Preparation, Pursuit & Persistence Through Jesus
Paul begins teaching using three analogies to drive home the logic for why suffering in trials is worthwhile for a believer. And how to be ready to face those trials.
2 Timothy 2:3-7 (NKJV)
3 You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. 4 No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier. 5 And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. 6 The hardworking farmer must be first to partake of the crops. 7 Consider what I say, and may the Lord give you understanding in all things.
First, Paul says that suffering hardship for the sake of the Gospel is like a soldier called for duty. A soldier must be 100% committed to the mission and to his or her role. Because the mission is too important to tolerate a half-hearted effort. Paul says we must be a “good” soldier, and the Greek word for good means wise. In the context of soldiering, being wise means setting the right priorities in life. Specifically, a soldier must set aside pursuit of the world at least to some degree. Therefore, that which is considered as a normal life for the civilian can’t hold true for a soldier. because a life of military service is an all-consuming lifestyle in most cases, especially in times of war.
Paul says a good soldier can’t concern himself with the affairs of everyday life, but instead, the only desire of a soldier is pleasing the one who enlisted him. Pleasing his sergeant, pleasing his commander, ultimately pleasing the nation he serves. Military life is no place for being a face without any contribution.
Paul says Christians are to serve in battle in a similar way, as Christ has called us to duty as His soldiers. We have a new mission in life, one that’s eternally important and it’s a battle against the enemy and the world and even our own flesh. These things take priority for us. Imagine if soldiers routinely ran from the battlefield at the first signs of conflict declaring they weren’t prepared for such trials? That’s the situation when Christians run from trials or abandon their testimony altogether. It means they weren’t educated in the realities of serving Christ. From the beginning as a Christian we should have been told (educated) as Jesus said in John 15-20 , “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you “ Paul is teaching us how to prepare and face persecution in 2 Timothy. We are soldiers, which means we are preparing for battle. Therefore, when the fight comes, we can’t shrink back, we must remain in place to serve and glorify the One Who enlisted us. So Paul’s first example emphasizes what our outlook needs to be and prepares us for service as Christians. We must understand our role and mission will eventually bring us into conflict with an enemy. Therefore, be ready to take up the fight.
Secondly, in verse 5 Paul uses the example of an athlete running in a race. Paul is now moving from how we prepare for service to how we pursue our service. Paul tells us an athlete must compete well to receive a prize. The Greek word compete can also be translated strive. The emphasis here is in the striving, a constant expending of effort toward a goal. Who competes without a desire for the reward? Today it’s fashionable, especially with.young children, to assign everyone an award at the end of a competition
Where there are no losers or winners. We all know this isn’t real life and more than likely most children aren’t fooled by this charade either. We may not be keeping score at the game, but you can bet the kids are because winning is a primal motivation for striving.
The incentive for striving in any competition is the prospect of a prize at the end for those who compete well. However, as Paul says, if we want that prize, we must follow the rules.
We must compete according to the way the race requires us. If the rules require we stay inside our lane, then we can’t stray and if the rules require we cross the finish line, then we can’t stop running before we reach that point. In other words, if we don’t give our best, we cannot succeed which is the whole point in competing in the first place. In the same way, Paul says every disciple of Christ has entered a race of sorts.
The race began the moment we become a believer in Jesus Christ. and it continues until we die and enter the Lord’s presence. During this time, we are competing for rewards, eternal rewards. Only in this particular race, we don’t compete against other athletes. Instead, we’re competing against ourselves, against our fleshly desires and selfish nature, against our fears and the temptations offered by the world to draw us astray. Our challenge is to compete according to the rules. And the rules of this race are simple. Stay inside your lane and finish the race. The world, the enemy and our flesh are always attempting to draw us outside the lines God set for us, whether by sins of one kind or another or distractions of earthly gain or pleasure, we are presented with opportunities everyday to leave our lane to do other things. Those are the moments we are being tested for the right reason, are you headed toward the right goals? And sometimes the enemy or our flesh or the world places hurdles in our path. As we come upon these trials, the challenge makes us consider giving up or going another way. When we do face these trials, we consider should I leap over the hurdle, make the effort, or just sit in the middle of the lane and forget the whole thing? We can become like a Onesiphorus who supported (refreshed) Paul in a good way but eventually turned away and stopped enduring the race, he having established a track record of running well only to stray off the track and forfeit the prize.
Likewise, we must bring an eternal outlook to our walk as Christians. We must commit to running well, according to the rules, so that we may receive a reward. We must give our best to Christ, in whatever form our service to Christ may take. We must guard our own lives to ensure we stay in our lanes, so to speak. So the second example of an athlete reminds us that serving Christ requires a missional mind, one that isn’t easily distracted, one that you need to pursue this race to the end.
Finally, Paul compares our life of Christian service to that of a hard-working farmer.
The word for hard-working in Greek literally means weary. So our farmer is a weary sort.
The life of a farmer is certainly filled with long days of back-breaking work. A farmer prepares the field and sows seed to produce a harvest. Paul says only after the harvest arrives, only then does the farmer receive his payment. His payment is a portion of what has been harvested, the fruit of his field. Therefore, his provision is entirely dependent on producing a successful harvest. The farmer can’t give up before the harvest arrived. If he does, he would be left with nothing to show for his efforts. But, if he perseveres, then he knows he will be the first to profit. A farmer’s reward comes at the end, which leads him to be patient in the long hours of the work and in being willing to suffer hardship. Because giving up early means gaining nothing in the end. Likewise, Christians cannot lose sight of our goal in serving the Lord. Yes, our service will be difficult at times. There will be many days when we waver in the face of suffering. Perhaps the trials will be intensely personal, as the Lord works to uncover our weaknesses so we can be strengthened for greater
service. Or sometimes our trials will be come as public suffering for Christ under persecution. We may feel like quitting, we may wonder if it’s all worth it. But, if we think like a farmer, we understand the fruit of our labors won’t be revealed until the final harvest. If a farmer can show patience for a few months in pursuit of a crop of grain, certainly, we can endure a lifetime in serving Christ for the glories to be found in the kingdom.
How can we tell Jesus that He’s asking too much of us, when so often, we willingly sacrifice much more for lessor worldly goals. How many years will we invest in education or training for a sport or some profession? How many hours, how much money has been invested in meaningless things that perish with us? Is seeking the pleasure of your Lord worthy of less sacrifice and effort? Can we see Paul’s point? Farmers understand that their work will be hard. But they also understand the reward is worth the investment.
And they know if they give up early, they profit nothing. We need to think of our walk in service to Christ in the same way. No one said it would be easy. It will take the rest of your life and you are going to get weary at times. It is worth the effort and if you stick with it, the reward will be yours.
So the first example emphasized the preparation for service. The second example illustrated the proper pursuit of service. And the final example reminds us of the need for persistence in our service even as we may grow weary. Simply put, if you know God to be good – and certainly He is, then you can be sure that when all is said and done, and you are standing before Him, everything you had to put up with in your walk with Christ will easily be understood and worth it. You will not have any doubt once you see what rewards you receive. We will all agree that our sacrifices were worth it. Trust Him in that even now and serve Him well.
“The author’s biblical interpretations and conclusions presented in this document rely on original teaching used by permission of Verse By Verse Ministry International (VBVMI). The author’s views may not represent the views of VBVMI, it’s Directors or staff. Original VBVMI teaching may be found at http://www.vbvmi.org.”
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