For Christians, every disaster is a call to action. And because we are strengthened by God’s love (2 Cor. 5:14) and empowered by His Spirit (Acts 1:8), we are uniquely equipped to have a huge impact on suffering people.
When there is a calamity, Christians should immediately get to work. When first-century Christians knew of needs within their community, they immediately got busy meeting those needs (Acts 4:34-37). When the young church in Antioch heard about a famine in Jerusalem, they immediately went about seeking some way to help (11:28-30). In keeping with this practice, Christians throughout history have been in the forefront of relief operations.
I believe Paul’s exhortation in 2 Timothy 2 about Christian service is appropriate to consider whenever we find ourselves in an extreme situation of need. Let’s take a look at this passage and apply it to our own situation.
Paul wrote, “Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (v.3 ESV). He described Timothy’s service as suffering. This statement from Paul shouldn’t surprise us, because suffering for the gospel was a normal part of his everyday life (see 1 Cor. 15:30-31; Col. 1:24-29). This is the call to all Christians who are living in the midst of suffering—a call to suffer by serving their nation.
Faithful Christians suffer in different ways as they seek to serve God and their nation. Sometimes the suffering is subtle. For example, a wife may need to release her husband to work extra hard at relief operations. This is usually a strain on the marriage and family, and it may also result in an extra burden for her.
But when we realize that our suffering is being done for God, it will help reduce the pain and take away the resentment.Other ways of suffering are more overt—like fatigue, lack of sleep, and facing criticism about our motives and about the way we do our service.
In the verses that follow verse 3, Paul explained how Timothy should take on his share of suffering. He said, “No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits” (2 Tim. 2:4 ESV). We may have to give up what others view as normal needs in order to serve other people at this time. Extreme situations call for extreme solutions. Our families must be told that we all will have to pay a price if we are going to minister to our nation during a crisis.
Of course, family life is important. Nurturing our families is something that can never be taken off the front burner. But the immediate crisis may cause us to change the way we do things.
According to Paul, another aspect of suffering is working hard like a farmer (2 Tim. 2:6). Elsewhere he said, “To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily” (Col. 1:29). Considering the urgency of our call to share Christ with a dying world, we always need to be working hard at serving God while we live on earth. One day we will have a grand rest when we get to heaven (Rev. 14:13). But now is the time to work.
Amy Carmichael, the great missionary to abandoned children in India, said, “We have all eternity to celebrate our victories, but only a few hours before sunset to win them.”
This is a time for us to suffer for people who are in desperate need, to work hard, and to give up some things we are used to having so that those who have nothing can be helped. Not to help would be a serious error. The prophet Amos pronounced woe to those who were living at ease and having fun while their nation was in a crisis (Amos 6:1-6). Because David stayed home at a time when kings usually went out to war, he fell into sin (2 Sam. 11:1).
In verses 8-13 of 2 Timothy 2, Paul told Timothy about the blessings that would come if he suffered in the service of God. Look at verses 11 and 12: “If we died with Him, we shall also live with Him. If we endure, we shall also reign with Him.” But there’s also a warning:“If we deny Him, He also will deny us. If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself” (2 Tim. 2:12-13).
These verses remind us that the coming judgment is an awesome reality. There is reward for service but punishment for disobedience. That truth is part of the Christian approach to life that influences everything we do.
One day we will see that all the personal sacrifices we made were worthwhile. This is why we shouldn’t be upset when others get the credit for what we do. This is why we should be willing to do things that don’t seem to bring us any earthly reward. No work is too small for us, for God will give us the strength to be His servants. Disasters are opportunities to show Christian love.