"Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.
No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs—
he wants to please his commanding officer.
Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive
the victor's crown unless he competes according to the rules.
The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops."
2 Timothy 2:3-6
Have you ever wondered what you would tell your family or friends about Christ if you knew you were never going to see them again? That is what the book of 2 Timothy is about. It is Paul’s letter of encouragement and exhortation to Timothy to live fully for the Lord. I remember having the same urgency in wanting to express all I knew about Christ to my children as they were leaving home. Desperately wanting them not only to know and understand how much the Lord loves them, but also wanting them to know how to honor God with their lives. In this passage Paul gives Timothy three examples to follow.
The first example he gives Timothy is that of a soldier. He told him that a good soldier is willing to endure hardship and will stand firm in the face of opposition, hatred and discomfort. These were all things that both Paul and Jesus had endured. He also reminded him to keep his focus and not let everyday things draw his mind away from the things God called him to. We often think the stage in life we are in is what is making it difficult to focus on God, but the truth is every stage of life has its distractions. Students are distracted by school, young men by their careers, couples by wedding plans, moms of preschoolers by the never-ending demands of young children, moms of school aged children by everyone’s busy schedule, middle aged parents are distracted by the burden of college expenses, and then there are the grandchildren. In each stage of life we have to choose to let Christ to be our focus for all we do. Lastly, a good soldier chooses to live so that he pleases his commanding officer. Every decision we make needs to honor God.
Paul also suggests that we follow the example of athletes. We know an athlete trains and prepares for the race. A part of the preparation is learning the rules and boundaries of the race. If an athlete doesn't follow the rules completely, he can't win. That means as Christians we need to live consistently and always ready to give an answer for the hope in us. We also need to realize everything is sacred for us and that means it is important to our relationship with the Lord that we maintain integrity at all times -- even when nobody is looking. Our culture is a culture of relative values and we need to remember partial obedience isn’t obedience and sin is sin even when everyone is doing it.
Most of us, as Christians, love to talk about the gospel with other believers. However, we are usually unprepared and sometimes not even aware of the opportunities we have to share Christ or to at least cultivate "the soil" for future sharing by loving and building relationships with unbelievers. If we want to partake of the joy of sharing Christ, we need to live as farmers do – fully focused on the job of preparing the soil, planting the seed, watering and feeding the plants, and plucking the harvest. That means we would be constantly busy loving and building relationships as we allow others to observe our lives. It means we are busy sharing the Scriptures, our testimonies, and opening discussions about God. Lastly, it means we are discerning and ready to "reap the harvest" by inviting others to make a decision about Christ.
Again, we have to accept that the Christian life is not a life of ease, but a life of discipline and of intentionality. Sharing Christ sometimes includes enduring hardship while remaining focused on the Lord and choosing to live a life pleasing to Him. We are called to constantly be in the process of sharing the gospel. The questions are: Are we really will to live obediently? Are we focused and diligently working to build relationships so we can share Christ? Last, what are we willing to endure so that others may gain freedom from sin, death and hell? Are we willing to endure a dirty look, physical discomfort, loneliness, hardship, pain, or even death? We need to mature to the place that we’re willing to endure what Christ endured for us? I hope that we never forget to that Jesus for enduring the cross and the shame of our sin for us. I hope we never take it for granted. When we find ourselves tempted to do that it would be wise for us to begin to name each of our individual sins – the sins we commit with our actions, thoughts, and our words as well as the sins we commit due to our inaction, lack of loving words, or neglect to think on Godly things. He desires to help us develop endurance in us, will we yield to His work?
Prayer: Father, Christ was such a wonderful example of the life that you want each of us to live. He was focused, full of integrity, obedient, and willing to endure hardship so that You might be glorified and honored and so that we might be saved. Help us to follow His example. Help us to live lives that are pleasing to you, obedient and constantly busy doing your will. Help us stand firm and strong and to endure until you call us home. Amen.