Endure Hardship (2 Timothy 2)
- Order of Service: Prayer & Preaching
- Hymns: LSB #420, 662, 781, 664
The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with Him, we will also live with Him; if we endure, we will also reign with Him; if we deny Him, He also will deny us; if we are faithless, He remains faithful— for He cannot deny Himself (2 Timothy 2:11-13).
Sharing in suffering is the mark of a group of soldiers. St. Paul uses the imagery of a hardened soldier to explain what Timothy's future as a Christian. Your future as a Christian as well. The future of sharing in suffering because you are a Christian soldier.
Suffering is a mark of the true Christian. Christians will suffer in this world. We see this throughout the Bible. Naomi and Elimelech went to Moab because they were suffering in Israel from a major famine. Very reminiscent of the famines in the patriarchal times of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. All had to go somewhere else to relieve their suffering.
Jesus had to suffer throughout His earthly life. Herod sought Jesus' life as a threat to his throne. Joseph, Mary and Jesus had to flee to Egypt. Jesus fasted for forty days in the wilderness before being tempted by the devil. He suffered the disgrace of having His own family believe He was insane. He faced repeated scorn and derision from the Pharisees, Sadducees and the chief priests. He was deserted by His followers after hours of agonizing prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. And then there was the beatings He endured in His Passion and then His death on the cross. And He calls you to share in His sufferings. But with His sufferings come greater glory.
And that's where St. Paul's quotation of an early Baptism hymn comes into play. Our sharing in Christ's sufferings will guarantee us a place in His comfort and glory. The hymn begins and ends with a pair of opposites. The middle two lines have reciprocal relationships to each other.
“If we have died with Him, we will also live with Him.” There can be no greater opposites in this world than death and life. And their power doesn't appear to us as it should. Naturally, we believe that death is the end of life. That death is the great ruler over life. But Jesus' death and life turned everything upside down and inside out. By death, He destroyed death. “Death has no more dominion over Him.” In fact, the life we lead comes through His death. “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.” “Do you not know that all who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?” Jesus is “the death of death, our foe.” We are alive because we died to sin in Him.
Being alive through His death, we find the strength to endure life's hardships. St. Paul says, “I endure everything for the sake of the elect.” For the sake of the Church and her confession, Paul was willing to suffer greatly wherever he went. Because he knew and believed Jesus' promise to His disciples, “You are those who have stayed with Me in My trials, and I assign to you, as My Father assigned to Me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” “The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with Me on My throne, as I also conquered and sat down with My Father on His throne.”
Each of these promises hinges on the line, “If we endure, we will reign with Him.” Ruth forsook her homeland of Moab. She left everything behind, but she would begin to reign soon. Her marriage to Boaz brought her into the royal ancestry. She was King David's great-grandmother. Ruth endured the hardships of living among a people who were not her own. A people who warred with her people. But she would reign through her descendants. Both David and Jesus.
Every ruler's reign is filled with hardships to endure. No king or queen has ever had an easy reign. Much less a perfectly righteous reign. But this promised reign with Christ is done in “everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.” Far more prefect than any righteous reign of any righteous king. Because this reign will last forever.
But only if we don't deny Him. “If we deny Him, He also will deny us.” As he said, “Whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in Heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in Heaven.” Church history is filled with confessions and denials. Many Christians fought valiantly for the orthodox faith and doctrine. Others jumped off the wagon when times got tough. We can run the gamut of the centuries. Jesus will receive those who valiantly fight for the true doctrine into Heaven. Jesus will turn away those who jump out of His hand because it becomes too difficult. Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'” No one wants to hear those words.
However, there are many in our midst who are on track to hear these words. We are all faithless in thought, word and deed. But those of us who return to Jesus with repentant hearts will be received with open arms. We have to confess our sins and our need for a Savior. We can come to Him because He will never be faithless to His promises. He has promised salvation to all who believe. He promises this to everyone, but not everyone believes the promises. But St. Paul writes, “For what if some did not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect?” Jesus' faithfulness to you isn't dependent on your faithfulness to Him. He is always faithful. If He were to stop being faithful, He would no longer be a god anyone would want to follow. No one wants to follow a fickle god. Jesus is faithful no matter what. If He were going to be faithless in anything, He would never have died on the cross. Jesus' faithfulness is shown through His cross. He died for your sins. He will save you from your sins, but you have to have sins for Him to forgive you. You cannot deny your sinfulness.
While you are commanded to “deny yourself,” it is not your sin that you are denying. You are denying your ego. Your very self. You deny that you can take care of yourself. That you can endure on your own. But you can't. You must deny yourself and follow after Jesus. His life and suffering is the force that guides you in this life. You share in His suffering. He promises you everlasting blessings. And He can never deny Himself. He is your Savior. He will see you through the hardships. But you must endure. “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” “The one who endures to the end will be saved.” These are His promises. Promises He will never break because He endured the hardships of Hell so you can enjoy the pleasures of Heaven. Amen.