This article was originally published on The Gospel Coalition, thegospelcoalition.org/serve-suffer-confidence.
Every time Paul talks about the gospel, it’s like a mini explosion goes off. Paul interrupts himself, starts run-on sentences, and erupts in praise. It’s like he can’t contain his excitement about the good news that’s gripped his soul.
In 2 Timothy 1:9-11, Paul summarizes the gospel once again. He talks about God saving us, not because we deserve it, but simply because he chose to do this before the ages began. He then explains God’s eternal, hidden plan has now been revealed through Jesus, who’s brought life and immortality to light. Paul packs concentrated theology into a few sentences.
Paul refuses to leave things at the theological level. He explains three ways that these truths work out in his life, and by implication, ours.
It’s because of this gospel that Paul “was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher” (2 Timothy 1:11). It’s because of the gospel that we serve — Paul as an apostle as teacher, and the rest of us in our various roles.
Paul seems amazed that he has the privilege of serving God by telling others about the gospel.
Our service for God is an overflow of the gospel. The more we’re captured by what Jesus has done for us, the more we’ll be motivated to serve.
“The more we’re captured by what Jesus has done for us, the more we’ll be motivated to serve.”
I’m occasionally overwhelmed by the cost of serving God. Paul’s frequently overwhelmed with the privilege of serving God.
I’m occasionally overwhelmed by the cost of serving God. Paul’s frequently overwhelmed with the privilege of serving God. Sitting in a jail cell, abandoned by many of his friends, expecting to die, Paul can’t believe that he’s been given the privilege of serving God because of the gospel.
It’s also “why I suffer as I do,” writes Paul (2 Timothy 1:12).
Ajith Fernando, missionary in Sri Lanka, observes a blind spot in the West: we don’t expect to suffer. “The New Testament is clear that those who work for Christ will suffer because of their work,” he writes. “Tiredness, stress, and strain may be the cross God calls us to … Since the Cross is a basic aspect of discipleship, the church must train Christian leaders to expect pain and hardship.”
Suffering seems strange to us, but not to Paul. Because we serve a Savior who suffered, we can expect to suffer too. Paul’s okay with that, and we should be too.
We Have Confidence
“I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me” (2 Timothy 1:12).
If the Christian life were up to us, we would have little reason to hope. We are very skilled at messing things up. But Paul’s confidence is that all of this has been God’s eternal plan, one that he’s committed to completing. We can have confidence because God’s promised to finish what he’s started.
When we’re weak, we can turn from our strength to God’s. He will hold us. Our hope is in him and not in ourselves.
“When we’re weak, we can turn from our strength to God’s. He will hold us. Our hope is in him and not in ourselves.”
I want explosions to go off in my heart every time I think about the gospel. And like Paul I want the gospel to motivate me to serve, suffer, and know that God will finish what he starts. The gospel changes everything.