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2 Timothy 2:3–7 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
3 Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No man serving as a soldier entangles himself in the activities of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier. 5 And also if anyone competes he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. 6 The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops. 7 Consider what I am saying, for the Lord will grant you understanding in all things.
Three Metaphors: Devotion, Honesty, and Work (2:3–7)
Supporting Idea: The person committed to following Christ must expect difficulty. He must not only expect it but welcome it if he is to receive the reward given to those who remain faithful.
- The soldier (2:3–4)
2:3–4. Paul favored military imagery in many of his letters. He understood that Christian living involved warfare. So he told Timothy: endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.
Soldiers on active duty expect hardship. Battling the enemy on the front lines, the soldier lives in harsh conditions—damp weather, poor food. uncomfortable sleep, dirt and filth, inadequate shelter, and exhaustion. The further one retreats from the front lines, however, the more frequent and trivial become the complaints. Those involved in the struggles of survival and the exhaustion of combat rarely complain about the food—they are simply happy to eat.
In the same way, Christians who determine to live holy, obedient lives before God place themselves on the front lines of spiritual warfare. They encounter counter attacks of Satan, suffer scorn and rejection, and often deny themselves many comforts.
But in serving Christ, no one needs to endure the struggles and difficulties alone. Paul encouraged Timothy to endure … with us. Even though they were separated geographically, an authentic bond existed between them. knowing that others join in one’s joy or hardship gives courage. In addition, the Holy Spirit creates a connection of love between people.
Enduring hardship requires devotion. Performing as a good soldier requires total commitment: no one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs. The word translated “involved” in the NIV has been translated “entangled” in other versions; it comes from a term used of sheep that get their wool caught in thorns. Such a word picture graphically illustrates what occurs when believers wander off from commitment to Jesus Christ. Unless we keep vigilant watch on our thinking and spirit, we will become snagged on the thorns of popular philosophy and current social values. We must be on constant duty, guarding our commitment and our desires.
In Paul’s day, Roman soldiers were not part-time warriors. They were not busy buying real estate or making business plans as they passed through conquered territory. From sunup until they rested at night, every activity involved honing the skills of warfare, ensuring the security of their unit, and gathering the supplies to keep them ready and fit. Nothing was ignored or left to chance. Life and victory depended upon the soldiers’ readiness and commitment to the task.
We also must remain unflinching in our devotion to Christ and his kingdom: to please [our] commanding officer. Then, when hardship comes we can endure.
- The athlete (2:5)
2:5. Paul turned next to athletic competition for his illustration, focusing on the commitment which proceeds from honest and legitimate faith. Sports were probably as popular during the days of the Roman Empire as they are now. The Olympiad and other contests were watched with enthusiasm. Athletes trained rigorously in order to compete.
Before the modern explosion in athletes’ salaries, the driving force in most sporting enterprises was attaining the prize—the medal, the ribbon or the laurel wreath. As important as this prize was, unless the individual trained and practiced and competed according to the rules, there was little possibility of winning. So Paul wrote, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules.
The rules are twofold. One aspect involves training, keeping the body fit, attaining the necessary skills or speed. The second centers on lawful competition. Each game or contest has particular rules which help define the sport and describe proper conduct and etiquette; no athlete makes up the rules he goes along. If someone breaks these rules or ignores them, the officials disqualify him.
Christian living also requires adherence to certain rules regarding purity, doctrinal orthodoxy, faith, and love. Those who abide by the truth of God’s Word will receive their reward on the day of judgment. Those who try to claim the prize without a commitment to faithful obedience will be disqualified.
- The farmer (2:6)
2:6. People who raise vegetables in their backyard know the hard work involved in nurturing and working a garden. But for those who depend upon the soil for their living, farming demands even greater toil. Planting and harvesting account for only a small portion of the farmer’s time and energy. He must also till the soil, battle insects, diseases, drought, flooding, and winds. All this keeps the farmer hard at work through the crucial growing season, If he becomes negligent in his attention to these problems, he will never realize the harvest. But if he labors to the end, he should be the first to receive a share of the crops.
The hard-working Christian will also reap a harvest “at the proper time” if he does not give up (Gal. 6:9). But crops do not sprout up overnight. Christian service requires hard work. A person sharing his life in ministry should not demand immediate results.
God has called each of us to ministry. The long haul between our enthusiastic beginning and our anticipated glory requires a great deal of hard work. Each person committed to the life of faith will deal with difficult circumstances, issues of temptation and sin, spiritual struggles, adverse opinions, misunderstandings, exhaustion, and an array of pests which can ruin personal and ministry growth. Once again, commitment must find its home in the heart. Then it will work itself out in enduring service.
- Reflection (2:7)
2:7. Having set down three examples from common life, Paul told Timothy, Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight. These examples required some thinking, not only to understand the truth behind what he had written, but to consider the implications for one’s life. Paul had given an unembellished portrait of Christian living and service. It required disciplined living, disassociation from society’s comforts and values, suffering, hard work, diligence, patience, and struggle. Paul realized it was far easier to talk about these words than to embrace them. We must also reflect prayerfully on what Paul has written.