2 Timothy 2:3-7(NIV) 3Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs—he wants to please his commanding officer. 5Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules. 6The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. 7Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this.
It will not be easy for Timothy to live the life that Paul is encouraging him to live. It takes a special kind of person to devote themselves to the Gospel of Christ. Paul tells Timothy to endure hardship and gives him three examples of how to accomplish this task. Paul is a master at giving us everyday examples of people to show us how to live a godly life. He gives us an example of a soldier, an athlete, and a farmer. Each of these occupations were very common in that era as they are today. Each of these occupations have a different focus but the same outcome. The whole idea is to be single-minded in your approach to the task.
The first example given is that of a soldier. Paul often uses a soldier as a picture of the Christians battle. He states that our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against powers and principalities in the heavenly places. We are encouraged to put on the “full armor of God” so that we can fight the battle properly. A soldier does not get involved in a civilian job but is single-minded in his task as a soldier. The entire purpose of a soldier is to fight and win. To do this he must follow the orders of the commanding officer. Disobeying orders is a very serious crime in any military organization. Thus a soldier is focused on his commanding officer and does everything in his power to accomplish his will.
It is the privilege of a Christian to serve his commanding officer, who is Christ, the author and finisher of our salvation (Heb. 2:10). It is Christ who singlehandedly defeated Satan and reclaimed creation for mankind. He is our King and as such our commanding officer. Our eyes should be fully trained upon Him. The battle is being waged and our only hope of victory is by yielding our lives to Christ through obedience. The more we are yielded the greater the victory Christ gives us. It is only when we take our eyes off of Him and start focusing on ourselves and the things of this world that we begin to lose the battle. Victory only comes to those who are fully engaged in the battle and execute the battle plan as the commanding officer dictates. A soldier dare not take his eyes off the task before him or else death ensues.
An athlete focuses on the end result of the sport he is to participate in. Every athletic event has a set of rules that you must abide by in order to not be penalized. Not following the rules makes it much harder to win the prize. An athlete trains his body to perform his task to the best of his ability. The athlete becomes single-minded in his pursuit of the prize that is set before him. For a football player today it is obtaining the Super Bowl Ring. For a track star it is the Olympic Gold Medal. Each prize requires that they stay focused on the task and condition themselves so that the prize becomes attainable. Paul often uses athletes to demonstrate his principles.
To the athlete, playing the game is the entire focus of his existence. We often hear about athletes who fail to play by the rules by using performance enhancing drugs or other illegal means to give themselves and advantage. In todays society, much like during the time of Paul’s writing to Timothy, being a top notch athlete gives one all the material pleasures he could possibly want. There is wealth beyond measure as well as any other worldly lust. With so much at stake and with such great rewards for being the best it is no wonder that many try to cheat the system. There is a cost to pay for all those who fail to play by the rules.
Christians also like to cheat the system by not following the rules. Many think that they can be friends with the world and live a life that is not pleasing to God. Christ is very clear on what he expects from those who belong to him. They are to forsake the world and the lusts of the world. They are to remain focused on the prize which is eternal life with Him. There are rewards for all those who are faithful to Christ and that should be our motivation to live a godly life here on earth. We shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ to receive what we have earned while on earth. Some may end up very embarrassed by what the receive. Like the athlete we are to remain focused on the prize and do everything within the rules to attain the victors crown.
The farmer is focused on the harvest. This is his livelihood and without a good crop he will not have a productive year. The farmer, therefore, works very hard to make sure that the harvest is plentiful so that he will not be in need for the coming year. His reward is the fruit of his labor.
So also must the Christian focus on the harvest. There is a field out there filled with unbelievers who need to hear the Gospel. It is only through the foolishness of preaching that anyone can come to know the truth. Timothy is to use that gift to bring in the harvest of souls that God has set before him. So should we all become hard working farmers spreading the Gospel and cultivating the plants that spring forth from that seed. Just like the farmer who receives a share of the crops that he raises, so also, do we share in the souls of all those who come to Christ through our faithfulness to the Gospel. There are rewards for being faithful to God and that is a motivating factor for all of us.
We should also take Paul’s advice to Timothy and reflect on what he has just said. Meditating on God’s word will always bring insight into what God has revealed. Reflect on what God has to say in His word so that we can live our lives with single mined determination to please God. Reflect upon the soldier, the athlete and the farmer. Do we pursue our Christian walk with the same fervor as they?