Am I a Soldier of the Cross

Embracing Endurance

If we endure, we will also reign with him. 2 Timothy 2:12

Like a blood-soaked warrior, the word endurance reeks of conflict. We don’t want to embrace it; in fact, its grim appearance sends most of us scurrying out of its path. Perhaps that’s the reason Paul spoke so forcefully to his protégé Timothy, commanding him to “endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 2:3).

And just in case Timothy didn’t identify with the military image, Paul bolstered his point with two other analogies that may have been more meaningful to the young pastor of the church in Ephesus: the sweat-drenched discipline of an athlete and the sun-scorched patience of a farmer (vv. 5-6).

To be fully equipped for the rigors of spiritual warfare, Timothy also needed to view hardship through eternal lenses. Therefore, Paul added some encouraging words: “I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory” (v. 10).

Paul pairs endurance with eternal glory, both for himself and for all those who accept God’s gift of salvation. “Eternal glory”—the privilege of living in heaven and reigning with Christ—is the reward Christian warriors earn on earth’s battlefields of hardship.

Three hundred years ago, Isaac Watts wrote about the eternal value of endurance in “Am I a Soldier of the Cross?” He battled poor health and unjust criticism throughout his 40 years of ministry. Susceptible to illness, he was often bedridden for weeks. And when he was well enough to minister, other clergymen objected to his simplistic style: plain sermons and catchy tunes that appealed to the uneducated members of the lower classes.* But Watts wasn’t defeated by personal or professional hardship:

Must I be carried to the skies On flowery beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize And sailed through bloody seas.
Sure I must fight if I would reign; Increase my courage, Lord;
I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain, Supported by Thy Word.

That’s my prayer too: “Increase my courage, Lord. I want to embrace the hope of eternal glory in the midst of hardship as Paul, Timothy, and Isaac Watts did. Gird me with the unfailing promises of your Word.

DIG DEEPER:

Read 2 Timothy 2:1-13. What did Paul want Timothy to “reflect on”? What do you think God wants you to “reflect on” this week?

Paul said he was willing to “endure everything.” What did he endure? Read 2 Corinthians 11: 23-29. What kept him from giving up? Read 2 Corinthians 4:13-18 and 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. What keeps you from giving up?

Peter also encouraged those who were suffering hardship. What advice did he give his readers in 1 Peter 5:6-10? Which of these verses encourages you the most?

To read and listen to all the lyrics of “Am I a Soldier of the Cross?” go to http://nethymnal.org/htm/a/m/amiasold.htm

Denise K. Loock

*Source is Isaac Watts: His Life and Writings, His Homes and Friends, by E. Paxton Hood. Kessinger Library Reprints, 2010.

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