The purpose of this series is to help students whether they are preparing for, attending, or have graduated from seminary to grow in the God’s grace. To read the rest of the articles in this series click here.
2 Timothy 2:3, “Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.”
A little over four years ago now, I graduated from seminary. During the 2012 Men’s US Open, I broke down and cried. It was Father’s Day and my dad wasn’t around. In fact, he hadn’t been around for six and a half years at that point. In that moment, I interceded for my dad pleading with the Lord to please allow him to come back home. And the next month (July 2012) the Lord brought my dad back into my life.
It’s now been four years since I’ve not only graduated seminary but also got my dad back in my life. We now enjoy regular conversation on the phone each week about sports and theology. My dad and I are very close now.
The Apostle Paul was no stranger to suffering. Paul’s entire Christian life was full of hardship and suffering. When he says, “share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:3), we should pay attention. Here was a man who wasn’t afraid to endure and stand fast in the midst of difficulty. Instead, he stood fast and brought much glory to the Lord through suffering.
Dear seminarian, I write as one who understands what you are going through. I remember well the long hours of reading, writing, and editing discussion boards and papers.
It was only about a month after I graduated from seminary when the incident in interceding for my dad occurred. It shook to my core. When I got a phone call about a month later from my older brother that my dad was back, I didn’t honestly believe him. Of course, I wanted too but it was so hard. Imagine your own dad being gone for six and a half years then returning. That’s what my family and I went through.
Get Ready for Suffering
Dear seminary student whether you are proceeding towards further academic studies or you are headed for a ministry position get ready for suffering. We live in a world where not only are Christians sinners by nature and by choice, saved by God’s grace, but we are surrounded by sinners. The people who you are going to minister to are hurting and struggling. They may not know how to put into words what they are going through but they need to know that you care.
Suffering is where our theology is put to the test. It’s easy to say all the right words and give the right answers. It’s harder to put those answers into daily practice in our lives. Suffering is where we take what we believe and put it practice daily.
When Paul talks about a good soldier of Jesus Christ he is talking about Christians. In this fallen world, we will experience tribulation and hardship. Jesus promised it (John 16:33) and Paul said anyone who desires to live a godly life in Christ will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12). In this life, you will face hardship and struggles. You must minister to difficult people with God’s grace.
Prepare to Face Suffering
A good soldier prepares for battle. As Christians, we prepare for suffering through the spiritual disciplines.
The spiritual disciplines are more than a check-list, they are our lifeblood. The spiritual disciplines are a means the Lord uses in our lives to conform us into the image of Christ. The spiritual disciplines are also God’s way of unthawing our often cold apathetic heart. God desires to enflame our new passions for himself through us engaging in the spiritual disciplines.
Whether it’s Bible reading, prayer, meditation, or the other disciplines the Lord wants you to be a certain type of person. Bible college and seminary are a good time to learn and grow. Seminary is also a good time for you to embrace the gospel wholeheartedly for yourself.
Your ministry is not for yourself, it’s for God. Seminary is a vehicle that will give you the tools to engage in a life-long ministry of serving the Lord.
Given what we are seeing in our world today, I urge you to prepare. Look at the news and what is happening each day in places like Iraq, Eastern Europe, and Asia. Our brothers and sisters are experiencing suffering and persecution all around the world.
Suffering Helps Us Learn Compassion and Humility
Through my dad’s dementia, the Lord continues to humble and teach me to be compassionate to others.
You may not have a parent who has a chronic illness. Praise God for that. You likely do have a variety of situations and challenges you are facing. The trials of our lives are tailor-made for you by God to help you to grow in His grace. Don’t fight against them. Embrace suffering. Be a good soldier. Prepare for the battle ahead.
Ministry is hard work. It’s hard to care about people who are difficult. It’s also very difficult to minister to hurting people. This is why you must take your studies seriously. Seeing people through the lens of the Chief Shepherd takes not only a great amount of skill. It also requires you to have a good knowledge of theology.
Perhaps you don’t have anyone you can open up to today about things going on in your life. You and I need that person. Likely, you are going to need more than one person. I’m thankful I’m in a place in my life where I have this in my life because I know I wouldn’t last. You are the same. You may not have a father with dementia, but you do have hurts and pains in your life.
Embrace suffering as the way of Jesus. Grow in your understanding of God’s Word. People all around you need help. They also need for you to be a godly man or woman. Embrace suffering now and prepare for the ministry the Lord has for you. Along the way, don’t forget to have some fun, laugh, and enjoy God’s grace.