through His Word
by Katy Kauffman
I was standing at the three-point line on the basketball court. Our team was playing defense under the other team’s goal. One of their players shot the ball, but it didn’t go in. Instantly I started running. As point guard, I needed to get to our side of the court in case one of our girls caught the rebound.
Tiffany was built for sports. She could run, shoot, and throw the ball with amazing power. When she caught the rebound, I knew she would be throwing it in my direction. By the time she launched the basketball, I had made it to our side of the court, near the three-point line. When the ball reached me, it had such power that it went through my hands and landed in my gut. “Pow!” The noise reverberated through the whole gym, and as if on cue, the crowd said in unison, “Oooh!”
I couldn’t think for a minute. I noticed out of the corner of my eye that the referee was just standing there. The other team wasn’t charging me, and my own team was waiting for my reaction. So was the crowd. I turned to look at the clock. It was still going. Something clicked in my head, and I knew what to do. I pivoted toward the goal, dribbled a couple of feet, and shot. Much to my surprise, it went in! The crowd cheered in amazement.
Later I heard that the parents of both teams expected me to fall to my knees. The sheer energy of the ball could have ended our team’s offensive efforts, but it didn’t. That pow in the gut turned into a goal for the team. As we go through life, we may get a pow in the gut from time to time. Some things happen that catch us off guard, hurt us, or cause us to wonder if we can keep going. But that’s when God reassures us that this is not the end of the “play.” He can turn difficult things into good (Rom 8:28). He can turn them into a goal for us, and for the team.
In 2 Timothy 1:8-9, Paul urged Timothy not to back down from the fight when persecution came. He helped him to be prepared for any “pows” that would come his way.
Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began. (2 Timothy 1:8-9 NKJV)
Don’t be ashamed. Don’t feel “humiliated or embarrassed [or] reluctant.”1 The fear of rejection can make us afraid to take a stand. Criticism and gossip can embarrass us to the point that we hesitate to say anything about Jesus in public.
Paul knew how severe the persecution against Timothy would be. Paul had been beaten, stoned, and left for dead. He had been in danger in cities and at sea, and among the Jews and the Gentiles. He had suffered hunger, sleeplessness, cold, and nakedness (2 Cor 11:23-27). Yet his advice to his beloved son in the faith was this: don’t let suffering stop you. Share in the suffering. The result of your hard work is worth the trouble that comes with it. But don’t try to endure suffering in your own strength. Endure it in God’s.
We can endure suffering by drawing on God’s power, but we also need a new “state of mind.”2 As we take in God’s Word, our minds are transformed, and our thinking is renewed (Rom 12:2). We begin to see things from God’s perspective, from His viewpoint. A changed perspective empowers us to rise above the pain of suffering so that it doesn’t overwhelm us. When we understand that we’re being mistreated for something that will help people’s eternal well-being, suffering loses some of its sting.
We can keep moving forward when we remember the big picture—God is working to redeem the world to Himself. As members of His team, we have a role in that redemptive work. Seeing persecution and trials from God’s perspective turns overwhelming burdens into opportunities for His grace and strength to shine through us.
According to verse 9, God has called us with a holy calling. Holy means to be set apart. God has called us to live set apart from sin and worldliness, and set apart to Him, His likeness, and His purposes to help others know Him and to grow strong in their relationship with Him. He has called us to operate in this world on behalf of Himself, His family, and His kingdom.
Our resolve to keep going can be reinforced by Jesus’ example. He didn’t back down from the suffering that was necessary to endure the cross. He endured it for the “joy that was set before Him” (Heb 12:2). His willingness to endure the most intense suffering and shame brought redemption for every person who believes in Him. Jesus stayed the course. He completed the mission. He endured to the joyous end. When the persecution is fierce and the storm rages, we find peace in the One whose power is the greatest. We find in Christ the ability to keep moving forward when suffering could stop us cold.
In 2 Timothy 1:8-12, God’s message to Timothy, and to us, is this: Don’t let suffering stop you. The first two verses of the section show us what resource God gives us to help us endure suffering. To be “all in” for God and His purposes, take to heart these principles:
v.8-12 Don’t let suffering stop you.
v.8-9 Depend on God’s power to endure suffering.
Have you ever taken a “pow in the gut” and kept moving forward? What enabled you to keep going in that situation?
What keeps us moving forward when we are persecuted for our faith?
Paul faced many obstacles as an apostle of God. Which ones could have kept him from staying on God’s course and fulfilling God’s purpose for his life? Do any of these obstacles apply to us today?
- Pick your favorite How to Fight to Win statement.
How to Fight to Win
a. Aspire to be built for usefulness.
b. Keep going when you get a pow in the gut.
c. Count on God to turn difficult things into good for you and the team.
d. Endure suffering by remembering that eternal good is at stake and that God is working through this.
e. Endure suffering by drawing on God’s power and by developing a new state of mind.
f. Glow in holiness—set apart to God and growing in His likeness, His ways, and His purposes.
g. Operate in this world on behalf of God, His family, and His kingdom.
h. Use Jesus’ example to reinforce your determination to fight—He suffered, endured, stayed the course, and completed the mission all the way to the JOY.
i. Find in Jesus the warmth to keep going when suffering could stop you cold.
j. Don’t let suffering stop you: endure suffering in God’s strength.
Lord, You endured so much for our sakes, and You are still busy in the world, helping people every day. Help us to be strong when the time comes to take a stand for You and for what is right. Help us to operate by Your power, depending on Your grace for every situation we face. And help us to take in stride the especially difficult times and to keep moving forward. In Your name, Amen.
Which of the “How to Fight to Win” statements do you like the most?
1 Webster's New World College Dictionary, 4th ed. (Cleveland, Ohio: Wiley Publishing, Inc., 2008), 82.
2 Pierce, The Online Bible, CD-ROM (Winterbourne, Ontario: Larry Pierce, 2007), 2 Timothy 1:8.
*Author’s Note: This Bible study devotion is an adapted excerpt from 2 Timothy: Winning the Victory (Buford, Georgia: Lighthouse Bible Studies, 2013), pages 36-40. All rights reserved.
victory, power, strength, suffering, adversity, A Pow in the Gut, 2 Timothy: Winning the Victory, Katy Kauffman, Lighthouse Bible Studies
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