Ansell column: It’s not easy following Jesus
I’ve been going through 2nd Timothy with some people that I love. There is one common thread that the Apostle Paul writes about to a youngish, middle aged pastor named Timothy. That thread is “suffering.”
This morning as I was praying in shower (I know, too much information - this is after I spent the first hour of my day praying at the kitchen table with the Blonde - Jesus, coffee and Jennifer start off all my days) God spoke to me. What I’m saying is as I was saying, “Lord, help me with the zoo (the nouns in my life - the people, the places and the things in my life) because the zoo is driving me crazy.” God was saying, “Kenny, this is normal, it’s called suffering.” One of the things I love about our Heavenly Father is He speaks the truth in love and He doesn’t mind hurting our feelings. He’s honest, and honesty is always helpful. Can I get an amen!
Paul told Timothy, “Dude, it’s not easy following Jesus. Look at my life (Paul was writing this from a Roman prison). Follow me as I follow Jesus. Follow what I’ve taught, my pattern of daily living, my faithfulness (I’m in jail for Jesus so), my patience, my steadfastness, my love, my persecutions, my troubles, my sufferings, the stuff I have gone through is the stuff you will have to endure as well. Anyone who wants to live all out for Christ is in for a lot of trouble; there’s no getting around it (2nd Timothy 3:10 - 12).” Then Paul says in verse 14, “But don’t let it faze you. Stick with what you have learned and believed …” Earlier in verse 11b Paul bragged about how God had “rescued” him. In chapter 4 verse 17 he said God had strengthened him and stood by him. In chapter 4 verse 15, he says he was rescued from the lion’s mouth, and in 4:18 Paul expresses great confidence that the Lord will always rescue him.
It’s faith right?! I’m begging God to fix my problems, fix the people that are the problems in my life rather than endure, be faithful, be strong in the Lord and accept what God calls normal.
We live in a world that is marked by sin. Marked by selfishness and pride and I can’t wait for God to set things right (read the Book of Revelation), but for now we have to suffer, accept hardship and be brave.
The way the Lord stood by and with Paul is the way God still stands with and by His people today. God has never let me down. We might feel like we are wrestling with God the way Jacob wrestled with God all night in Genesis 32, but God blessed Jacob when morning came. Jacob was amazed at his experience and he said, “I saw God face to face and lived to tell the story (Genesis 32:30)." Wow, isn’t that our story as well?!
This reminds me of Lamentations 3:22 & 23, “The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning.” God’s faithfulness should motivate us to get up and get going regardless of how hard the days are. Be energized today, be hopeful, God is good - all the time. He told me to tell you that!