For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day. 2 Timothy 1:12
Those of us who suffer (and who doesn't?) need constant affirmation that our suffering is not in vain. I can't count how many times I have pleaded with the Lord to show me just a glimpse of His purpose in my suffering. Just a glance at the good work He is doing in my life and the lives of others through it. Many times, He has shown me the fruit of my trial, and when He does I am so grateful. But sometimes, many weeks go by and I see no visible fruit; no glimmer of hope that this trial is working something good, something glorifying to God. Yet, even in those times, I am called to persevere (Eph 6:18).
It is in these times that the verse above, from 2 Timothy, is so encouraging to me. Based on this verse, I have developed some questions that I ask myself whenever I begin to feel discouraged. This verse is packed with encouragement and hope, and today I want to share with you how it speaks to me.
The first question this verse brings to mind is, whom do you believe? Paul says here that He knows whom he has believed--The Lord, Jesus Christ! Do I really know Him? His character, attributes, His ways and His heart? Perhaps I have forgotten His love for me, or His patience with me. Maybe His gentle guidance has slipped my mind, and I've begun to think He is harsh because of my circumstances. This question makes me really think about the facts of who Christ is, how He has suffered for me, and who I am in His sight. It also reminds me that, though my circumstances are in constant flux, He never changes. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb 8:13). If I find I've slipped in my knowledge of Him, I am back in the Word and prayer until I know for sure whom I have believed!
The next question this verse brings to my mind is, why are you persuaded? Have you taken your pastor's word for it when it comes to the power and love of Christ? If I have been in a busy season, and have not taken the time for deep Bible study and prayer, my memory can grow dim about the reasons I first loved Christ. What is the reason you are persuaded that He is the Savior of the world, and that He can bring you through your trials? Are you just going along with what others have said? Did you "accept Christ", then move on with your life, not thinking or studying much about Him? When was the last time you sat down with the Word of God and just soaked it in, silently meditating on what you read, and reflecting on the goodness of God or the love of Christ? If you do this, you will remember that first spark of love for Him, and why you were persuaded. More than that, you will be a more persuasive believer!
Paul says that He believes that Christ is able to keep what he has committed to Him until the great day of Christ's appearing. This statement brings up the third and final question on my list: What have you committed to Him? Your heart? Your soul? Your time, energy, and gifts? Your body? Think carefully before you answer. Many of us are selective in our "commitment." We may be willing to give our money or use our talents for the cause of Christ, but what about our bodies? What if they don't work the way we want them to, or the ordinary tasks of everyday life cause us pain? How committed are we when a short trip to the grocery store or making a meal for our families means we can do nothing else that day? How committed are we when we wake up in the morning to aching joints or pounding headaches, knowing that we will carry them throughout the day, and that tomorrow will be the same? What is our response? Do we continue to praise the Lord through the pain, or do we complain and sigh, longing to skip all this and just go on to heaven? A true commitment to Christ includes our bodies, whether they work as we want them to or not.
None of us is perfect, myself included. We all have days where our answers to these questions are not what we would like them to be. When my joints are aching and my walking buddies have left me behind, I sometimes forget whom I have believed and how much he loves me. When I have to give up yet another activity because of pain and disability, it is easy to put God's Word aside and begin to disbelieve what He says there, to doubt the truth of it. Many days, my commitment to love and serve Him in this broken body wavers as I become focused on the pain and what I am missing out on. But so far, with 100% faithfulness, he has brought me back to Himself, and once again I am persuaded that if I can just touch the hem of His garment, my soul will be healed, and I will once again be filled with His joy.