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  • Pastor Brett

Symbols of a Working Faith

Three kinds of workers illustrate a working Christian faith.

Please read 2 Timothy 2:1-7 in your Bible. I use the NIV (1984).

From a sermon by Jeff Strite, "Til Death Do Us Part" 2/15/2009: “Every year, hundreds of Civil war buffs get together and put on mock battles. They don uniforms that soldiers of the North and South would have worn back then.

“During one reenactment, it was a hot sweltering day. The civil war buffs are sweating as they maneuvered into position for their battle, facing the usual frustrations involved in setting up such a display. However, one of the ‘Rebels’ got so tired, hot, and frustrated he threw in the towel and headed for the refreshment tent. As he tugged off his wool uniform he was heard to grumble: ‘I quit. We’re not going to win anyway.’

And, of course -- he was right! Here was this civil war buff -- who knows HOW everything is going to turn out. He’s tired, hot, and discouraged. He KNOWS his side isn’t going to win anyway... so he quits.”

Christian, we are in a similar situation. The Bible tells us (as we learned last Sunday) who will win the war of good versus evil. God wins! How can we consider giving up when we know we’re on the winning side? I know from our vantage point it may appear we’re losing this particular battle, but the outcome of the war is not in doubt. God calls us to soldier on. That was Paul’s message to Timothy, too.

The passage begins with Paul calling Timothy to be STRONG, but not in his own strength, in the strength that God’s GRACE provides. In this way - only in this way - will Timothy be able to keep his calling as a pastor. His task is to pass along the faith to those who are spiritually mature and share in his work of preaching the truth about Jesus.

Paul uses three illustrations to show Timothy that endurance, obedience, discipline, and perseverance are going to be required to accomplish this work. If we will faithfully exhibit these marks of integrity God will faithfully make our work fruitful.

1. Two things distinguish a soldier’s work: endurance and obedience (vs. 3+4).

The first virtue exemplified by a soldier is Endurance. The phrase ENDURE HARDSHIP is a new word created by Paul, combining the Greek words for “suffer,” “bad,” and “together.” Normally, we think of endurance as being something we do solo, gritting our teeth and getting through. Enduring together is a better and more godly way of thinking about it.

The second virtue illustrated by a soldier’s life is Obedience. A GOOD SOLDIER’s priority is pleasing his COMMANDING OFFICER. All followers of Jesus have God the Father as our COMMANDING OFFICER. This Greek word literally meant “the one who enlisted us as a soldier.”

In Philippians 2:25 & Philemon 2 the word for GOOD SOLDIER is translated as FELLOW WORKER, referring to Paul’s associate ministers of the Gospel.

With that priority, a GOOD SOLDIER avoids getting INVOLVED IN CIVILIAN AFFAIRS, which are “business, occupations.” A soldier temporarily sets aside interest in a career as it would distract him. Instead, he focuses on being a soldier, fulfilling his CO’s orders.

2. One thing distinguishes an athlete’s work: discipline (v. 5).

His priority is receiving the VICTOR’S CROWN. This is stephanos, the crown made of laurel leaves that was given to the winner. It was a kind of “key to the city,” as the one wearing it was treated like a hero all day. The word for the kind of crown worn by royalty was diadema; headgear that gave the wearer a different kind of celebrity.

With that priority, an athlete COMPETES ACCORDING TO THE RULES - that is - he exercises discipline. An athlete demonstrates discipline while preparing for competition, devoting time and effort in training. When he competes, an athlete who truly wants to win competes within the rules of the game. We’ve seen lots of notorious examples of people who cheated and ultimately lost the big prize.

Self-discipline is difficult, but it is always more satisfying and easier than discipline exerted on us by others. Paul specified what self-discipline meant for pastors in vs. 23-24.

3. One thing distinguishes a farmer’s work: perseverance (v. 6).

His priority is receiving a SHARE OF THE CROPS. In fact, Paul wrote that the HARDWORKNG FARMER deserved FIRST SHARE OF THE CROPS he raised. Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 5:18, THE WORKER DESERVES HIS WAGES. As a culture, we’ve gone from being farmers to being gardeners to ordering our food delivered to us. In these transitions we’ve lost our personal connection to the land and the patience that working the soil demands. We have to turn to the remaining farmers to learn perseverance.

With that priority, the farmer works hard; he demonstrates perseverance. Seed does not grow overnight and it will not grow as productively if it is not tended. The farmer plants the seed with the hope of a good harvest to follow. While he waits, the farmer tries to reduce the effects of things he can’t control (weather) by doing things he can control (seed selection, weed control, irrigation). In the field, there is no such thing as “fast food.” It all takes time.

Three kinds of workers illustrate a working Christian faith.

At the end of our passage (v. 7), Paul did not over-interpret these figures of speech, but instead called on Timothy to REFLECT on them, certain that God would supply him with personal INSIGHT into their meaning. Similarly, when any of us read the Bible, we need to take time to pray and think about what we’ve read to gain a personal application of the truth.

A chaplain was speaking to a soldier on a cot in a hospital. "You have lost an arm in the great cause," he said. "No," said the soldier with a smile. "I didn’t lose it--I gave it." In that same way, Jesus did not lose His life. He gave it purposefully.


The Expositor’s Bible Commentary

The Daily Study Bible Series

Zondervan Bible Commentary

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