When things seem to be falling apart around you, how do you respond? How do you react when you are faced with hardships and pain?
I admit that within myself the first human response is to run and hide. Instinctively all creatures have this fight or flight response, but at some point a few people learn a valuable lesson, that it is futile to run from our problems and so they fight. There is a secret though, how you fight determines if you obtain victory or if you go down in flames.
So why do we need more Kakopatheó? This is a Greek word used in the New Testament approximately three times. Two times in a letter from the aged Apostle Paul to a young man named Timothy on how to respond to hardships in ministry, and the third time is in the letter of the Apostle James to Christians that were going through hardships. Kakopatheó holds the meaning of properly experiencing painful hardship (suffering) that seems to be a “setback” but really isn’t. That’s right, you heard this correctly! Experiencing a painful hardship that seems to be a “setback” but really isn’t!
First, the Apostle Paul speaks about some of his troubles and hardships as an example to Timothy.
Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus... for which I am suffering hardships, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself. ~ 2 Timothy 2:4, 9-1
The second time Paul speaks directly to Timothy and admonishes him on what to expect in ministry and how to respond.
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. ~ 2 Timothy 4:3-5
Paul speaks to Timothy from a lifetime of experience. He knew what young Timothy was going to face in ministry and the hurt, pain, and setbacks that are inevitable. Paul encouraged him to keep the presence of mind knowing that many times these hardships will look like a terrible setback, but understand that it really isn’t. Really isn’t? Yes, if we would consider the dealings of God throughout the history of man we will find that for the man or woman of God, no matter how dire the circumstance, God the Father was and is always faithful.
Christian friend, if only we understood this great mystery. You will never grow in endurance without trials. Without endurance, you will never have proven character. Authentic, genuine and faithful character produces hope within as we see the love and faithfulness of God working in and through our hardships. What today seems to be a “setback,” when we stay calm, diligent and sober and remain faithful as a true functioning member of the body of Christ that “setback” will be turned into fulfilling our calling that the Father has given to each of us.
Let’s step back and look at the life of Paul.
— far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant? ~ 2 Corinthians 11:23-29
Paul understood why Jesus commanded that a person must count the cost before they start building. He knew following Jesus is much more than a ticket to Heaven. He learned by experience that being in ministry is far more than gathering together for two hours a week and that worship goes way beyond if a church service exceeds expectations of excitement. Paul knew that following Jesus is becoming a living sacrifice.
So towards the end of Paul’s life he can safely warn and encourage Timothy with a truckload of valuable experience that hopefully will prepare Timothy for what he will face on a daily basis.
The message is clear to Timothy, no matter how great of hardships come his way, Timothy must understand that the hardships in his future are not setbacks at all, but by enduring he will be fulfilling the call of God on his life, and in the end, the name of the Father and Jesus the Lord will be made great. Unfortunately many will fall away, run away, or give up, and at the end of their days they will never have the proven character to posses a living hope in the faithfulness of God.
This is not the case with Paul. With integrity of proven character Paul can close his letter to Timothy with these profound words.
For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. ~ 2 Timothy 4:6-8