“Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules. The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this. (2 Timothy 2:3-6, NIV)
It is an inextricable part of Christian discipleship. As Paul explains in what was one of his last letters before his death while in captivity and awaiting trial in Rome: A soldier must focus on the mission; athletes must compete according to the rules of the game; and the hardworking farmer reaps the benefits of his labor. In other words: No cross. No crown.
No reasonable person seeks persecution and suffering, and the Christian disciple is no exception here. However, while others try everything within their power to avoid, evade, and to escape pain and suffering; we “please our commanding officer” by joining Him in suffering for truth and righteousness; and we are an example for others of what ought to be, when we share in the sufferings of others.
If others seek “happiness” in the dogged pursuit of a life without suffering; the Christian disciple knows that enduring joy and purpose is found only through suffering in fellowship with Christ.
Whether you are a soldier, an athlete, a farmer, a student, a merchant. . . reflect on the what it means to share the sufferings of others, and the Lord will give you insight. – Luther