This past week, at a monthly preacher’s luncheon, the discussion centered around the words Paul wrote to Timothy in 2nd Timothy 2:1-13. As Paul seeks to exhort the evangelist Timothy in his work, he himself is in prison once again, suffering for the cause of Christ. Paul wants Timothy “to come to me quickly” (2nd Timothy 4:9). He was inviting him to come and suffer with him.
You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2nd Timothy 2:1
The intimate relationship Paul had with Timothy is unmistakable. He describes him in 1st Corinthians 4:17 as “my beloved and faithful son in the Lord.” Knowing the hardships, he will encounter, he exhorts Timothy to stay plugged into Christ: specifically, the grace that is in Christ. Paul writes in Romans 5:2 that in Christ “we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Before he can leave though, he has some unfinished business to tend to; that is, to pass along what Paul has taught him to “faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (2nd Timothy 2:2) The going won’t be easy though; both in the work he was doing and the eventual work he would do once he went to Paul.
You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
2nd Timothy 2:3
The reality of hardship applies to everyone. Paul wrote in this very same letter, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” (2nd Timothy 3:12) There are three analogies Paul uses which we can also learn from as we seek to further God’s kingdom. First, we need to be good soldiers. How? What caught my attention were these words, “. . . that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.” (v4) It is a challenge at times, to do that which pleases Christ, especially when doing His will makes others around us unhappy. He goes on to use the analogy of an athlete and how he or she needs to compete “according to the rules.” (v5) The rules include a willingness to suffer for the cause of Christ. Such an athlete will receive “the crown of righteousness” (2nd Timothy 4:8) upon completion of the race. The finale analogy is the “hardworking farmer.” (2nd Timothy 2:6) He will, if he remains focused and works diligently, enjoy the fruits of his labor when harvest time comes. Paul is simply encouraging Timothy to know that what he may face while serving Christ on earth will be more than worth it in the end.
Okay, let’s make a quick application. As His church our mission is clear; that is, to go and make disciples. Along the way we too will encounter trouble and suffer for Christ. Thus, it is equally important that we do these things which Paul exhorts Timothy to do. Always seek to please God. Run the race according to the rules, even if that means we must suffer. Work hard at planting the seed, for we will benefit from the harvest. It will all be worth it.