2 Timothy 2v3-7
Soldier, Athlete, Farmer.
ILLUS.: Any Business or organisation needs two basic things to be successful.
- 1st they need a good product – whether tangible or a service.
- 2nd they need good, well trained, dedicated personnel run it.
In the second half of chapter 1 of this letter to Timothy Paul has outlined the gospel – the good news of God’s rescue through Jesus Christ. He describes it as a good deposit which was entrusted to him – which he passed on to Timothy – and he urges Timothy to pass it on to other who can pass it on to others…
He has given a very brief outline of what the gospel is – but it is quite evident that Paul does not simply have I mind a “gospel of sin management” i.e. come to Jesus, have your sins forgiven, get a ticket for heaven and then do as you please.
The gospel is about “making disciples” and according to Jesus we make disciples by teaching them to obey everything that he taught his disciples [Matt.28;20]
If teaching is going to take place there need to be teachers – Paul sees in Timothy this gift. Now while this letter is written to Timothy and to all trustworthy and reliable people qualified to teach others – the principles apply to all Christians because we all have a role in passing on to others what we have received from God.
Christian teaching is not just about passing on information – it is as much about the Christian character of the teacher / witness as it is about the content of the teaching. Teaching is not simply what happens in a Sunday Service or house /study group or classroom. Nor is teaching always verbal, teaching by example is very important.
Thus in the OT after God gives the Law to his people he says this:-
Deuteronomy 6:1-9 1 These are the commands, decrees and laws the LORD your God directed me to teach you to observe … 2 so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the LORD your God …. 3 Hear, O Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you …. 4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
In other words living for God in every aspect of life, including what you talk about / teach, is the best way to pass on what God has told you.
Having urged Timothy to train others in 2v2 Paul now in the remainder of the chapter gives 6 illustrations to explain the kind of people we, and Timothy, need to be, in order to be worthy of being entrusted with this “good deposit”.
The first three we will look at today – Soldier, athlete, farmer – all illustrate that the work is strenuous, involving both labour and suffering.
2 Timothy 2:3-4 3 Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No-one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs — he wants to please his commanding officer.
ILLUS.: When I was 18 I was drafted into the SA Army for national Service. I arrived at the barracks and reported. From that point on I was no longer free to do what I liked. For the next year I got up when told to – ate when told to – shower when told to – when told to run you run – to jump you never ask “why” just “How high?”
Was it tough – Yes! Getting up at 5:00 am for PT – Parade at 7:00 Drill ‘til 10;00 etc…. route marches all night with full kit and rifle was no joke YET a comradeship was developed. During that time I was under orders – hardship and risk and suffering were part of the deal! BUT it was only for a relatively short time.
Hardship, discipline, taking orders, removed from civilian life is part and parcel of being a soldier. No good soldier goes to war surrounded by luxuries and comfort – sleeping on the ground and eating out of Rat-Packs is part of the deal. Soldiers experience and see unpleasant things. It is not a safe activity.
Similarly Christians should not expect an easy time. If we are loyal to the gospel we will experience opposition / ridicule and “share in his sufferings”.
Being a soldier is not just about suffering and hardship, it is also about focussed dedication.
Not involved in civilian affairs / entangled.
ILLUS.: During the war years many activities were restricted / even forbidden not because they were necessarily wrong in themselves BUT because a certain amount of austerity and self-denial were needed given the situation.
The Bible is clear that as Christians we are involved in a spiritual battle. Maybe we are not sufficiently aware of that – maybe we are to busy with peace-time manoeuvres – maybe we are too content to play soldiers than to engage in battle.
If we fill our lives with all the things we want to do to meet our own desires and needs and leave little or no time for prayer / bible-study / building relationships for fellowship and witness THEN maybe we are guilty of entanglement is unnecessary civilian affairs.
Let us be clear about what Paul is saying.
As Christians we have to live in this world – we can’t opt out, unless you plan to live like a monk. We have duties at home / work / in the community and Christians should conscientiously do those things. We are also not forbidden to have fun – in fact look at what Paul says to timothy in his 1st letter – 1 Timothy 4:4 4 For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, (NIV) 1 Timothy 6:17 … God, … richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. (NIV)
So we should enjoy life to the full
BUT clearly the balance is that we do not become so entangled in pursuing our own desires and comforts that we neglect our duties.
I would suggest that in our modern world with its pursuit of self-fulfilling pleasures and entertainment that the temptation is to err in this direction.
What is our motivation for enduring hardship and focussed dedication wanting to please [our] commanding officer. – who is Jesus Christ!
If we are going to be those you pass on to other what God has entrusted to us then we need to not only be dedicated, like soldiers, but we also have to play by the rules.
2 Timothy 2:5 5 Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules. (NIV)
Just like a Roman soldier was a familiar sight in 1st C so too was the “Games”.
As in the modern Games so also in the ancient – every event had its rules and if the rules were broken disqualification was inevitable. In the ancient games they didn’t receive gold/ silver / bronze medals but evergreen wreaths.
No athlete, however brilliant, was crowned if the rules were broken!
