Virtual Reality | Day 16
Christian leaders have entered a new settled state and become more like the Christ they know, love, and serve (2 Tim. 3:2-5).
We are working through the second quadrant, being. We’re exploring what it means to grow in Christ-like character. We’ve covered growing in strength and grace. Today we supplement those with two more character-building components.
Character Component #3: FOCUS (2:3-4)
Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. (2 Timothy 2:3-4)
“Share in suffering”: As in 1:8, this is an aorist active imperative--a continuing command – we will suffer, and we are expected to endure it.
“As a good soldier”: The image of a soldier was one of Paul’s favorites (cf. Romans 6:13; 7:23; 1 Corinthians 9:7; 2 Corinthians 6:7; Ephesians 6:11‐18). The image of a soldier is appropriate for all Christian leaders, but Paul may have thought it especially appropriate in Timothy’s situation, battling the heretics and standing his ground theologically.
When we look at the Scriptures, we discover that Christians maintain the right kind of focus by:
(a) accepting that the greater things of God must take priority over the good things of life …
“entangled in civilian pursuits”-- Just as nothing distracted a soldier from absolute obedience to, and focus on, the order from his superior, so too, we should not allow other duties to drain our energy or our enthusiasm from our primary responsibility to make disciples of all nations. Doing this demands that we remain free from entanglements with lesser goals and less important distractions (1 Timothy 6:3‐16; see also Matthew 13:22; Luke 8:14).
Paul’s appeal shows the importance of developing an ability to distinguish between doing things and doing the best things. Servants of Christ are not merely to be well-rounded dabblers in all types of trivial pursuits. They are tough‐minded devotees of Christ who constantly choose the right priorities from a list of potential selections.
How do we do this?
(b) Identify and avoid destructive distractions
Is there anything that weakens your commitment to keep Christ first in your life? How can you minimize the distractions that threaten your devotion to him?
(c) Identify and avoid destructive instruction
Today there are many false teachings that seem to make sense. Don’t believe someone simply because they sound like an authority. Study the Scriptures and ensure that the Bible remains your authoritative guide. Don’t listen to anyone who contradicts God’s Word.
Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. (2 Timothy 2:7)
“Think over” --This is a command. Timothy is to stop and carefully consider what Paul has said. Christian leaders are not to rush into action without pausing to pray for guidance and seek affirmation from God. This is the best way to focus on the greater not just the great.
How often do you think over what Paul has said in his letters? What phrase or verse in this section is worthy of further consideration and prayer? What implications could this verse have for the focus of your life or ministry? Focus is needed because both suffering and distractions are guaranteed!
Character Component #4: DISCIPLINE (2:5-10)
In this section, Paul draws attention to the athlete and farmer. While the athletic metaphor is powerful and glamorous, the farming metaphor is certainly not. Common to both metaphors is the idea of discipline:
The athlete competes according to the rules: The original phrase behind these words designated a professional athlete as opposed to an amateur. What separates the two? Dedication, determination, or DISCIPLINE.
The farmer is hard-working: This denotes toil to the point of exhaustion. Farmers do not sit under a shady tree and watch their crops grow until the ripe fruit drops into their laps. To be a successful farmer there must be continual hard, exhausting toil.
Paul means that Christian leaders are to be hard at work for Christ, not placid bystanders. The expected normal characteristic of a Christian leader is a willingness to put forth constant, intense effort. “Idleness is sweet, and its consequences are cruel,” said John Quincy Adams. He also said, “Duty is ours. Results are God’s.”
Some may ask, why discipline myself?
“the first share”: Whereas the athlete worked for future reward, the emphasis with the farmer is on present benefits. While the farmer produces fruit for others, he profits by taking the first share. It is out of the abundance of His life that the Christian ministers, straining to produce food for others through their disciplined, focus on study of the Word. To remain spiritually alive and effective, however, we must first nourish our own lives with that same fruit. This is how we grow in Christ-like character.
Later in this chapter Paul urges Timothy, “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.” (2 Timothy 2:15)
The order conveys the same principle: Christian leaders have a high duty and privilege of engaging in hard and time-consuming self-discipline, but we are the first to partake of the fruit of our labor.
DISCIPLINE is needed and the work is hard, but we BENEFIT first!
Christian leaders are always ordinary people with extraordinary gifts. We truly appreciate our ordinary state when we commit to hone both our character and our gifting!
Paul’s teaching uses examples from ordinary life – teachers, soldiers, athletes, and farmers. He does not portray extraordinary people in unusual circumstances, but ordinary people from everyday life. That is the Christian life: normal experiences and challenges, not a life of luxury without strife. The metaphors remind us that Christ calls ordinary people and that we need to be prepared to study, focus, and discipline ourselves. Christ-like character is produced in us when we commit to such tasks.
Food for Thought:
1. How are you developing your gifts?
2. What is the Lord saying to you about your discipline through these verses?
 Lea, Thomas D., Griffin, Hayne P., 1, 2 Timothy, Titus, page 203