Paul ordered Timothy’s priorities. And then, Paul died. Final words are significant.
In 2 Timothy, Paul asked Timothy to suffer alongside him. In fact, he promised persecution. When a man chained in a dungeon asks you to journey to where he is held by violent captors, when he assigns you a task similar to the one that led to his imprisonment, it’s a weighty request. This is where the rubber meets the road.
How committed are you?
To prepare Timothy, Paul gave him three metaphors to reflect on and emulate: the good soldier, the rule-abiding competitive athlete, and the hardworking farmer. These are our model also.
Believer, we’ve been recruited to the only army that changes the world for eternity. The Recruiter enabled our enlistment by signing his own life away, paying with his own blood. We’re members of his unit now. As people enlisted to love our enemies and pray for our persecutors, we often shy away from military comparisons.
But this is a potent analogy for a man held captive by the world’s toughest soldiers. Paul experienced the Praetorian every day. In holding up the military model that soldiered before his eyes every day, he says: Our foe is not human.
Those guards weren’t Paul’s enemies. They were men he introduced to the Savior. This is a spiritual battle. There is an insidious enemy. We’re at war with more than just our fallen natures.
Paul knew it and prepared Timothy and us. We fight the good fight, because we love the Savior. We live a virtuous life, because he recruited us. We use our gifts to fulfill our commission with vigor. The good soldier of Jesus Christ lives a powerful biography, working out our salvation even through terror and hardship in the trenches. It is God who wills and works in us.
Our orders are written in black and white. With the Spirit’s empowerment, we obey them. We embrace our recruitment and actively seek to please the Recruiter. We yield, surrendering our will and desires to the One who enlisted us. He stands by our side.
Believer, we are well-trained competitive athletes contending for the Prize. We buffet our bodies. We cull away distractions. We eliminate impediments. The race is against ourselves, not a competition with others.
Can we outrun our fallen natures? Can we defeat our old selves? With the Spirit’s help, we can.
Our Trainer runs alongside, the Author and Perfecter of our faith. He dusts us off when we fall and bloody ourselves on the track. We rise to run again, focusing on Christ, eyes on the Prize, racing toward him with all our might. We follow his rules, so we’re not disqualified, contending in a way that pleases him. We take God’s words seriously and apply them to our lives. The Trainer enables us.
We press hard through the finish line. We finish the race. We win the victor’s crown.
Believers, we are hardworking farmers sowing the seed of the gospel. We remain attuned to societal weather conditions. With forethought, we ready ourselves for planting and for harvesting. We prepare the soil. We sow in season. We sow out of season, if the Lord of the Harvest directs. We recognize that while we sow, the outcome is in God’s hands.
We work for him. We tend his crops with care—cultivating, weeding, and watering. He promises a share. We wait patiently for ripeness and then we wade into the harvest. We sickle the grain. We keep the faith, even when we don’t understand the whys of the results.
The harvest is the Lord’s, not ours. We yield our expectations. We trust him.
We battle the insidious enemy.
We contend against our fallen natures.
We sow the gospel seed and tend the crops.
To fulfill these models, we must keep Jesus Christ foremost in our minds. He is risen from the dead and descended from David. “This,” Paul said, “is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained. But God’s word is not chained” (2 Timothy 2:9b-10 NIV).
When Jesus is our constant consideration, when we adore him, we are empowered to fight, contend, and cultivate.
When we know he was dead and now he is risen, we understand he has the power to raise us, so we entrust it all to him.
When we recall that he descended from David, we know this Messiah we serve included people exactly like us in his family tree—a fallen woman, a murderous man, sinful and broken people.
Since our Savior suffered and his apostles suffered, we, too, will suffer. Count on it.
But God’s word is not chained.
One day, we will die. No matter what happens or how our spirits leave our bodies, the power of God’s word will prevail. Christ will return. His recruited soldiers will reign with him. His farmers and athletes will gain their share and reward. We will be swept up in God’s ultimate purpose for us. Then, we will see the big picture. Now we see in a mirror dimly. Then, we will see face to face.
Press on in the good fight. Reflect on this.