The Power to Suffer for the Gospel
"Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the Gospel according to the power of God."(2 Timothy 1:8) We want to be Christians who know the power of God. Such power brings salvation to all who believe (Romans 1:16). It also enlivens the faith of Christians. The power of God quickens our hearts, puts spring into our steps, and drives us onwards, and upwards on the Narrow Road of faith--the Narrow Road that leads us to the heavenly City. However, many of us who are Christians in the Western part of the world do not experience much of the power of God because we are not willing to follow the Apostle Paul where he leads us: "...share with me in the sufferings for the Gospel" (2 Timothy 1:8). Desiring to guard our own sense of self-security, we purposefully ignore the connection between a willingness to "share in the sufferings for the Gospel" and "the power of God" that enables us to endure such sufferings. Yet "the power of God" is given, says the blessed Apostle, for the sake of perseverance through persecutions. When we share in the fellowship of Christ's sufferings, allowing His scorn to become our scorn and His mistreatment to become our own, we are given the endurance of such tribulations "according to the power of God." Are we, then, too ashamed of Christ's suffering witness--He was a despised and rejected King--and of Paul's scornful mistreatment--he was the Apostle in criminal chains--to desire, truly, the power of God in our lives? Are we seeking the joy of the Holy Spirit while simultaneously refusing to join Him in grieving over the wickedness of our surrounding culture? Are we looking for a powerful religion without the costly demand of a cross? Are we coveting the brilliant light of resurrection power without first being willing to lower our sinful flesh into the deep darkness of the grave? False teachers have a form of godliness, but deny its power (2 Timothy 3:5). If they were true Christian teachers, they would understand the need to suffer for the sake of righteousness, and they would do so "according to the power of God" (2 Timothy 1:8). Yet they do not, for they will not. Thus prosperity preachers and flattering prophets are not at all powerful, in the biblical sense. They may put on a show of power, but their unwillingness to pay the price for the sake of righteousness betrays their hidden bankruptcy of true, godly power. The true power of God is given to those who are willing to share with the Apostle "in the sufferings for the Gospel" (v. 8). William Tyndale (1494-1536) was thus a powerful man of faith precisely because he understood whence spiritual power comes. Says Tyndale, "God is He that does all things for us and fights for us, and we do but suffer only." How powerful is your Christian witness? Are you willing to join with the Apostle Paul in suffering for the sake of the Gospel? When the Gospel indicts the prevailing culture around us and calls people to forsake that culture and to turn their hearts to God, let us not shirk the opportunity to proclaim the Gospel, in love, even though our witness will result in persecutions. And when the power of God descends upon us like a rushing spiritual wind, enabling us to persevere through the persecutions, let us never boast in ourselves, but only in the Cross of our Lord: "For the message of the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." (1 Corinthians 1:18) Soli Deo Gloria. Glory to God, alone. -TLF Copyright Timothy L. Fan 2014. All Rights Reserved.