy and the faithful saints in his circle of believers. They had encountered what we all find in life sooner or later. It is easy to give "fresh glowing ardor" while singing songs of joyful commitment within the safe confines of our church congregation.

It is hard to maintain fervor in the face of real life suffering out in the world such as Timothy was witnessing and experiencing. It must have been unnerving to see a man of giant faith such as the fearless Paul imprisoned in chains like an animal.

Suffering stymies us, stumps us, haunts and wears us down.

Seeing beyond suffering

Paul wrote to help them see beyond the suffering with a focus on what it was all about. We read this with great interest because we all want to make sense out of suffering.

My observations related to suffering begin with the realization that everyone suffers. God is love, and still all God's children suffer. God is all-powerful and answers prayer, but still His children suffer. God is with us in our suffering and even grieves with us; but still His children suffer.

So, I have reached the conclusion that God must see suffering differently. It appears that He looks beyond suffering to what it accomplishes. It is the way Jesus faced the cross. The writer of Hebrews (12:2) proclaimed that Jesus endured the cross for the joy that was set before Him.

On the one hand, Paul's letter to Timothy gives direction on how to face suffering, but on the other hand we could do the scripture injustice if we seek to put all earthly sufferings into the same context as that of Paul's hardship.

Paul was imprisoned for preaching the gospel, so he was not writing primarily about facing the suffering that we more frequently encounter of sickness and loss. He was writing to help Timothy to gird up his soul and throw himself into the battle against spiritual ignorance.

Commitment to purpose in suffering

Paul's letter to Timothy provides a two-fold approach to the way Christians are to face the world.

We are to fearlessly share the marvelous gospel of Christ in the face of whatever hardship may be the result of our faithful witness.

We may also respond to all suffering as an opportunity to witness with dignity, devotion and determination like that of a dedicated soldier, farmer and athlete.

I'm reminded of a poem for which I do not recall the author, but I recall the words because they have encouraged me: "I'm thankful for the bitter things. They've been a friend to grace. They've driven me from paths of ease to storm the secret place."

The hope of the gospel is that suffering is not senseless and meaningless when entrusted to the Eternal God of love and grace revealed in Christ Jesus. For believers, bitter things only drive us closer to the Lord through whom we know we have the victory in the long run.

We can and should "endure everything" in order to reach those whom God is seeking. We can and should be faithful in any type of suffering as a witness that Christ has given us a goal of eternal worth.

3/23/2005 11:00:00 PM by Julia S. Ledford | with 0 comments

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