Join with me” Paul urges Timothy, “in suffering for the gospel.” “For this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher” he writes. “For this reason I suffer as I do.” In these verses, Paul relays the word that we will shed some of our tears for the sake of the gospel. Jesus tells his disciples the same message on more than one occasion: “‘Servants are not greater than their master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you” (John 15:20).
We may not understand how these words apply to us. Many of Jesus’ followers in the early centuries were imprisoned or martyred for their faith. In what meaningful sense can contemporary American Christians suffer for the gospel? Yet, even apart from persecution, the ordinary Christian life includes an element of suffering for the gospel.
We suffer for the gospel when we prefer others’ needs to our own, when we obey Jesus by serving “the least of these”—the naked, the hungry, the imprisoned. We suffer for the gospel when we refuse to sacrifice time with family, church, and community in exchange for success and advancement; when we go out of our way to befriend those who are difficult and unpopular; when we refuse convenient but dishonest shortcuts in our work.
But these tears of suffering are also tears of joy because they involve us in walking alongside Jesus, sharing in his work. Moreover, they are shed in hope and confidence because we know that “our Savior Jesus Christ . . . abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”
Lord, we “want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead” (Phil. 3:10-11). Amen.
Moving from the sadness of Lamentations 1 to the thanksgiving prayer of 2 Timothy 1 is to move from total darkness to “the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abol- ished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” Lamentations 1 and Psalm 137 are both painful laments from the vantage point of the exile. Both laments drama- tize the expression of honest pain, which offers to God anger as well as grief. In contrast, the New Testament texts speak of faith. The writer of the epistle delights in Timothy’s heritage of faith, nurtured by mother and grandmother and empowered by divine gifts of love and self-discipline. But it is a heritage that must put itself at risk for the sake of the gospel and not inch in the face of inevitable suffering. The disciples ask Jesus for “more” faith, only to be told that faith cannot be quanti ed.
• Read Lamentations 1:1-6. When have your tears of regret washed away illusion? How do you begin again after repen- tance?
• Read Psalm 137. Recall a time when someone angered you. How did you deal with your anger?
• Read 2 Timothy 1:1-14. The author states that when we shed tears for another person we “testify to our profound connect- edness to others.” When in your life have you shed tears for the suffering of another?
• Read Luke 17:5-10. How do you experience gratitude even as you live with the demands of the Christian life?
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