In shame I admit it---a life of pleasure, ease and self-gratification sounds wonderful. Character, integrity and Christ likeness are not my default. Not on the surface, not in the flesh. Not my natural choice. So the invitation grates against flesh, breath catches and comes up short, return to sender, I ain’t goin to that party. Perhaps Paul’s invitation caught Timothy off guard as well. “Join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God.” That is the call. Do I answer in the affirmative?
I deserve to relax. Life is difficult. I pour myself a glass of wine and open up the dark chocolate pistachio toffee (thanks Trader Joes!). Perusing this passage I don’t see a pity party. The illustrations Paul uses are in opposition; hard working farmer, competing athlete, unashamed workmen, gracious bond-servant and chained criminal. Fully committed all.
From his prison cell Paul looks around and sees; through a crack, a hole, bars, a soldier, a farmer, a fellow criminal, a silver bowl. “What have these in common?” The silver bowl is for drinking; it’s not the commode. “In a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also wood and earthenware, some to honor and some to dishonor.” Vessels useful for honor, pure, and specifically set apart.
Suffer as a soldier. Paul entreats Timothy a second time to suffer as a soldier set apart from everyday life---untangled, uninvolved in everyday life. The commander calls, He who enlisted you provides. Clarity comes. We camp overnight and move on in the morning. Active service, face like flint, moving forward, “let us strip off everything that hinders us, as well as the sin which dogs our feet…”
The invitation at its core isn’t to suffer. It is to come alive. To quote Eldredge, “What stirs your heart? The journey we face now is into a land foreign to most of us. We must head into country that has no clear trail…in the heart of every man is a desperate desire for a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue.”
Live we must. Commitment will cost us. Waffling will cost us far more. We gain our hearts perchance to lose our heads. Paul understood that. I suspect Timothy learned that. “For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him; If we endure, we will also reign with Him…”