Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. Soldiers don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them. And athletes cannot win the prize unless they follow the rules. And hardworking farmers should be the first to enjoy the fruit of their labor. (2 Timothy 2:3-7)
Recently I was reading a short biography of the Scottish missionary John Gibson Paton who, along with his wife, felt called by God to go to the New Hebrides (now Vanuatu) in the South Pacific in 1858. Before leaving Scotland, his friends begged him not go to such a dangerous mission field where other missionaries had lost their lives at the hands of the locals who were cannibals, who even strangled the widows of their own warrior and who mistreated their women. Three months after arriving at his destination, his wife died of tropical fever shortly after giving birth to a baby boy. At 36 days old, the baby also died. Many attempts were made on his life and during one attack, a ship arrived just in time to rescue him and take him to safety.
After remarrying, he was posted to a different island where he and his wife endured many years of deprivation and danger from natives and disease. They had three children, one a girl who sadly died. They continued with their work and, after many years of patient ministry, the entire island of Aniwa professed Christianity. In 1899 he saw his Aniwa New Testament printed and the establishment of missionaries on twenty five of the thirty islands of the New Hebrides.
But how did John Paton manage to endure such unimaginable hardships? How did he continue to work in the face of death, danger and disease? Well, I think at least part of the answer lies for us, in instructions that the apostle Paul writes to his spiritual son, Timothy. He says ‘Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus’ (2 Tim 2:3). He then proceeds to give examples of single minded devotion to a cause.
In Colossians 3:23-24 we read,
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.’
Today, shall we let the life of John Paton, who lived as a good soldier, who was single minded and worked for the Lord with all his heart, stir us up to a life of deeper devotion and greater service for Jesus Christ?
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