“Timothy, my dear son, be strong through the grace that God gives you in Christ Jesus. You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others. Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. Soldiers don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them. And athletes cannot win the prize unless they follow the rules. And hardworking farmers should be the first to enjoy the fruit of their labor. Think about what I am saying. The Lord will help you understand all these things.” (II Timothy 2:1-7 NLT)
Soldiers, Athletes, and Farmers have one obvious thing in common don’t they? HARD WORKERS!! Just the mention of these guys conjures up images of grueling hours of training and plowing and drilling, and I get tired just thinking about it. Yet, Paul purposefully selects these descriptors to impress upon Timothy what it’s like to walk with Jesus-it aint all Daises and Petunias!
The athlete part of these verses is most relevant to me now as over the last 9months, I have evolved into an avid runner. Yeah, last August, a friend of mine challenged me to get serious about my health and make some real life changes. This has led to my being more athletic now, at the age of 50, than I’ve been since I was a kid. I run six days a week, have lost over 65 pounds, and it has been ABSOLUTELY GRUELING! There were days (are still days) when I didn’t feel like working out, days when I wanted to quit, injuries, and real frustration, but you just keep on going. Why, because like we’ve always heard, “No pain, no gain.” I wish it were different, but it’s not.
Paul wanted Timothy to know that the Christian walk involves hardship. The soldier, the athlete, and the farmer have “sanctified” themselves. They set themselves apart from other things that they could be doing so that they can achieve a particular end. They each have devoted themselves to working hard in order to get the results they desire. We need to be of the same mind regarding our walk with Jesus. There are times we don’t “feel like it.” There are days when we get frustrated and may want to quit. We may even fall or get injured along the way, but we press on towards the Prize who is Jesus himself!
The cool thing is, we don’t accomplish any of this through our own strength, but rather the strength we receive through God’s grace he freely gives us in Christ (“Timothy, my dear son, be strong through the grace that God gives you in Christ Jesus…”). It is God working in you, strengthening you, who equips you to run the race. I love what Paul prayed in Ephesians 3.
“I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.”(Ephesians 3:16-21 NLT)
I want to encourage you today to press on in the things of God. It’s hard sometimes. It’s that way for all of us. But, as you walk with him, as you experience more of his love, you become stronger and are able to not only run yourself, but are equipped to teach others how to do the same thing.