Enduring Everything for the Gospel

Enduring Everything for the Gospel

by: Scott Dickson

Do you ever find yourself talking a big game about something? When presented with a hypothetical scenario, do you confidently say something to the effect of, “Here’s how I’d respond…!”

 

I sometimes do this when I’m reading the Bible. For example, when I read about Jesus’s followers abandoning Him and running off into the night as Jesus is arrested in Gethsemane (Matthew 27:56), I judge them. Shaking my head, I think, I would’ve stuck by Jesus’s side—which is a very easy thing to say when I’m in my comfy reading chair and not a dark garden outnumbered by a hostile group who also happens to be armed. But there are two verses in particular that really bring out the dissonance between the big game I talk and the game I actually play. 

 

The first is found in 1 Corinthians 9. In this section of the letter (1 Corinthians 8:1–11:1), Paul makes the point that the Corinthians ought to be willing to lay aside their rights in order to build up the faith of other believers. In chapter 9, he shows how he himself has done this by not accepting financial support from the Corinthians, even though he has the right to such support. And in the midst of this discussion, he writes: “we have not made use of this right; instead, we endure everything so that we will not hinder the gospel of Christ” (verse 12). 

 

The second challenging verse comes in 2 Timothy 2. In this passage, Paul—nearing the end of his life—exhorts Timothy to remain devoted to Jesus and to making His name known. And then Paul writes, “I endure all things for the elect: so that they also may obtain salvation, which is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory” (verse 10). 

 

Every single time I come across 1 Corinthians 9:12 and 2 Timothy 2:10, I’m immediately inspired. I simply love Paul’s total devotion to making Jesus known and to seeing believers grow in their faith. I pause on these verses. I linger over them. I write them out in my journal. Confident, I declare that I too will endure everything for the sake of the gospel! I talk a big game. 

 

But when the time comes to play that game in the midst of the realities of everyday life, I often freeze up. I’ll endure everything for the gospel, I tell myself. Well, everything except: 

 

  • Awkward conversations with others. 
  • Meeting a need if doing so interrupts my plans for the day.
  • Another whiny outburst from my kids.
  • My “rights.” 
  • General inconveniences. 

 

On and on. In daily life, the “everything” I’m actually willing to endure for the gospel is more accurately “Some things, so long as it works for my schedule, mood, and energy level.” I’ll endure everything for the gospel, so long as it’s convenient for me.

 

That’s not at all what Paul meant or how he lived. In 1 Corinthians 9, he willingly endures all the practical difficulties and inconveniences that come with not making his living from preaching the gospel. Later in the chapter, he uses the imagery of an athlete to describe the Christian life as a life which requires singular focus and discipline (i.e., an inconvenient life!). This imagery reappears in 2 Timothy 2 just a few verses before Paul says that he “endure[s] all things for the elect,” including sitting in the prison cell that he writes to Timothy from. For Paul, “everything” meant, well, everything. 

 

The Christian life requires focus and discipline | TDGC

Yet by living this way, Paul is simply following the example of another. After imploring the Corinthians to be willing to lay aside their own rights for the good of others in chapters 8 through 10, Paul concludes this section by saying, “Imitate me, as I also imitate Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). Jesus Himself endured all things for our good, for our salvation. And through the Holy Spirit, we are strengthened to imitate Jesus in our own lives by enduring all things for the good of others. 

 

Jesus endured all things for our good | TDGC
Through the Holy Spirit, we can imitate Jesus | TDGC

What about you? What are you typically unwilling to endure for the sake of the gospel? Take some time to honestly confess that to God, and ask Him to help you imitate Jesus by enduring all things for the advancement of the gospel. 

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