Many of us do not face the challenges the Apostle Paul faced as he was bringing the Gospel to those who had not heard. It was difficult and dangerous work and he needed a capable work force to accomplish the task. That’s why he gave this challenge to his coworkers in the ministry,
Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 2:3)
These words may seem foreign to us as we enjoy the benefits of our comfortable, climate-controlled 72 degree bubble. We have created a lifestyle in which we successfully avoid hardship. Paul pictures a Roman soldier to emphasize the grit and commitment that is involved in suffering hardship. As Paul saw the soldiers, he realized they were an exemplar of those who were willing to suffer for a cause. It is ironic that one of the reasons for the decline of the Roman empire was due to the fact that they were unable to recruit enough soldiers from the Roman citizenry for their army. They hired foreign mercenaries to prop up their armies, who were not loyal to the empire.
Do we know how to suffer hardship as a good soldier? The commander of the U.S. Army Recruiting Command warns that obesity is a national security issue, “The obesity issue is the most troubling because the trend is going in the wrong direction. We think by 2020 it could be as high as 50%, which mean only 2 in 10 would qualify to join the Army.”
How did our ancestors survive without the technological comforts that we often take for granted? They learned how to suffer hardship and became stronger through those challenges. How can we develop the fortitude that will enable us to suffer hardship as a good soldier of Christ Jesus? Here are three ways to get started:
How is your diet? We often eat what we want when we want it. This is the reason why diet plans so popular. We find it difficult to say no to the processed foods and practice a healthy diet. When is the last time you fasted?
How is exercise in your life? John J. Ratey in Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain writes, “Today, of course, there’s no need to forage and hunt to survive. Yet our genes are coded for this activity, and our brains are meant to direct it. Take that activity away, and you’re disrupting a delicate biological balance that has been fine-tuned over half a million years.” Do you have a consistent a exercise program that elevates the heart rate and gets you out of your comfort zone?
How is your relationship to your environment? In the early 1900’s, our technological progress enabled us become independent from the environmental stresses around us. Our comfort ensures that we face minimal stress from our environment and we are overstuffed and under stimulated. Could it be that our lack of environmental challenges allow a host of autoimmune diseases to afflict us? One way to experience environmental stress and leave your comfort zone is to take a cold shower. You may be thinking, “Why would I want to take a cold shower?” Cold showers provide a number of benefits including increased energy, improved immunity and circulation , and it speeds up muscle soreness and recovery.
Controlling your diet, incorporating exercise, and experiencing environmental stimulation are three ways that you can step out of your comfort zone and suffer hardship so that you have the mental tenacity and grit when you need it.
Associate Pastor – Discipleship. The Church at LifePark
Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University
Follow me on twitter: rickhiggins5