Suffering Unashamed

It comes with the turf.

A Verbal Microcosm (6)

For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed…
2 Timothy 1.12

The verbs of true faith
In this brief study we’re looking at the verbs Paul used to describe his experience with the Lord. Because he calls his readers to imitate him (1 Cor. 11.1), we can use these verbs as a way of assessing and improving our own walk with and work for the Lord.

We’ve seen that Paul’s experience with Jesus – which was abundantly fruitful and filled his life with purpose and joy – depended on what Jesus revealed to him. True faith is grounded in divine revelation. The more we, following Paul, immerse ourselves in the Word of God, the more we will see Jesus there. Seeing Jesus fills us with wonder, joy, love, and hope. The Spirit uses the revelation of Jesus to transform us, little by little and increasingly, into His likeness.

But we must believe what we see of Jesus – believe it is real, and that Jesus is “the prize of the upward call” that God has set for each of our lives (Phil. 3.14). Believing this to be true, we will, like Paul, commit every aspect of our lives to be daily given as a sacrifice for the glory of the Lord (Rom. 12.1, 2; 1 Cor. 10.31). We hold nothing back from Him; what He can’t use for His glory, we discard (Phil. 3.7, 8), so that we can devote ourselves entirely to knowing, loving, and serving Jesus.

Believing Jesus to be our prize, and committing ourselves entirely to Him, we grow to know Him better. The more we know of Jesus, the more we love and desire Him; and we experience more of His love surrounding, filling, upholding, assuring, transforming, and empowering us day by day. Knowing Jesus more intimately and truly, we become persuaded that He is with us always, He will supply all our needs, He will never fail us nor forsake us, and He is making all things new in and through us. Thus persuaded, we live in joyful obedience to the Lord.

What a rich, full, fruitful life Paul knew! We will know that life of purpose, power, joy, resilience, strength, blessing, and fruitfulness as these verbs increasingly define our own relationship with the Lord – as we look to Him to reveal Himself more and more; as we believe what we are seeing of Him and commit everything in our lives to Him; and as we increase in knowing the Lord and are persuaded to live only and entirely for Him.

Paul calls us to share in this lifestyle with him (2 Tim. 1.8), to imitate him, hold fast to his teaching (v. 13), and devote ourselves as living sacrifices of faith and love in all we do (v. 13).

Living this way is fullness of life in Jesus. But that doesn’t mean our lives will be easy or free of trouble.

The gift of suffering
Paul, after all, experienced considerable suffering because of his faith. He suffered want because he shared freely and liberally with others. He suffered deprivation because he had no permanent home or income. He suffered hardship because he was always on the move, taking the Good News to new people. He suffered disappointment because many of the people he served seemed to fall away from his teaching. He suffered abandonment by people he trusted.

Beyond those everyday sufferings, Paul was frequently arrested, beaten, slandered, and opposed. People made fun of him behind his back. They said that his teaching was not reliable. They took advantage of him, abused and mocked him, and spoke hatefully about him to others.

Just like Jesus said they would (Jn. 15.18-25).

Paul did not try to avoid suffering. Because Jesus suffered, and had revealed to him that he, too, must suffer many things (Acts 9.16), he embraced suffering of all kinds as a gift from the Lord and a proof of his apostleship. Paul believed Jesus’ Word about suffering, and he committed himself to endure it, come what may. In the midst of his suffering, he knew Jesus to be with him (Acts 18.5-11). He was persuaded that, no matter what he had to suffer for the Name of Jesus Christ, the weight of glory he would know in that suffering, and that awaited him beyond this life, would be far more valuable than any difficulty he might have to endure here and now (2 Cor. 4.16-18).

Paul was not ashamed to suffer for Jesus. He rejoiced in his various sufferings, because rejoicing in them led to increased patience, perseverance, character, hope, and love (Rom. 5.3-5).

Preparing to suffer
Paul said that all who have received the gift of eternal life in Jesus Christ have also received the gift of suffering, just as he himself had (Phil. 1.29, 30). This doesn’t mean we should all expect to suffer in the same ways, or to the same extremes. Suffering takes a variety of forms. I suspect that for most of us, suffering for Jesus will entail foregoing some blessings of time or treasure or convenience so that we might devote ourselves more specifically to the work of making disciples and seeking the Kingdom.

However, we must be prepared for whatever suffering the Lord may be pleased to bring our way. Thus, it’s a good idea to know about the sufferings of our brothers and sisters in Christ, both in times past as well as in the present, and to share in those sufferings through weeping, prayer, and giving as we are able. Doing so will keep their suffering on our minds and in our hearts, and can serve to prepare us for such suffering, should it please the Lord to allow it to come upon us.

What are the keys to receiving suffering as a gift, and to being always ready to suffer unashamed? First, remember that you are not your own; you were bought with the precious blood of Jesus (1 Cor. 6.19, 20). If we believe this and commit ourselves daily to it, then everything we have will be entrusted to the Lord to do whatever He thinks best for His glory and our good.

Second, give yourself every day as a living sacrifice for the glory of the Lord (Rom. 12.1, 2). Commit everything about the day ahead to the Lord – your relationships, work, wealth, time, possessions, everything. Keep nothing for yourself; be ready to relinquish everything for the Name of Jesus.

Third, consider the people you see each day as more in need of whatever you have than you are; be ready in every situation to spend and be spent for the souls and wellbeing of others (Phil. 1.4; Rom. 12.17; 2 Cor. 12.15). This is just another way of saying that, like Jesus, you must be prepared to empty yourself of any valued possession if by doing so you can bring the grace of the Lord to others (Phil. 2.5-11). The more you empty yourself of yourself and your stuff, the more the Spirit of God can stretch out in you and make you more like Jesus.

Finally, whenever you have to suffer – whether inconvenience, loss, bodily pain, or worse – “count it all joy” (Jms. 1.2-4). Sing praise to Jesus. Thank Him for how much He suffered for you, and for the privilege of “filling up His sufferings” in some small way (Col. 1.24). Rejoice in the gift of suffering like you would rejoice in any precious gift, and you will know the Presence of Jesus with you in your suffering, sustaining and keeping what you have committed to Him.

For reflection
1. How do you expect to suffer for Jesus today? Are you prepared?

2. How should you prepare each day to suffer for the Name of Jesus?
3. How does growing in your knowledge of Jesus, and being persuaded of His Presence with you always, help during times of suffering?

Next steps – Preparation: Prepare today to suffer for Jesus. And when you suffer, remember the suffering of Jesus, and rejoice and give thanks.

T. M. Moore

Resources for the Journey
If you missed our ReVision series, “We Would See Jesus,” you can download all four installments by clicking here. Our newest book, What in Heaven is Jesus Doing on Earth?, can help you to “see Jesus” as He continues His work at the right hand of God. Order your copy by clicking here. For a sweeping study of the unseen realm and the world to come, order our workbook, The Landscape of Unseen Things, by clicking here. And you can learn how our Celtic Christian forebears saw Jesus by working through the 28 days of meditations in Be Thou My Vision (click here).

Thanks to our Lord!
Will you join us to give thanks to God for His faithful support of our ministry, and to ask Him whether you should participate in this opportunity? If the Lord moves you to give, you can use the Contribute button at the website to give with a credit card or through PayPal, or you can send your gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 360 Zephyr Road, Williston, VT 05495.

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore