Have you ever seen a military recruitment poster or TV ad that showed wounded soldiers? Ever seen one that showed soldiers taking bullets, medics administering morphine to blood-gushing comrades, or an array of battle-hardened quadriplegics?
No, you have not. We recruit soldiers by showing shiny weapons, technologically advanced machines and systems, adventurous locales, and strong, healthy men and women using them, engaging in them, and bravely enjoying them.
But not Paul. He will not whitewash the mission. As Christ says, “Count the cost” and “Take up your cross” and “Die to self,” Paul’s recruitment slogan is: Share in suffering.
In 2 Timothy 2:7, he writes, “Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.” He wants disciples of Jesus to consider what he’s just laid out for them, which is that Christianity is about suffering like a soldier, training like an athlete, and working hard like a farmer. One thing these three examples have in common is a stubborn commitment to a diligent daily grind for a payoff that is not instant or immediate.
“Think over what I say.” Mull this over. Consider this. Count the cost. So that when hardship comes — and as Gary Demarest says, “Following Christ causes problems” — you are not acting as if something strange is happening to you (1 Pet. 4:12). Instead, you have a vision of what will be, of the “eternal glory” (2 Tim. 2:10) that lay ahead.
When Shackleton advertised for recruits for his venture to Antarctica in 1914, he did it this way:
Men wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success.
“When Christ bids a man,” Dietrich Bonhoeffer says, “he bids him come and die.”
Ah, but then he lives! Really, truly lives. He can’t be stopped. There ain’t hardly nothing you can do to him.
We might rewrite Shackleton’s ad thusly:
Men wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition guaranteed.
Come and die (and live!).