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. Consider what I say, and may the Lord give you understanding in all things. 2 Timothy 2:3-7 NKJVWho in this life has never wished that something could be easier? It just seems natural that we look for the easiest way to do something in order to avoid expending more physical or emotional effort than required to accomplish whatever it is we are faced with. I have a feeling most of us, if given a choice, would choose an easier task rather than a difficult one simply because it seems to be our nature to do that.
Yet in this passage Paul does a very good job of removing any thoughts we might have that a life pleasing to Christ is going to be easy. In fact, he does just the opposite by comparing the life we have chosen to three occupations that help to illustrate what will be expected of us if we are to succeed in serving our Lord in a manner that pleases Him. Those three illustrations are of a soldier, an athlete, and a farmer.
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. V. 3-4When we consider the life of a soldier, one of the first things that should become apparent is that by enlisting in the army an individual is choosing to serve and obey the authority of his superiors. In effect, a soldier dedicates himself to follow the orders of his superiors without question and ignoring anything or anyone which might interfere with that mission. I recall once visiting a military post with a friend and recognizing someone I knew from school who was on guard duty that day. I called out a greeting to him and was surprised when he did not even acknowledge it. My friend explained that while on guard duty soldiers were forbidden to do anything which might distract them from their assignment to guard.
"No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. Matthew 6:24 NKJVPaul uses the example of a soldier serving to help us understand that we need to be committed to serving Christ to the point that we do not allow even the cares of this life to distract us from that service. The question for all of us to answer is are we serving God with the sort of dedication which blocks out everything else?
And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. V. 5I know I have mentioned before that I participated in athletics for many years, and the one sport where I had the most success was track and field. I was fortunate enough to run the third leg of the quarter mile relay while in college on a team that, at that particular time, was considered overachievers. The relay race, like others, has a set of rules that must be followed or you face the possibility of disqualification. Not only must you not step on the lines of your assigned lane, you must also pass the baton within a marked zone which, if you are running as fast as you can, seems incredibly short. When running on the curved part of the track as I did, you could actually shorten the distance you ran by running as close to the inside line as possible. My only talent, (I was not the fastest runner on the team) was the ability to run along that inside line without touching it and getting us all disqualified.
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain [it]. 1 Corinthians 9:24 NKJVLiving a life that is pleasing to God requires following the rules He has set before us. Do you discipline yourself daily to know and follow those rules or have you chosen to simply ignore the ones you find “inconvenient”? Paul explains we must live our lives according to God’s commandments and I think you will find the world is full of those who are watching you with the hope of seeing a mistake which gets you disqualified.
The hardworking farmer must be first to partake of the crops. V. 6I live in an agricultural area which, according to the experts, grows some of the best timothy hay in the world. So much so, that the vast majority of it is exported to many countries outside of the United States. One of the things I noticed soon upon moving here is just how hard and time consuming it is to raise a crop. Many of us are familiar with the old expression “can see to can’t see” which describes the length of the day many farmers put in. I can tell you for a fact that in this part of the country “can see” is around 4:30 AM while “can’t see” is around 9:30 PM. Right now the farmers are cutting and baling the first cut of hay and if you are up at those times you will find that they are already out in the fields working to get that hay in.
The lazy [man] does not roast what he took in hunting, But diligence [is] man's precious possession. Proverbs 12:27 NKJVPaul says that because of his diligence, the farmer is entitled to be the first to eat what he has produced. Do we as believers approach our service for God with the same kind of diligence as a farmer does with his crop? Do we work from daylight to dark, or do we take a little time off when we get tired or discouraged? May we all pray for the strength to work as hard as God asks of us.
Dedication, discipline, and diligence. Three qualities that Paul tells Timothy are necessary to be successful in a life committed to the service of our Father in heaven. If you have made the choice to accept the gift of salvation which God has provided for us, my prayer for all of us is that we will approach our lives for Him with these three necessary qualities.