In today's reading assignment we are given the last 4 verses of chapter 1 and the first 13 verses of chapter 2 of Paul's second letter to Timothy. There is quite a bit that could be said about these verses, but I am going to concentrate my comments on the reading from chapter 2.
In this letter to Timothy, Paul urges Timothy to remain faithful to the teachings of Jesus Christ and to continue to spread His word. Paul tells Timothy that as he preaches and teaches, he will face suffering but will be able to endure. This is as true today as it was 2,000 years ago when Paul wrote this letter. I would bet that we all know individuals that think Christianity is a waste of time - that it is foolish to believe. These individuals may make fun of Christians. Now I would not think that many of us have faced the abuse that Paul was facing when he wrote this letter (after all he was in prison for his belief) but many of us have probably faced some sort of abuse in the form of name calling or being shunned because of the way we live our lives. This type of treatment can be hurtful, but Paul urges us not to let this treatment cause us to give up. "Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus." (2:3)
To illustrate his point, Paul uses three analogies - a soldier, an athlete, and a farmer. All three of his examples must discipline themselves and be willing to sacrifice to achieve the results they want. Many of us may have been one, or more, of these in our life times. If you have been you know about discipline and sacrifice. Soldiers endure rigorous discipline and training and sometimes, like in Iraq or Afghanistan, might be called upon to place themselves in harm's way. Athletes must train hard, eat right, and dedicate themselves to achieving their goal. Farmers work hard to prepare the soil and tend for crops and must have the patience to wait for the crop to develop. Paul indicates that each of his examples endures because of their vision of success.
So what helps the Christian, you and me, endure? I submit it is the same thing - vision of success. The vision of loving God, loving our neighbors, spreading the Word, and one day living eternally with Him. Keep going my brothers and sisters - the prize is definitely worth it.