2 TIMOTHY 2:1-7 – You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also. Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.
THEME OF THE DAY. THE REAL CHRISTIAN LIFE. Today’s scripture is the Apostle Paul’s last letter before he went to receive the martyr’s crown. It was his last words to a young pastor he loved as his very own son. If we knew our death was imminent and we had one last piece of correspondence or advice to give to our loved ones, we would make it count. It would matter. It would be of great importance. It would be direct. It would be passionate. It would be sincere. It would seal our legacy. The Apostle Paul knew all of this and the words in his last letter to Timothy reaffirmed for him the real Christian life. He used three descriptions to remind Timothy what is the real truth about following Jesus Christ. He told him the Christian life is hard, involves suffering, is empowered by God’s grace, and is likened to be a soldier, an athlete, and a farmer. Let’s take each one of those descriptions for they not only defined the real Christian life for Timothy, but also for each of us.
First, the real Christian life is lived as a soldier – Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. Paul reminds us of three things associated with military duty. There will be suffering. It has to be. Soldiers give up their desires and wills. They don’t get to determine the course of their lives. Next, a soldier cannot have dual allegiances. Active military duty means one cannot be a civilian also. A person in the armed forces is “all in” and that means for the Christian soldier, “all in” with the Lord Jesus – no divided loyalties. Finally, a soldier’s duty is glad submission to the authority over him or her. And that means Jesus is in charge and the single object of pleasing. Yes, the real Christian life is enlistment in the Lord’s army to suffer and serve Him without compromise.
Next, the real Christian life is lived as an athlete – An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. What are the two minimal requirements if an athlete is to compete well in any event? Self-discipline to adequately train and competing according to the rules. It is the same in our walks with the Lord Jesus. It takes intense self-discipline to run the race of faith well. “Out of shape” Christians will be “out of competition” Christians. Without self-discipline, there will be no growth in grace. And to run the race of faith well and to do so by growing in grace, we have to “compete” according to God’s rules or Word.
Finally, the real Christian life is lived as a farmer – It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. There are two principles in the Christian life gleaned from the image of a literal farmer. First, hard work. No farmer enjoys a good crop without a good planting season of much sweat and toil. And no Christian life is lived as God desires and designs without “spiritual sweat.” Lazy farmers ensure no harvest. Lazy Christians ensure no growth. The second thing about a farmer and the spiritual life is hard labor is rewarded. Remember the Day of Judgment. Every tear we shed in serving Christ; every exhausting avenue of ministry performed for Him; and every heart broken through suffering endured will be rewarded when we see our Lord and hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant, you have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your Master” (Matthew 25:21-23).
The real Christian means being a soldier, athlete, and farmer. May the Lord help us strive to be the best in all three for His honor and glory.
PRAYER: “Father, I praise You that the suffering in this life is only temporary.”
QUOTE: “God never promised the Christian life would be easy, but He did say He would walk it with us.”