So as I was studying the Bible today, I continued from a verse that I have recently adopted,
which is 2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV:
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
[Sound mind meaning self-discipline, see NIV, NLT, NASB and ESV]
I continued on reading into chapter 2, when I came across these verses in 2 Timothy 2:3-6 NKJV:
“You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier. And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. The hardworking farmer must be first to partake of the crops.”
This intrigued me, so I looked up a more detailed explanation by my favorite commentator David Guzik on Blue Letter Bible’s website [http://www.blbclassic.org]. Here is the link to the commentary (http://www.blbclassic.org/commentaries/comm_view.cfm?AuthorID=2&contentID=20205&commInfo=31&topic=2%20Timothy) and here is the transcript for verses 3-6:
3. (3-4) Persevere for God with a soldier’s attitude.
You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.
a. You therefore must: This was not a suggestion from Paul to Timothy; must carries the sense of a requirement or a command. There was something that Timothy had to do, and Paul would tell him to do it.
b. Endure hardship as a good solider: Timothy must take the attitude of soldier who expects to endure hardship for their cause. No real solider – or at least no good solider – ever gave up simply because some hardship came to them.
i. In the same way, if a believer is not willing to endure hardship, they will never accomplish much for Jesus Christ. They will give up as soon as something hard is required of them; they cannot fulfill Jesus’ call: If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. (Matthew 16:24)
ii. “Never dream of delicacy; think not to find God in the gardens of Egypt, whom Moses found not but in the burning-bush.” (Trapp)
iii. “Paul does not exhort Timothy to be a common, or ordinary soldier, but to be a ‘good soldier of Jesus Christ;’ for all soldiers, and all true soldiers, may not be good soldiers. There are men who are but just soldiers and nothing more; they only need sufficient temptation and they readily become cowardly, idle, useless and worthless; but he is the good soldier who is bravest of the brave, courageous at all times, who is zealous, does his duty with heart and earnestness.” (Spurgeon)
c. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life: Timothy must take the attitude of a solider, who willingly detaches himself from the things of civilian life.
i. A solider has to give up many things. Some of them are bad things (pride, independence, self-will), and some of them are good things (his home, his family). Nevertheless, if a soldier is not willing to give up these things, he is not a soldier at all.
ii. The things that might entangle a soldier might be good or bad for a civilian. The soldier can’t ask if something is good or bad for those who are not soldiers; he must give up anything that gets in the way of being a good soldier or serving his commanding officer. A faithful soldier does not have the right to do anything that will entangle them and make them less effective as a soldier.
iii. “It is well remarked by Grotius, on this passage, that the legionary soldiers among the Romans were not permitted to engage in husbandry, merchandise, mechanical employments, or any thing that might be inconsistent with their calling.” (Clarke)
d. That he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier: If Timothy did not endure hardship and if he did not put away the things that entangled him in the affairs of this life, he would not be pleasing to his Commanding Officer.
i. Jesus Christ is the commander of all heaven’s armies. In Joshua 5, Jesus appeared to Joshua as Commander of the army of the LORD (Joshua 5:14). He is our Commanding Officer, and we owe total obedience to Him as such.
ii. It is likely that Paul was chained to a soldier even as he wrote this. He saw how these soldiers acted, and how they obeyed their commanding officers. Paul knew that this is how a Christian must act towards their Lord.
4. (5) Persevere for God with an athlete’s attitude.
And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.
a. If anyone competes in athletics: Paul often drew upon the world of athletics for illustrations of the Christian life, mentioning track and field (1 Corinthians 9:12), boxing (1 Corinthians 9:26), and wrestling (Ephesians 6:12).
b. He is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules: The point is clear. An athlete can’t make up the rules as he pleases; he must compete according to the rules if he wants to receive the crown.
i. It is possible to fall into the mistake of thinking that we can make up our own rules for our Christian life. For some people, their special arrangement goes something like this: “I know this is sin, but God understands, so I’ll just keep going in this sin.” This goes against the attitude of an athlete who must compete according to the rules.
5. (6) Persevere for God with the attitude of a farmer.
The hard-working farmer must be first to partake of the crops.
a. The hard-working farmer: In calling Timothy to have the attitude of a farmer, Paul emphasized the fact that farmers are hard-working. In the same way, all who serve the Lord should be hard-working.
i. Unlike the soldier and the athlete, there is nothing glamorous about the work a farmer does. It is often tedious, boring, and unexciting. The nation’s best farmer really isn’t a celebrity. But he must work hard just the same.
ii. God has no place for lazy ministers. If you will not work hard, get out of the ministry. If you will only work hard if you are in the limelight, then let God change your heart.
iii. “Idle drones disgrace every department of the Christian Church. They cannot teach because they will not learn.” (Clarke)
b. Hard-working: Paul knew the value of hard work. He could say, comparing himself with the other apostles, I labored more abundantly than they all (1 Corinthians 15:10). Paul wasn’t just called, he wasn’t just blessed, he wasn’t just anointed; Paul also worked hard. And his ministry would have been far less than it was if he had not worked hard.
i. Some people expect something for nothing. But wise people know that you often get out of things according to the measure you put into them. If you are putting forth little effort in your Christian walk, you should expect little result.
ii. Yet at the same time, Paul knew that all the work he did was the gift of God’s grace in him: I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me (1 Corinthians 15:10). Paul knew the balance of working hard, yet always knowing it is all of grace.
c. Must be the first to partake of the crops: When Timothy had spiritual food to give to the congregation, he must eat of it first. If he isn’t being fed from the Word of God, he can’t really feed others.
i. An effective pastor or teacher will get more out of the message than the audience does, and his time of preparation to teach God’s word will also be a time of warm fellowship with God.
d. Partake of the crops: Like a good farmer, any godly pastor will work hard and he will patiently await the harvest – which really comes at the end of the age, not at the end of the meeting.