I enjoy advertising, learning fresh ways to engage prospective students, leaders, and ministries in what we are seeking to provide at Heritage College & Theological Seminary. I have a gifted daughter and brother-in-law who have creative gift sets which I’ve had access to for many years. I’m no artist myself, but I appreciate graphical images–I must be a visual learner.
Can you imagine a poster with the words – “School of Suffering – Registrations Now Open.” I’m not sure what the tuition would be or what the enrolment would look like, but the reality of suffering permeates the pages of Scripture. Take the faith journey of the Apostle Paul. As Ananias, the ‘ordinary’ Christian in Damascus, hesitated to make a pastoral call on ‘Straight Street’ to meet the world’s most infamous persecutor of the day, God assured him with clear instructions. “I will show him HOW MUCH HE MUST SUFFER FOR MY NAME.” Acts 9:16
For years Paul had studied in the school of suffering. As he pens his final letter to a younger leader he is mentoring, he extends an invitation to Timothy to enroll in this painful process. “So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.” (2 Timothy 1:8)
Suffering is something all of us naturally seek to avoid. Timothy, perhaps, in his timidity, was struggling with how far down this road he wanted to travel. It would be so much easier to quit, to stop identifying publicly with the Christian faith, to be a ‘closet disciple.’ Paul had no appetite for such spiritual cowardice. The Author and Finisher of our Faith, Jesus Christ was a Man of Sorrows. Christ suffered. Read the events of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday in the 4 gospels if your memory has slipped since last Easter. He was beaten, scourged, spat upon, ridiculed, flogged and crucified.
Timothy had been an eyewitness o Paul’s sufferings. Later, in chapter 3 of this same letter, he would write, “You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, SUFFERINGS–…the PERSECUTIONS I endured…” (2 Timothy 3:10-11)
So in this ‘mentoring manual,’ Timothy is invited by his mentor to register and reregister in the School of Suffering. Leadership involves a paying of the price.
I’m shocked at how easily some leaders quit, how soon they give up their ‘calling’ and find an easier way to serve God. They like Timothy need a God-given fibre to be installed into their very soul.
As I head off to India, we’re planning a stop at the graveyard where William Carey buried his 5 year old son. Read Carey’s biography and discover the huge price he paid, the suffering he endured, in bringing the gospel to the subcontinent. I plan of singing there, “Am I A Soldier of the cross? A follow’r of the Lamb, And shall I fear to own His cause, or blush to speak his name?
Must I be carried to the skies on flow’ry beds of ease, while OTHERS FOUGHT to win the prize and sailed through bloody seas?
This hymn isn’t too palatable to an ease-filled type of Christianity , but then again the Bible isn’t either, is it?
The School of Suffering remains open. Enrolment may be down, but those who sign up find the power of God awaits their obedience. “Where You go, I’ll go… ….I will follow You”