It was an invitation not many would respond to with enthusiasm. And I can’t say that I blame them.
When we receive an invitation, we typically expect it to correspond with some sort of enjoyable event, with the occasional exception of three-hour obligatory graduation ceremonies and the like.
Invitations attract us with promises of birthday cake and ice cream, or backyard cookouts, or memorable dinners with wonderful friends.
They promise to entertain us or fill us or at the very least to bore us comfortably in a climate-controlled environment.
Apparently, the Apostle Paul never took the Creating Invitations People Want course.
His haunting summons was written from within the confines of a dank prison cell by the wavering light of a single candle. Hands roughened by honest work and hardship and stiffened by cold gripped the stylus as it scratched across his precious piece of parchment.
No gilded invitation on expensive stationery. No return envelope with postage conveniently affixed and an elegant card with a box to indicate how many will attend.
Paul’s invitation was fueled not by festivity but by the fire of a spirit ignited by the Holy Spirit and the passion of his calling.
It certainly offered no enticement, no promise of enjoyment or entertainment or great BBQ.
Yet his words echo through the centuries, calling not just Timothy, to whom he was writing, but also all of us, up higher.
He whispers fervently, chains momentarily forgotten in his zeal.
“…join with me in suffering for the Gospel by the power of God…” (2 Timothy 1:8b).
Excuse me, Paul, but what did you say?
Join you in SUFFERING?
What kind of invitation is THAT?
An unwanted one, perhaps.
Perhaps Timothy would rather have been invited to be an honored guest speaker at the Key Players in the Early Church Conference.
Notice also that Paul did not ask Timothy to post bail for him (although I’m pretty sure that wasn’t an option), to arrange all-night prayer vigils to storm the gates of Heaven for his release, or to cajole people to sign up and bring him hot meals in his captivity.
Paul was still very much on mission, even while in chains. He was seeking the kingdom first and continuing with the work God entrusted to him, although his own needs were dire and pressing.
He knew that his temporary circumstances – including location – were all part of the plan.
Instead of begging for release, he worked fervently where he was. Writing to the churches, mentoring Timothy, praying, praying, praying.
Calling Timothy up higher. Telling him to fan into flame the gift of God within him. Inviting him to come suffer alongside his mentor and spiritual father.
What kind of invitation is that??
An irresistible one, perhaps.
Deep inside each of us resides a longing to be significant. To do something that has great worth and value, and to somehow enlarge the scope of our little lives. We yearn to participate in something grand and sweeping that is larger than ourselves.
To be caught up in a story of greatness and heroism, and discover that we, too, are heroic and can make worthy sacrifices for the good of others.
There’s just one problem with all of that.
It comes with a price tag.
It involves loving and serving and those typically involve things like inconvenience and hassle and pain.
It means dying to our own agenda, and coming up higher. Living God’s agenda – to seek and save the lost, and to minister to the hurting and helpless.
It means suffering. Just ask Jesus.
Irresistible? Absolutely. Because significance is worth far more than comfort.
We cannot simultaneously seek first our own comfort and God’s Kingdom. Click To Tweet
When we grab hold of that truth, we begin to realize that comfort is actually the more costly item. It can cost us the very existence we were made for and silently crave.
Is God calling you to a higher standard of kingdom living today? Is He asking you to lay something down so that you can take up your cross and follow Him?
Me, too. I want to live a no-regrets life, fully and joyfully, and accept the unwanted, irresistible invitation.
Will you join me?
“Dear Jesus, I’m so thankful that You didn’t seek to live a comfortable existence here on earth. Thank You for being willing to take up Your Cross and die in my place. I long to follow You and live a life rich with significance. Help me to see others through Your eyes and to courageously accept the invitation to take up my cross and follow You by loving and serving those You bring across my path. I commit today to seek Your kingdom above my comfort. I accept Your invitation. Please use my life for Your glory. Amen.”
With faith, hope, and love