The year was 1635. John Elliott had just finished a long day riding his horse in the rain. Just as he had the past few days, he removed his boots and socks. He wrung the water out of his socks only to put them back on again. He was concerned about his health after the trip. But he had a mission.
John Elliott was born in England in 1604. Like many others, he had attended Cambridge University.
He came to America and after a couple of years, was sent to Boston, Massachusetts, which, at the time, was a rural and wooded town. He became the pastor of Roxbury Church.
Why did people come to America? It certainly wasn’t for an easy life. Many had to learn how to farm, something they had never done before. Indians taught them how to farm.
Some new settlers came seeking gold. We’re told that’s why the Spaniards came. But the ones that came from England were escaping religious persecution. They wanted to worship God in the way they felt they should according to their hearts.
Many that came over were already pastors. John Elliott was one of them.
A New Mission Field
He had a heart for the Native Americans. He wanted to share the Gospel with them. There was a problem, though: they didn’t speak the same language. So John decided to learn their language. He discovered what a difficult task it was going to be when he learned that a two-syllable phrase in English translated to a 12-syllable phrase in the Wampanoag (the local Indian’s) language. He began learning the language, but also had an interpreter who knew enough English so they could converse back and forth.
There were a few stumbling blocks in the process of sharing the Gospel because the two had to sometimes clarify what the other was trying to say. But they eventually got the message out.
They began telling them that all people had sinned and come short of the glory of God. That Jesus Christ had come to this Earth as the Son of God, He lived a sinless life and died on the cross to pay the penalty for sin. Then He ascended into Heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
John went on to tell them that Jesus was coming again and it will be as a Judge. But the ones who accept Him as Savior will escape the judgment.
That is the message he presented to his neighbors. They were open and many of them wanted to receive Jesus as Savior.
In fact, there were so many that they decided to start their own village. They called them Gospel Towns.
In Europe, he was known as the man who printed the first complete Bible in the United States. It was a Bible written in the language of the American Indians he was ministering to.
He had preached to so many Native Americans (Algonquins) who then began preaching to their tribes themselves that he wound up with 24 villages. They weren’t small, either. The villages had populations of 2,50 – 4,000.
John Elliott was traveling to these various towns when the relentless rain hit and he had to wring his socks out each night. He may have gotten some shelter in a tent for a time, but again and again, went back out into the weather. He wondered if he’d develop pneumonia or something worse and wind up dying from it. While having these thoughts, he was reminded of the verse 2 Timothy 2:3 which says, “ Endure hard times as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.”
What do you do when hard times come? There’s your answer. Endure hardness.
That’s what many of the people who came to America decided to do in those early days.
There’s a book by Robert J. Morgan called “100 Verses That Made America: Defining Moments That Shaped Our Faith.” I’ve gotten several stories from it, including the one here. I would recommend you take a look.
John Elliott said that when things got hard, Jesus stepped in and brought to his mind the verse in 2 Timothy: “Endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.”
Why Endure Hardness?
Why should we endure hardness? Because hardness is going to come. The Bible says it rains on the just and the unjust alike. (Matthew 5:45) Sometimes it doesn’t rain enough, sometimes it rains too much. It’s just a fact of life. Some things are hard. It’s not all easy.
I think of newly married couples. The hard times are bound to come. It’s so important that you endure the hard times and stick it out. It’s not always you causing trouble with one another, sometimes it’s just the difficulties of life.
Disappointment comes. It could be illness, the sudden death of a loved one, financial hardship, or something else. If you make it through the hardness together, when you come out on the other side, somehow, you’re stronger.
Of course, you wouldn’t ask for those difficult times to come to make you stronger, but you can be thankful that you have become stronger.
We’re to endure hardness. It will come.
When a soldier goes into the service, they start off in basic training. They have a drill sergeant who is usually pretty tough. One person said, while he didn’t remember his drill sergeant’s name, he did remember that he was always there. At first, he didn’t like that he was always there, but then he grew to appreciate that the officer was always around when he was needed.
The training is preparing you for the hardness of battle.
The soldiers are sometimes given a backpack to carry. It may weigh as much as 50 pounds. Then they’re told to go on a run or hike. They’re being prepared physically, pushed beyond their limits.
I once took a class called “physical fitness” at a local community college. When we started, they brought us all in and had us do different physical tests. We did pushups, situps, and chin-ups. They didn’t tell us why we were doing them, so we all did our very best.
In the next class, they told us that they were going to take our best and cut it in half. We were all happy with that. Then they said we were going to do each exercise three times. We weren’t quite as thrilled then. But we went on, and at the end of the semester, we did the same tests again and found that we had gained in all the areas we had been working on.
We were pushed to our physical limits and grew as a result.
Endure Hardness as a Good Soldier
Endure hardness as a good soldier.
Soldiers are required to make their beds daily. An officer once said that it’s to establish a routine and develop good habits. It’s part of being disciplined.
What is a follower of Christ called? A disciple, which comes from the word discipline. In Luke 14:26, Jesus said, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.”
The part about hating family members is by comparison. Your love and devotion to Jesus should be so much more than that for your family that it isn’t even close!
To be a disciple of Jesus.
A Good Soldier
Endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
The verse says to be a good soldier, not one that goes in and destroys the countryside. A good soldier doesn’t go in and pillage and plunder.
A while back, I heard that many people in Afghanistan were coming to Christ. Why? Because of the good soldiers that were sharing the Gospel.
Endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
We have Jesus as our great Commander. He’s the greatest leader ever. Our Earthly leaders will do the best they can but they can only do so much. They have to deal with their limitations. But when you have Jesus Christ as a leader, He is the Lord of the universe. He knows everything. He will make the best decisions. So as a good soldier, you follow Him.
Even if you don’t understand what your leader is doing, a good soldier completes the mission and sees in the end how it all works out. That’s how God works with us sometimes.
Joni Eareckson Tada
You may have heard of a lady named Joni Eareckson Tada. In 1967, she misjudged the depth of a river and dove in headfirst. She suffered a fracture between her fourth and fifth vertebrae which left her paralyzed from the shoulders down. She has very limited use of her hands and is able to lift a little bit, but that’s all.
But she’s painted beautiful pictures by holding a paintbrush in her mouth. She’s given speeches all over and has been an inspiration to many. She has endured hardship and come through it.
Sometimes God allows us to endure hardness so we can help someone else.
A group of soldiers had been captured and were prisoners of war. One of the camp guards did everything he could to break their spirit. It was hard to break the spirit of one of the soldiers, though. He had such determination. At one point, this solder was about at his physical breaking point. The leader of the camp ordered him to lift a log. Even on his best day, the soldier couldn’t have lifted it, and now he was ready to drop. But somehow, he managed to hoist the log over his head. The camp leader who was trying to break this man wound up the one who was broken and defeated.
We’re to endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
One day, Jesus is coming back. One day, there will be a war. All the forces of good and evil will come to battle. Jesus’ forces, including those of us who are Christians, will fight with Him. It’s called the battle of Armageddon. (Revelation 16:16)
How will it end? God, The One who spoke the world into existence will win the battle!
Whose side will you be on?
Armor of God
The Bible tells us to put on the whole armor of God. (Ephesians 6:11-17) You begin with the helmet of salvation. If you don’t have the helmet of salvation, the rest of the armor is useless. But the verses also talk about the breastplate of righteousness, the belt of truth, and feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace.
I want to encourage you, as John Elliott was encouraged, to endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
If you have never put on the helmet of salvation, or even if you’re not sure. You need to be sure! Feel free to contact me here and I can help you and answer any questions you may have.