2 Tim. 1:8-14
Therefore, do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord nor of me his prisoner but share in suffering for the gospel through the power of God who saved us and called us to a holy calling not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace which was given to us before there was time, and has now been shown through the appearance of our Savior—Christ Jesus—who abolished death and revealed life and immortality through the gospel unto which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, which is why I suffer like this. But I am not ashamed since I know whom I have trusted and am convinced that he is powerful enough to guard the deposit entrusted to me until that day (Author’s Translation).
What a staggering opening imperative,
“do not be ashamed of the testimony about or Lord nor of me his prisoner…”
What does Paul mean by being ashamed? Well, most particularly he’s telling young Timothy to value his own comfort and well-being so little that he’d risk them to proclaim the message of Jesus and take care of those who are prisoners for His name’s sake. Maybe better said, he’s telling young Timothy to prize his Lord so highly that he’d suffer shame for his name.
Paul isn’t done challenging my lackadaisical love yet though.
“but share in suffering for the gospel…”
Paul’s experience with suffering is exceptional:
- Shipwrecked (Acts 27:27–28:5)
- Stoned (Acts 14)
- Whipped (2 Cor. 11:25)
- Mocked (Acts 17:32)
- Arrested (Acts 21:27–36)
- Betrayed (2 Tim. 4:10)
This is more suffering than most of us have endured and to a degree we have not encountered. Isn’t it terrifying for someone who has suffered as profoundly as Paul to entreat Timothy (and us) to join him in suffering? What could lie on the far side of obedience? What comforts might be forfeited? What dreams lost? What hopes dashed? What if God called us like Paul to a transient life without house or home in constant danger working long hours and in trouble with the law? What if we had to follow Paul and testify to God’s grace unashamedly before malevolent kings?
I can’t do that! I’m not brave enough, not strong enough, not bold enough. I’m just plain afraid. But Paul won’t let me off the hook. I look one line up in my Bible,
“For God gave us a spirit not of fear, but of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim. 1:7).
I look one line down in my Bible,
“do not be ashamed…share in suffering…by the power of God…” (2 Tim. 2:8).
I won’t be able to refuse Paul’s call to suffer alongside him by pleading my inability or fear. God has furnished me with all the power I need. So now I have to be honest with myself…
Paul is showing me a tragic deficiency in my heart: It’s very difficult to imagine something so good that it would be worth suffering so much shame and pain for.
Be honest with me for a moment, I don’t want Paul to ask me to suffer alongside him. It’s like a missionary risking their life in dangerous territory is writing me to ask if I would join them. Can’t Solomon ask me to suffer out-of-season-dates with him? Or Joseph invite me to suffer famine with him in Egypt? Why does it have to be Paul…
I’ve only got one question left.
Paul – Was it Worth It?
Verse 9 begins a series of relative clauses that ends with Paul’s reason for suffering.
“Do not be ashamed…share in suffering…by the power of God
who saved us and called us to a holy calling not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace…
which was given to us before there was time, and has now been shown through the appearance of our Savior—Christ Jesus…
who abolished death and revealed life and immortality through the gospel…
unto which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher…
which is why I suffer like this.”
If we work backwards, we’ll find out why Paul says this suffering and pain was worthwhile. So let’s interview Paul:
Why do you suffer? Because I was appointed a preacher, apostle, and teacher.
What could you possibly preach/teach what is worth suffering that greatly for? The gospel.
What did the gospel do that’s so great? Abolished death revealed eternal life.
You’re telling me I can have satisfying eternal life? From who? Jesus Christ, our Savior.
I don’t deserve that? This seems too good to be true. You don’t deserve it, but apart from your works God has offered it to you by grace.
Wow… Do you see now? My suffering is worth it because I get to know God in it.
The Reason for Suffering
There is a God in heaven who has freely decided apart from our works to save us from his wrath which we had justly earned and call us to a life of service in his kingdom. I deserve the dungeon, but the king has declared me—a rebel—to be his family instead. Not just any king, the king of everything.
“The blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see” (1 Tim. 6:16).
That God called Paul on the adventure of a lifetime.
“He is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name” (Acts 9:15–16).
For a moment, I think I have a way out of suffering with Paul. After all, Paul—not me—was God’s chosen instrument. Perhaps I’ve escaped this call to suffer pain and shame after all.
“All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12).
Now I remember that Paul isn’t the first to suggest that the Christian life is full of suffering, but totally worth it. What else did Jesus mean when he said,
“any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” (Lk. 14:33)
“from his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field” (Matt. 13:44)
Does my shame and pain averse-ness outweigh my joy in Jesus?
Or can I say with Paul that by God’s grace:
“I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phil. 3:8)