Timothy faced hardship in his pursuit of Christian living. Paul wrote to encourage Timothy. He wrote of his own suffering as a follower of Christ in the hopes of encouraging Timothy to follow in his footsteps. Christian living is difficult, even sometimes dangerous. To follow Christ only when it is easy is like being a fair weather fan.
Many of us in our middle and older ages did not grow up in a culture that was hostile to Christianity. In fact, Christianity was the norm for many of us. We talked openly about our Christian faith and values without much regard for what others think or believe. But the same is not true of our kids and grandkids today. They live in a world that is much more hostile toward Christianity. Not by non-Christians, necessarily. The hostility they face is in the scheduling conflicts within families that place faith on the same playing field as sports, music, school, and other extra-curricular activities. Hostility comes from the incongruity of the “Christian” message that all other faiths have got it wrong, with the generous, compassionate, loving non-Christians that are their best friends. Hostility comes from the apathy grown out of faith practices that fall flat and fail to nurture a thriving faith.
Much of the hostility toward Christian living these days is internal, rather than external. Yet it can be external influences that create less hostile environments within people – faithful communities that love, encourage, and challenge believers; friends of varying faiths that challenge and lift up one another in their similarities and in their differences; spiritual practices that nurture faith lives and provide plenty of opportunity for questioning, wrestling, and growth. All of these can combat the internal and external hostility toward Christianity, and can create the world Christ desires for us all.
2 Timothy 2:1-13
You then, my child, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus; and what you have heard from me through many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will be able to teach others as well. Share in suffering like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving in the army gets entangled in everyday affairs; the soldier’s aim is to please the enlisting officer. And in the case of an athlete, no one is crowned without competing according to the rules. It is the farmer who does the work who ought to have the first share of the crops. Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in all things.
Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David—that is my gospel, for which I suffer hardship, even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But the word of God is not chained. Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, so that they may also obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory. The saying is sure: 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 will also deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.