April 19, 2010

Be Strong In The Lord

Paul knew his days were numbered here. He wrote these passages to encourage Timothy to stay in the faith and walk the line. To stay strong in the face of grinding adversity and doom. Paul's death was eminent and he prepared his brothers for his inevitable demise. I can't help but think that these words were also cathartic for him also.

"You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier. Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules. The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops. Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel, for which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned. For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it (AB)eternal glory." ~2 Timothy 2:1-10

Four things are mentioned here that stand out in distinct contrast to the other wordage in this unit of Scripture. Four distinctly painted pictures of perseverance and purpose.

There will be suffering and a need to endure certain things in this life. We were never promised a pleasant journey only a pleasant destination. We were not promised a rose garden only the seeds to spread in the field so that they too can bear fruit and flower. Regardless of this suffering and need to endure, Timothy (by proxy us) is exhorted by Paul to persevere through these hardships. He illustrates this in three distinct analogies.

The noble & obedient soldier. A soldier does not shrink back from his duty. We as believers need to be willing to suffer hardship or persecution. A military man currently engaged in military duty does not get involved with civilian aspects of life. The same is true of the believer doing the work of the Lord or work for the Kingdom, they should not get involved directly with the worldly aspects of the world. We engage the world we do not become it. By doing his military duty the soldier pleases their commanding officer, in the case of the believer it refers to a divine commanding officer: Jesus Christ. If the soldier fails to complete his duty to his fullest capacity he is letting down his fellow soldiers and this is a violation of soldierly etiquette. So not only is the soldier obliged to his commanding officer that enlisted him but also to his brothers/sisters in arms or in spirit.

The resolute striving of an athlete to compete to win and to win within the guidelines of the event they are competing in. Rules must be obeyed to stay within the guidelines to win. If an athlete does not stay within the guidelines he disqualifies himself from winning the wreath or the prize. For the believer we are to teach the truth, exercise discipline and do this in love or he does not gain the wreath of righteousness.

The exertion and labor of a farmer. A believer must toil and suffer for what is right. He cannot be slothful and a bum. When a farmer works his field he is usually the first to reap the reward and yield from the fields for his efforts. Paul is telling Timothy that if he labors hard for the Lord in his God endowed spiritual work with his spiritual gifts the first person to be reward will be Timothy. His spiritual aspects will be bolstered, faith, hope, love. It will act as a bellow to feed the flame of his spirit or act to ripen the fruits of the spirit. Nothing compares to the character that is built in suffering and toiling. Bend over in the heat of summer hoeing the fields. If he doesn't weed a little the weeds will overtake his crops. A pastor or one committed to service of the body does not work on the clock. Their job is 24 hours a day 7 days a week. There is no down time once the seeds are planted. Farmers need to be patient. There efforts will not produce a yield immediately. It takes time for fruit of crops to grow. As the farmers fruit grows to maturity those crops will in turn produce seed for the next planting and subsequent harvest.

Submit our will to the Lord. Obey and perform our duty as if our life and other's lives depended on it (because it does). Work within the guidelines and strive with all of our might to win the race in a fashion fitting for one who has trained to finish strong. Finally, put our shoulders into our work and lean into our efforts. Be thankful that we are even allowed to break a sweat on our brow to glorify the Lord with our efforts. There is no greater endeavour. To labor for the Lord with all perseverance, determination in acts of love to win souls to the body of the church. In the end we will hear Jesus reward us for our perseverance. "Well done, my good and faithful servant"

In the end, according to the measure of the world, Paul is a loser. In the end, according to the measure of God, Paul is a winner. The only judgment that matters is God's. The world's opinion means nothing. The victory and wreath is his to claim when crosses the finish line.

Regardless of what you have been told, this life isn't going to be easy. Whatever you do, do not shrink back from your responsibility to pursue these duties with all human diligence. If you do not then sin and evil begins to get the upper hand. Stay strong in the Lord. Stay the course. Do not forsake the cause of Christ. When the world pushes your back, lean into it with your shoulder, grunt and know that the power of Christ compels you forward towards the the reward. Towards the fruits of the harvest. To victory.

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