ILLUS.: Remember Ben Johnson the Canadian sprinter – The 16 year old Romanian gymnast, the Aussie walker in the Ladies walking marathon….
The Christian life is often referred to as a race not that we are competing against each other. In 1Cor.9 self-discipline of training / in Heb.12 putting aside all things that hinder / and here keeping to the rules.
It is true that we are not under law as a way of salvation – i.e. we do not earn God’s approval by rule keeping. However, law abiding, living by God’s criteria is evidence that we do belong to him.
Paul is not in this context talking only about our moral conduct – which is important – but also about Christian service / ministry [here esp. teaching / passing on what we have rec’d]
In ch.4 Paul will say 2 Timothy 4:7-8 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, ….
So for Timothy and us, like Paul we need to pass on what God has given us – we need to persevere to the end, to fight the good fight, run the race, keep the faith then we too will receive the most coveted wreath of all – for more valuable than Olympic Gold – “the crown of righteousness” – God’s “well-done!”
The soldier must be dedicated / the athlete play by the rules / the farmer must work hard.
The soldier gets the adrenaline rush of battle and comradeship / the athlete the applause of the crowd BUT what does the farmer get for his hard work. The day-in, day-out toil – the cows need milking twice a day every day – the seeds needs planting, the weeds pulling up, the crops brought in. He can’t say “Oh I think I’ll leave the cows today / or I’ll bring in the harvest next month!”
2 Timothy 2:6 6 The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. (NIV)
He is the 1st to benefit from his hard labour.
What kind of spiritual harvest is Paul referring to?
- Personal holiness
- New converts
1st – Personal holiness.
It is true that holiness is the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. We talk about the fruit / harvest of the Spirit Galatians 5:2222 .. the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, (NIV)
The Spirit of God is the chief farmer who produces this crop in the believer’s life.
BUT we have our part to play too. Galatians 5:16 .., live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. (NIV)
Galatians 6:8 8 The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.
Holiness is a harvest and if we fail to cultivate the field of our character we will have a poor reward. Galatians 6:7 7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. (NIV)
2nd – New converts. Winning others to Jesus Christ.
Jesus talked about many who were ready and willing to receive the gospel. Matthew 9:37 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. (NIV)
John 4:35 35 Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. (NIV)
Now we can no more make people Christians than we can make plants grow. We can sow the seed of God’s Word but the bringing n of the harvest is hard work esp. when the labourers are few.
People do not come to Christ with slick marketing and gimmicky slogans – they come with tears and sweat and pain esp. in prayer and costly, sacrificial, personal, relationship.
Being a Christian is hard work – the kind of easy-going, “the-church-must-make me-feel-happy”, consumer Christianity is not what I find in my Bible. It can be weary and exhausting – described by words like toil / struggle / strive. BUT it is very rewarding and fulfilling when we see the harvest.
If we want Binscombe Church to grow then we need the kind of characteristics that Paul describes here:-
- The whole-hearted dedication of a good soldier
- The faithful obedience of a good athlete
- The painstaking hard work of a farmer
… without these there will be no victory in battle / no prize for the race run / no harvest to enjoy.
- CONCLUDING THOUGHT!
2 Timothy 2:7 7 Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this. (NIV)
This verse teaches us a double-sided truth:
- We are to use our minds to understand
- Understanding is by divine illumination.
Bear in mind that Paul is an Apostle and therefore teaches with apostolic authority – which means that he his teaching what he has been entrusted with from God. Galatians 1:11-12 11 I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. 12 I did not receive it from any man, …..; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ. (NIV)
What the apostles taught is now written down for us in the Bible – we are to carefully consider and reflect upon that. Paul sees no contradiction is saying that God gives understanding AND that we need to study carefully and diligently to gain understanding.
Some Christians never get down to the serious study of God’s word simply because they are too lazy
Some Christians don’t spend time in serious Bible Study because they think it is “spiritual” [pseudo-spiritual really] to claim that “The Holy Spirit will guides us”. So the superficially read verses, often out of context BUT fail to obey Paul’s instruction here to carefully consider / ponder / dig-deep.
We can of course, go to the other extreme and do in depth study but fail to recognise that God alone through his Holy Spirit gives understanding.
We must study the Bible with care and in prayer – trusting God to enlighten our understanding – not simply acquisition of information rather it is wisely using the information for practical living.
God has entrusted us – his people – with His gospel [broad grasp of ALL God’s teaching] and he requires that we be like dedicated, loyal soldiers/ self-disciplined, law-abiding athlete / and hard-working farmers – in BOTH tasks of understanding his gospel and passing it on to others!
2 Timothy 2v3-7
Christians Should Be Like …
- THE SOLDIER [v3-4]
- willing to suffer hardship
- not distracted by unnecessary pursuits
- loyally dedicated to the CO
TO gain victory.
- THE ATHLETE [v5]
- obeys the rules
TO win a prize
- THE FARMER [v6]
- devoted hard work
TO reap a good harvest…
… of personal holiness
… of new converts
CONCLUDING THOUGHT! [v7]
- Understanding requires BOTH Human study and Divine enlightenment