2 Timothy Chapter 2 has so much great wisdom filling it, it reminds me a bit of the scene in Hamlet where dad Polonius is saying goodbye to his son Laertes. As Laertes prepares to leave for France his father takes time to give him helpful advice on how to behave like a man with integrity. This kind of advice from Paul to Timothy brings to mind the close relationship of these two godly men.
In verses 1-7 Paul compares being a Christ Follower to a soldier, and athlete, and a farmer. Soldiers work hard to please the one who enlisted them, they do not get involved in civilian matters. Athletes compete according to the rules, and if they don’t, they are disqualified. Farmers that work hard are the ones that deserve the best of the crop. Verses 1-7 read,
“You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, 2 and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.3 Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. 5 An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. 6 It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. 7 Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.”
Apply those metaphors to your Christian walk. Are you staying out of worldly matters, pleasing God as your King? Are you staying pure, away from false prophecies and prophets to run the race well? Is there a crown in your future? Do you work hard to grow the fruit of the Spirit, are you nurturing it and putting the proper seeds, water and light into your crop?
Paul speaks to your role in this Christian life as being an active one. Being active in your salvation doesn’t ignore grace. It doesn’t retract from the work of the Holy Spirit. Your effort is in response to the salvation you receive. Your Salvation is a gift. There are no strings attached. But what you do with that gift makes a world of difference.
You can just take it and let it be. You can let God change you but refuse do anything with those changes. It won’t be long before your stagnant life and its rotting fruit sit inactive. Weeds will cover you to the point that no one would recognize or use the fruit God produced in you. The fruit will shrivel up, and God will choose to use other more productive better tended trees for the jobs He has. You will need pruning, weeding and a great deal of fertilizer to get you back to health again. That isn’t a pleasant experience, but it is a necessary one. Luke 13:6-9 is a parable about a barren fig tree. It reads,
“And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. 7 And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ 8 And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. 9 Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”
You are meant to bear fruit (have visible useful results) from your relationship with God, if there are none, he’ll dig around you, add manure, and see if you’ll yield some fruit. That is not a painless process.
I want to be used by my Lord often. I want to please Him. I want to make a difference in this world for Jesus. I am sure you do too. Paul encourages us to remember this great and perfect truth in verses 8-13.
“Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, 9 for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! 10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. 11 The saying is trustworthy, for:
If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
12 if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself.”
Jesus is alive. We may be bound by chains, doubts, or inadequacies but Jesus is not. The truth is the truth regardless and The Word is not bound. There is power in the gospel. And Jesus is here with us through everything. Re-read the promise of verses 11-13. That is great news, great power, and great responsibility. God works through your inadequacies, your weaknesses, and your suffering. In fact He is glorified when you let Him use you through them. An incredibly shy woman who can speak Jesus’ words in street ministry shows the world it is God’s power not hers. A man who was chained up in prison, yet teaches countless others about the great freedom of Christ exalts God.
The truth must be handled properly. It is a precious jewel. It is gift to us and in our hands. In verses 14-19 Paul says,
“Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. 15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. 16 But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, 17 and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some. 19 But God's firm foundation stands, bearing this seal:“The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.”
You can’t call yourself sanctified, and spend your time gossiping or starting problems in the Body, then go out and claim the gospel. Your gossip, your lies, and your pettiness spread, and make the precious jewel of the gospel look like cheap glass. If you keep on sinning, what fruit are you bearing? People will not see the power of God then, they will see the power of Satan at work in you, and they will dismiss your testimony and the Gospel with it.
An effective and godly walk is active. Paul refers to believers as workers. Workers don’t sit idly by and hope that good fruit appears. Workers don’t sit and hope that the bricks pile up and form a wall. Workers do the job assigned. Workers do their very best to assure that the product is high quality.
Workers prepare themselves for the work. In a manor like Downton Abbey, Carson the butler doesn’t jump out of bed run down to the dining room in his pajamas to serve breakfast. He washes himself, he puts on the right clothes, and he makes sure that he and the footmen know how to serve the meal.
Paul puts it this way in verses 20-21,
“Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable.21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.”
You and I need to be ready as well. We need to keep ourselves ready to work at any time. We must be willing and we must be active. What use are we if we don’t bother washing up and remaining clean so we can serve? We can try and serve without washing and dressing and preparing for the part. But who would take food served from a dirty or smelly butler? Who will accept the truth from a lying gossiping misanthrope? Verses 22-26 exhort us this way,
“So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. 23 Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. 24 And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.”
Believer, are you bearing good fruit? Are you glorifying God through your weakness or exalting Satan through your sin. Will people come to know Jesus because you are prepared and working?