We’ve all been the recipient of an invitation that we didn’t want to accept. Whether it was a prospective suitor whose feelings we didn’t share, or a birthday party of someone who felt closer to us than we felt with them, or the obligatory family outing – there are times that we are asked to participate in some activity and we would rather not. Some of us (the introverts among us) may face this situation more often than others, but all of us, know what it’s like to get that invite and then have to resolve how we ought to respond, with how we want to respond.
However, despite how uncomfortable we may feel to get the unwanted invitation, it probably didn’t compare to how Timothy felt when Paul invited him to share in the suffering that he was enduring. After all, when you receive a letter from your mentor, you are probably expecting words of encouragement, perhaps a commentary on what you’ve done well, and maybe even some insight into what you need to change. Paul however, starts off his second letter to Timothy with an exhortation to participate in the pain he is currently experiencing as a result of his witness for Christ.
Imagine if you will if Paul could have availed himself of modern day technology.
He sends the text to Timothy:
I know it’s hard, but don’t worry about what others are saying. Instead, why don’t you join me in suffering for Christ?
It’s an inconceivable proposition, but it’s exactly what Paul presents. For not only has Paul experienced the pain, but he has also experienced the rewards of going through the pain. He knows that his trials have shaped and molded his life in such a way that he can write “Follow me as I follow Christ.” (See I Corinthians 11:1) And this should be the goal that all followers of Christ desire. That when people look at our lives, they see through us to view Christ.
And beyond that, Paul knew that there were heavenly rewards that awaited him- that however bad it was on this Earth, it didn’t compare to the goodness of Heaven’s treasures. If for no other reason, this was cause for Timothy to want to fully participate in the ministry, and the sufferings, of the Gospel, and Paul loved him enough to extend him the invitation.
(A quick sidebar/clarification- In case anyone misinterprets the “invitation” – I don’t believe that Paul was exhorting Timothy to go looking for pain – and we shouldn’t do so either. But Paul did want Timothy to not back away from the pain and suffering that being an ambassador of Christ “naturally” brings. And we shouldn’t either.)