Monday 19 November 2018

"Endure hardship": the example of Paulus Schneider in WW II

"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, fulfil your ministry" 2 Timothy 4:1-5.

At a recent ordination service, I preached on 2 Timothy 4:1-5. The headings were: what, why and how? The last heading was 'how should ministers perform their task?' and I preached this in reference to 4:5. In this blog post I have in mind the phrase "endure suffering" which could also be translated "endure hardship". In our very comfortable Western world, this idea of hardship is almost never mentioned during sermons or in the church generally. But we must mention this truth, so that Christians can understand that the way of discipleship is never easy.

Endure suffering [afflictions] kakopatheĊ — suffer hardship, persevere.

It is not excitement that the life of the Christian is all about. Excitement comes and excitement goes! Living under the Word of God is about walking by faith instead and that includes hardship. Excitement comes and goes, but we must perform our task as ministers by faith. Hebrews 11 teaches us that we endure as seeing him who is invisible. That is how Moses was able to stay on course. This is especially the case during the times of trial, persecution, criticism, obstacles, difficulties, setbacks, and for some even martyrdom.

The example of Pfarrer (German equivalent of minister or Rev) Paulus Schneider, the first martyr in Nazi Germany. He was a German opponent of Adolf Hitler and Nazism. Paulus Schneider was installed as a minister in May 1934 at the age of 36. He had been in his pastorate for only a few weeks when he signed the Barmen Declaration, something against Nazi principles and state interference in the church. In his second pastorate, just after the birth of his sixth child, on May 31st 1937 two Gestapo agents burst into his study and arrested him. He was forbidden to preach in his church when he was released. What should he do? He returned to his church in Dickenschied and in the morning he preached on Psalm 145:15-21. The very act of preaching wrote Don Stephens led to the loss of all he held dear. (p 58, "War and Grace” by Don Stephens, published by EP). He was taken to Buchenwald concentration camp and despite continuing to preach in prison, he was killed by the Nazis in prison by lethal injection, at the age of 41 and his wife was only 35.

“Endure hardship”, both large and small and count it a joy. Any minister or Christian who is faithful to the LORD, you will face then, criticism, conflict, mis-understanding and there will be tears of various kinds. None the less the Word of God will bear fruit if you remain faithful to proclaim it or live it.

Samuel Rutherford once said: “You will not get to steal quietly to heaven, in Christ’s company, without a conflict and a cross”.

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