2 Timothy 2:1-5, Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. 3 Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. 4 No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier. 5 And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.
When the apostle Paul wrote the words above to young Timothy, admonishing him to “endure hardness,” (literally “endure suffering”) he was speaking from first-hand experience. Paul knew exactly what hardness was and he understood how to “endure hardness.” Paul suffered much because of his faith. He suffered much for the Christ that he loved and for the cause of Christ in which he labored, both living for and eventually dying for Christ and his cause in the world.
In recent days I have been reading three different books on the life and ministry of Hudson Taylor. Amazing man to say the least! He lost one wife and two children to illness on the field. He had to send his other three children back to England for their education. The China Inland Mission, which he founded, suffered the loss of 58 missionaries and 21 of their children during the dreaded Boxer Rebellion. The story of their trip from England to China on a ship that went through two typhoons and barely made it to the shore of China, along with the story of their home being surrounded by 10,000 angry Chinese, are so hard to believe, but they are true! Yesterday, I read the following words that Taylor wrote:
We did not come to China because missionary work here was either safe or easy, but because He had called us. We did not enter upon our present positions under a guarantee of human protection, but relying on the promise of His presence. The accidents of ease or difficulty, of apparent safety or danger, of man’s approval or disapproval, in no wise affect our duty. Should circumstances arise involving us in what may seem special danger, we shall have grace, I trust, to manifest the depth and reality of our confidence in Him, and by faithfulness to our charge to prove that we are followers of the Good Shepherd who did not flee from death itself …
-Taylor, Dr. and Mrs. Howard (2013-05-25). Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret (p. 169). Kindle Edition.
Like the Apostle Paul, Hudson Taylor and his fellow-laborers understood what it was to ENDURE HARDNESS!
Most of us are familiar with the stories of men like Hudson Taylor, Adoniram Judson (have you ever read the letter he sent to his future wife’s father?) and the suffering they endured for Christ and the cause of Christ. We are familiar with John Bunyan and a host of others who ENDURED HARDNESS!
We have read about them. We have heard their stories and illustrations from their lives and deaths. And for some of us, we have even preached about them and their willingness to ENDURE HARDNESS!
ENDURING HARDNESS MAKES FOR GREAT PREACHING, BUT TOUGH LIVING! 🙂
Our generation of Christianity, especially in the West, is all about comfort and convenience. The vast majority of our lives we have been striving for the “easy life.” Isn’t that part of the American Dream?
The question, “Are we too soft?” is one worth pondering.
Recently, I had the opportunity to listen to a small clip from a message. In the message the pastor, referring to his recent bout with meningitis, said,
“I have been made aware of something. All the more just recently. Many of you know that I had this viral meningitis for a month. Just coming out of it these last few days. To where I am actually starting to feel better. … I recognized something. I am one of you. You say, ‘What’s that?’ I don’t just mean Christian. I mean a 21st century American. You say, ‘What does that mean?’ That means we’re used to softness. Our towels are soft. Our cars are air-conditioned. … Our homes are air-conditioned. We have instant clean water. Now, with cell phones and computers, instant FaceBook, instant chat, instant email, everything is instant. We want it now. We are very entertained people. WE’RE A VERY SOFT PEOPLE!”
He then continued with these words:
“Let’s just call it what it is. Brethren when you compare us to people [Christians] in Iraq; they may not know the doctrine that we know, but we can learn from them. What can we learn from them? We can learn about suffering persecution. … WE TEND TO BE SPIRITUAL LIGHT WEIGHTS!”
Whether we want to admit it or not, it’s true!
If we are ever going to make a spiritual dent in our world, beginning in our Jerusalem and continuing to the uttermost parts of the world, we, along with our families, are going to have to be willing to ENDURE HARDNESS!
To Be Continued …..