2 Timothy 2:3
In Second Timothy, Timothy was facing a horrible predicament. Thousands of his brothers and sisters in the Lord were being slain by a man on the Roman throne named Nero. Of course, Satan was behind this vicious persecution of believers. Infuriated that Jesus had been raised from the dead, the devil was releasing all the power and fury of hell in his fierce efforts to destroy the Church.
It is difficult for us to imagine the persecution and martyrdom the early believers experienced during this time period. However, an even greater crisis that Timothy faced was the mass defections that were taking place. Many people were fleeing the church and returning to the pagan temples in order to save their lives.
The fact is, crises only serve to reveal the genuineness of people’s faith. The fires of persecution revealed that many in the Early Church were not as committed as they had pretended to be. Many forsook the Lord, deserted the faith, and went back to their old ways. Timothy was seeing this take place among the members of his congregation—and even among many of his leaders. Many of the men and women whom he thought he could depend on had left. They didn’t want to be associated with Timothy and the church any longer. Hence, this was a very, very tough time for the Ephesian believers and their pastor.
It was in the midst of these catastrophic challenges that Paul wrote Timothy and said, “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” The phrase “endure hardness” in Greek tells us something very important about doing the work of God. Please pay careful attention to this, because if you are going through a difficult ordeal as you obey God with your life, this also applies to you.
The phrase “endure hardness” comes from the Greek word sunkakopatheo, a compound of three Greek words. The first part of the word is the Greek word sun. This little word sun always connects you to someone else. It is a word that describes partnership. For example, in Second Corinthians 6:1, Paul says, “We then, as workers together with him….” The word sun is used in the phrase “workers together.”
The word “workers” is from the word ergos, which simply means work, but when the words sun and ergos are compounded together as in Second Corinthians 6:1, the new word describes coworkers or people who are partnered together as they work alongside each other on a common job. These are workers who are connected and joined to each other in the pursuit of a shared goal.
You see, we are not workings for the Lord by ourselves; rather, we are fellow workers with Him. Thus, Second Corinthians 6:1 is a description of partnership with God and carries the idea of cooperating with Him in our work. It also means that God is with us, working on the same task at the same time, cooperating with us as our Partner. This is exactly what Paul means when he writes that we are “… workers together with him….”
As we look at the phrase “endure hardness,” it is imperative that you understand the use of the word sun in this Greek phrase. But you must also grasp the next two parts of this triple compound. The second word is the Greek word kakos. This is a very familiar Greek word that most often describes something that is vile, foul, or wicked. If all you had were these first two words, it would mean, “become a partner with this vile, foul, horrible, wicked situation.” However, Paul goes further and uses a third Greek word, pathos.
The word pathos is another well-known Greek word. It normally describes suffering, but it has more to do with mental suffering than it does physical suffering. This was a word perfectly suited for Timothy at this time, for he was suffering great mental anguish as a result of the disturbing events occurring around him.
Have you ever been in such an intense situation that you thought your mind might “break”? Or have you ever felt like you might mentally collapse from being pushed hard up against the wall with no obvious way of escape? If the answer is yes, you may relate to what Timothy was going through at the time Paul wrote him.
Consider the thoughts that must have been racing through Timothy’s mind. Nero was killing many of the young minister’s friends and church members. As the most visible Christian leader, Timothy must have wondered if the emperor’s men would kill him—and if they did, what kind of especially terrible death would be planned for him as the most famous Christian of the city? Add to all these concerns the great disappointment Timothy felt because of those who had abandoned him and the church, and it is clear that his mind could have felt very overwhelmed, subdued, and mentally affected. This is why Paul told him to “endure hardness,” using the words sun, kakos, and pathos to make his point.
Compounded together, these words could be interpreted this way:
“Join in as a partner with the rest of us (sun) and face this vile, horrible, ugly circumstance (kakos) that is all around you. And if you must undergo a little suffering (pathos) to do this job, then brace yourself and go for it!”
Several key messages to Timothy were included in this one word. First, Paul used the word sun to let the younger man know he wasn’t the only soldier serving the Lord. Although Timothy may have emotionally perceived that everyone else was abandoning the Lord, this wasn’t the truth of the matter. In reality, many believers were still faithfully fighting the fight of faith. This is why Paul told him, “Join in as a partner with the rest of us.”
Second, by using the word kakos, it is almost as though Paul was saying, “Yes, you’re right. It’s pretty bad out there, and it seems like things are getting worse. There is no doubt that a terrible, ugly mess lies before us. It is the most wicked situation we’ve ever faced.”
Third, by using the word pathos, Paul is telling Timothy to brace himself for a fight and to toughen himself. A job needed to be done, no matter what kind of atmosphere surrounded him. Timothy’s obedience couldn’t depend on good or bad circumstances. If circumstances were turning against him and the other faithful Christians, it was time for them to make the quality decision to do whatever was necessary in order to complete their assignment. If suffering was required for Timothy to do his part in pushing the Kingdom of God forward, then he needed to be willing to undergo suffering. Every Christian soldier who is committed to taking new territory for the Kingdom of God must have this mentality.
The truth is, we all face hardships from time to time. And whether or not we want to admit it, we’ve all experienced times when fear has tried to wrap its tentacles around us and drain the victory of Jesus Christ from our lives.
But the next time fear tries to grab hold of you, just remember what Paul told Timothy. This is an opportunity for you to lay hold of God’s power, rise up to meet the occasion, and overcome every challenge in the power of the Holy Spirit. God is calling you to endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ!
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Lord, please forgive me for being so soft and wimpy about my faith and my commitment to Your call on my life. Please help me to become tough in the Spirit so I can deal with any attack the devil might try to bring against my life. I am so sorry that I’ve bent under pressure, whining and complaining that things were too hard, despite the fact that the power of Your resurrection lives inside me. I don’t want to waste one more minute feeling sorry for myself. Therefore, I ask You to help me brace myself, grab hold of Your power, and bravely overcome every situation in the power of the Holy Spirit!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I boldly confess that I am filled with faith, courage, and confidence. I am able to face and overcome every situation in life with the promise of God’s Word and the power of the Holy Spirit. I refuse to let fear rule me, and I choose to believe that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. With God’s power working in me, I am more than enough for every challenge that will ever come up in my life!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- What is the most difficult situation you have ever faced in life?
- What is the primary challenge you are facing right now?
- What are you doing to make yourself tougher in the Spirit so you can overcome this present challenge in your life and press onward to a time of victory?
The fires of persecution revealed that many in the Early Church were not as committed as they had pretended to be.