“Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord.” (2 Timothy 4:5)
Words are very important, but perhaps more important still, is the person who speaks the words.
Imagine a wealthy gentleman who has enjoyed good health all his life, has feasted like royalty daily, has never known real heartache and who lives a life of peace, comfort and security, speaking these words, ‘don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord’. You would look at him in disbelief and perhaps even ridicule. How on earth can this man have any idea what it is to suffer for the Lord? I’m afraid we would all walk away from the man, paying little attention to his words.
Enter Paul! Now, here is a man who indeed has suffered. He has been shipwrecked, known hunger and thirst, been stoned and left for dead. He was ‘put in prison more often,..whipped times without number, and faced death again and again’ (2 Corinthians). This is a man whose words you take notice of.
Have you ever wondered how Paul could have dared to write these words to Timothy? How did he know that Timothy could endure the suffering?
The answer is simple. Paul said, “ I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13 NLT). He could not have endured the sufferings in his own strength and willpower, but he found that there was One who came alongside and gave him the power and the strength that was needed to sustain him.
He, himself, could now pass this word on to Timothy that the One who had strengthened him in his hours of trial would be the One who would draw near to Timothy, so Timothy did not not need to be ‘afraid of suffering for the Lord’.
Many of you who read this will also have known your own hours of suffering in life, even if it hasn’t been directly related to preaching the gospel. You will have experienced days, weeks, months or even years of some kind of trial. And, like Paul, you have also discovered a hidden source of strength coming to you, quietly and sweetly to uphold you to the end.
Standing somewhere in the shadows you’ll find Jesus,
He’s the only One who cares and understands.
Standing somewhere in the shadows you will find Him,
And you’ll know Him by the nail prints in His hands.
For some of you, your hour of suffering may yet be ahead of you, but be encouraged by Paul’s words and, if and when the time comes, ‘don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord’.
We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet him ahead of those who have died. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. (1 Thessalonians 4:15-16)
A few years ago I, and a crowd of thousands of others, attended the Trooping the Colour in London which is an elaborate ceremony that has marked the official birthday of the British Sovereign for over 260 years. Regiments of the British and Commonwealth armies perform the ceremony, watched on by Her Majesty The Queen as well as senior members of The Royal Family. After the ceremony, the Royal Family return in regal, horse drawn carriages to Buckingham Palace. Following a 41-gun salute by the King's Troop in Green Park, The Queen leads the Royal family on to the palace balcony for a Royal Air Force flypast. She then greets hers thousands of well wishers. It is breathtaking and spectacular.
In today’s text, we read of another magnificent event, though yet to take place. The words that Paul uses here are from a Greek term that was commonly used to describe the coming of the emperor to a city, accompanied by great pomp and celebration. When Christ returns, it will be a time when we will honour the Heavenly King, the One whose majesty eclipses all earthly kings and princes. There will be celebrations more elaborate than anything ever witnessed on earth. It will be a time of unrivalled magnificence and splendour.
But, do you really want to wait until that wondrous hour arrives to honour God? Do you not, even now, feel a desire rising up in your hearts to show your love, worship, and loyalty to Him? Why wait until that final day? Why linger for the final trumpet call of God to sound forth before we honour Him? Surely there is a trumpet call in our hearts today, summoning us now to honour the King; and we can indeed do so.
We honour Him when we tell the truth rather than a lie; we show our love for Him when we are content when others receive the recognition that was due to us; we demonstrate our allegiance to Him when we speak a kind word in reply to a cutting comment; we show our esteem for Him when we don’t take part in conversations that belittle others; we honour Him when we speak in defence of the defenceless. Our whole lives can be be spent honouring our King.
So He got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him. (John 13:4-5)
We read of some very sad moments in the Bible such as when the rich young man, asking Jesus what he needs to do to inherit eternal life, turns and walks away sad when he hears Jesus’ answer to sell all that he has and give it to the poor. He was not ready for radical discipleship. He loved his own life more than he loved God.
However, there is another part which I often read with sadness. Jesus has lived his life on earth as a servant. He has given people their sight, brought health to many a sick body, delivered his friends from danger, and now He is about to die the death of a criminal. He is spending His last night on earth with his beloved disciples, giving them His final teachings. He is making the final preparations for their life without His physical presence. Having walked the earth as a servant rather than a prince, Jesus remains in his role of servant to the end, and takes the towel that everyone else in the room has avoided. His disciples had been afforded one final opportunity to serve the servant; they all missed it. Not one of them, yet, had learned that ‘no servant is greater than his master’ (John 13:16).
Do you ever wonder how the disciples felt after that night? I’m sure that every one of them, had they been able to turn the clock back, would have arrived first in that upper room to perform the servant’s task, and have the privilege of washing their Master’s feet. But it wasn’t to be.
We may not have the privilege of serving Christ in person, but He did say, “I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ Matthew 25:40 NLT
Let’s be alert today and not miss our opportunity to serve, for in serving others, we are serving Christ.
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Struthers Memorial Church is a registered Scottish Charity No. SC 006960 | Struthers Memorial Church is a company limited by guarantee incorporated in Scotland Company No SC335480 | Registered Office: 33 West Stewart Street, Greenock, PA15 1SH.