What did Paul mean when he wrote to Timothy, that he should be a “partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God?” What are the “afflictions of the gospel?”
This text contains Paul’s words to his son-in-the-faith Timothy: “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” (2 Tim. 1:8).
The apostle Paul could rightfully speak of the afflictions that he endured from the hand of the enemies of the gospel he was disseminating. With him these afflictions took the form of stripes, imprisonments, shipwreck; perils in the city, in the wilderness, in the sea; perils among false brethren; hunger, thirst, cold and nakedness. Today our afflictions are of a different nature and mostly of our own making. Human perversity and rebellion against Divine law cause most of our troubles.
The New English Bible translates v. 8: “So never be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but take your share of suffering for the sake of the Gospel, in the strength that comes from God.” Suffering there would be, but with the strength of God Timothy could endure it.
Paul was saying to Timothy, “Take your share of suffering for the sake of the Gospel, in the strength that comes from God.” Paul was writing to Timothy during the “heat” of the Day of Salvation, the time of active persecution, and Timothy would undoubtedly have to suffer physically for the Christian cause. But Paul is urging him on: even though he might be suffering and in prison, he would still be within the sphere of the power of God, which would be adequate to his need. The Christian must learn the meaning of suffering; he must learn the discipline of the Christian life. The seed has been planted, but the seed must grow. And the best food for growth, says Paul, is suffering. Do not refuse it, but accept it “in the power of God.”