Indeed, if you have ever been through times of suffering in your life, you can testify that you can bear almost any pain when it is borne with others. Pain is at its worst when we suffer alone. Coming out of the pandemic, we are realizing more and more how so many people suffered alone, in isolation – and still do. Dealing with this, we have had to find ways of communicating a sense of purpose whereby we seek to learn how we can engage in ministry together. The loss of face-to-face community has become a real challenge.
Yet, I think one of the most important ministries of the church is to share in the pain and suffering of others. After all, it is what Jesus calls us to do. It is what the message of the cross is all about.
That’s one of Paul’s key points to Timothy when he says, “Join me in this suffering.” We are not to take this journey by ourselves.
Indeed, I have a feeling that one of the reasons why many people stick with the church is that, despite its faults, they went through a period of suffering – maybe a divorce, a serious illness, or a loss of a loved one; and the church stuck with them and became a fellowship of love during that time.
In fact, it is not uncommon in many congregations to find all kinds of groups targeted to address some form of suffering. I think of those in this church like Al Anon, AA, Cancer Support, Dementia and Alzheimer's Support, to name a few. There is something about our experiences of pain that can bring us together to share in hope and to realize that we are together in community.
In our passage today, we see how there is a deep communion between Paul and Timothy, but we also see how there is a qualifier to Paul’s invitation when he writes: “Join with me in suffering for the gospel.” Note those three words: for the gospel. Paul is not talking about suffering in general. He is talking about a particular kind of suffering – the suffering that comes through faithful service to Jesus.
As we live out our faith, how may we engage in faithful discipleship by joining in what God is doing and sharing in times of suffering? How might we learn to rely on God’s power when we suffer and serve?
Pastor Andy Kinsey