Outward Living Is Hard

No matter who you are–living an outward life is challenging. It doesn’t matter if you are a missionary or a pastor, a people-person or an extravert, when we turn our lives outward for the sake of the Gospel we are going to encounter a spiritual battle. This is why many Christian tend to move inward. There is less conflict. There is less struggle. There are less opportunities to be embarressed or humiliated.

Our human nature has a natural tendancy to choose the path of least resistance. Why would I risk discomfort and danger when the inside of the church offers me comfort and safety. And yet the Gospel calls us outward into the lives of those who do not know Christ.

And so the Apostle Paul gives these words of encouragement to a young pastor named Timothy wrestling with how to proclaim the Good News of Jesus to a pagan culture. Paul says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord” (2 Timothy 7-8a). Why would Paul need to tell a pastor not to be ashamed. Because when we point our lives outward there will be a resistance from both our flesh (our sin nature) and from demonic forces. And there might be a temptation to give into doubt and insecurities even embarressment. And so Paul reminds Timothy that he does not need to be afraid because the Spirit of God gives us a spirit of power, love and self-discipline.

But not only does Paul tell Timothy he does not need to be ashamed but invites Timothy into the trials of outward living. Paul continues and writes, “… join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace.”

When Paul invites Timothy into suffering for the sake of the Gospel, he is telling Timothy that outwardly living for the sake of Christ will be hard. No matter your gifting or experince or strengths or personality, we are called into something that is difficult. We will choose not to engage in Gospel ministry because it is hard is like not going swimming because you might get wet. Gospel ministry is going to be hard. That is why we do not and cannot do it in ojur own power. It can only be accomplished through the the power of the Holy Spirit.

The other things that I appreciate about Pau’s statement about suffering is that he doesn’t just send Timothy into a ministry that is hard but he invites Timothy to join him. Paul is already experiencing the outward call of Christ that is producing suffering and he asked Timothy to join him. The best way to raise up and encourage a believer into a life for the sake of the Gospel is to go into it with them. Timothy would not be going alone. He would have the encouragement of Paul. The experience of Paul. The wisdom of Paul. Paul knows this life. He knows the strength and grace of God as you enter into this life. Too many times we do not have people moving outward into the suffering it produces because no one has modeled it for us.

When we enter into outward living for the sake of the Gospel, we enter into a life in which we have the privilege of sharing in the sufferings of Christ.  May we help model this life for otherss. Outwardly living is not easy but it is both our calling and our joy. May we not shrink away because it is hard but enter into it through the power of God.