************ Sermon on 2 Timothy 2:3,12 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on May 31, 2015
2 Timothy 2:1-19
2 Timothy 2:3,12a
"A Good Soldier of Christ Jesus"
Installation of Office Bearers
It was the second day of our bicycle ride from Visalia to Monterey. The route called for 78 miles and 5200 feet of climbing. The temperature was in the high 90s and the ride organizer gave a couple of riders the grandma talk: "It is downhill the rest of the way. My grandma can do it." In fact, it wasn't downhill the rest of the way; we still had 3 more steep hills.
At this point more than one of the riders was wondering if they could do it. Their thighs were burning. Their breathing was heavy. They were exhausted. Their legs were cramping. They wondered if perhaps something was wrong with their bike. Maybe they didn't train hard enough. Maybe they were sick. They were filled with self-doubt.
One rider was about to throw in the towel. "What we are doing today," I said, "is the same as going to Three Rivers and climbing to the Sequoias." In other words, it was an exhausting, painful, rigorous course. You can expect to get tired. There is nothing wrong with you, your conditioning, or your bicycle.
There is a teaching that says the Christian life is easy, that it is undemanding and fun like a downhill bicycle ride. All you have to do is "let go and let God." Likewise, there is a teaching out there that says it is easy to be a pastor or an elder or a deacon. For instance, I have a neighbor who keeps kidding me about working only one day of the week. He is a fireman and I kid him back about only working when there is a fire.
There are those who say the Christian life is easy. "Let go and let God." Sounds wonderful, doesn't it? But there is a problem. It is like the bike ride to Monterey. It isn't downhill all the way. It isn't something grandma can do. The Christian life and Church Office require work, hard work, lots of work.
On this installation Sunday we hear Paul's words to Timothy. He is talking about living the Christian life. He is talking about fulfilling the duties of church office.
I Strenuous Effort
A To drive home his point about the effort required in the Christian life and church office, Paul uses four images: soldier, athlete, farmer, and workman (or bricklayer). One of the many things that can be said about these four is that each requires hard, strenuous effort: the soldier fights, the athlete competes, the farmer works, the workman builds. Each, of course, should also pray to God for help, wisdom, and strength. But there comes a time when the solider must finally pick up his sword and fight; the athlete must step into the arena and compete; the farmer must work the soil, plant the seed, take out the weeds, and harvest; the workman must lay each brick. In other words, there is nothing easy and automatic about it.
B Paul's first image is the soldier. He writes, "Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus" (2 Tim 2:3). Paul says, "with us." "Endure hardship with us ..." Someone was talking to me this past week about the hardships in life. Someone else said, "You haven't been shipwrecked like Paul. Nor in prison." That made me think of all the other things Paul mentioned in his second letter to the church at Corinth:
(2 Cor 11:24-29) Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. (25) Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, (26) I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. (27) I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. (28) Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. (29) Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?What a list! Paul sums it up by saying, "I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again" (2 Cor 11:23). Paul suffered all this as a soldier of the cross. Paul suffered all this for the sake of Christ and the Gospel.
"Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus" (2 Tim 2:3). This theme of suffering for Christ and the Gospel is repeated a couple of times in Paul's second letter to Timothy:
(2 Tim 1:8) So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel ...Paul assumes that suffering happens to those who follow Jesus. It happens because those who serve Christ go against the pattern of this world.
(2 Tim 2:8-9) ... This is my gospel (9) for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal ...
(2 Tim 4:5) But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. (cf 1 Tim 1:18)
According to Christ, and His apostles, suffering is not something we are to deliberately chase after; it is not virtuous to suffer pain for pain's sake. Instead, the kind of suffering that is commendable is the suffering we endure for doing good (1 Pet 2:20) -- that is, for believing in Jesus or for refusing to compromise in doctrine or life in spite of the mockery and persecution of the world.
"Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus" (2 Tim 2:3). Most people will usually do whatever they can to avoid pain. So, they will take a Tylenol to stop a headache, or use a heating pad on a sore muscle, or go to a chiropractor if their back is bothering them, or visit the dentist if they have a toothache. All of these are good and proper things to do. But when we face hardship for the Gospel, there rarely is a godly way to stop the suffering. Sometimes we are able to flee or escape those who want to harm us just as Jesus did at times (Jn 10:31-42; 7:30,44; 8:59; Lk 4:29-30). Most often, though, we have no choice but to endure the trouble in order to say faithful to our Savior. In doing this, we are like Jesus Who had to endure the cross in order to complete the mission given Him by the Father.
Now, notice what Paul adds about soldiers in verse 4 of our Scripture reading:
(2 Tim 2:4) No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs--he wants to please his commanding officer.When soldiers fight, they ignore all distractions in the heat of battle and remain focused on their commander's objectives. Similarly, good soldiers of Christ place their mission first, allowing nothing to interfere with following the commands of King Jesus. That is Paul's point: Don't let anything keep you from following and serving Jesus. Not suffering. Not difficulties. Not hardships. Not pain. Not criticism.
Those of you in church office, you need to set believers an example of single-minded devotion to the Lord and His cause. As soldiers of the cross, you need to work hard and even endure suffering for the sake of Christ and the Gospel. Don't forget, like the bike ride to Monterey, the Christian life and Church Office isn't downhill all the way. They require work, hard work, lots of work. And it might even involve suffering.
C Paul's second image is the athlete. He writes, "Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor's crown unless he competes according to the rules" (2 Tim 2:5).
Paul thinks of the athlete who steps into the arena. He does not win the prize by simply standing there. He needs to run, jump, or throw. He needs to run faster, jump higher, or throw further than any other contestant in order to win. The person who comes in last is not declared to be the winner. In other words, the athlete needs to exert himself. He needs to explode out of the starting block and beat every other runner to the finish line. Or, he needs to launch himself into the air. Or he needs to wind up and throw the spear or discus or ball. Paul reminds us that the Christian life and Church Office requires the work and determination of the athlete.
D Paul's third image is the "hardworking farmer" (2 Tim 2:6). No tractors back then. Richer farmers might have an ox or a mule to pull the plow. Yet, the bulk of the work was back-breaking manual labor. To coax bread from the ground the farmer needed to pick up stones, scatter the seed, plow the soil, remove the weeds, irrigate, and take in the harvest.
It is wrong to say the farmer's life requires no effort. Similarly, it is wrong to say the Christian life is easy. As the song puts it, we cannot expect to arrive in heaven on "flow'ry beds of ease." Serving the Lord is hard and difficult and requires a great amount of work.
E Paul's last image is the workman (2 Tim 2:15). He is thinking of the bricklayer. This, too, is not an easy occupation. Each brick, each stone, has to be fit into place by hand. It is hard work, difficult work, and even dangerous work.
F We don't dare to say that serving the Lord is an easy thing to do. Because it isn't. Like the bike ride to Monterey, the Christian life and Church Office isn't downhill all the way. They require work, hard work, lots of work. And it even involves suffering. Each day involves struggle, spiritual warfare, and hard discipline. Yes, as Paul puts in Ephesians, we are "strong in the Lord and in his mighty power" (Eph 6:10). Victory is assured. But we do the fighting. And we do so with the combative energy of the soldier, the competitive attitude of the athlete, the hard-working spirit of the farmer, and the strenuous effort of the bricklayer.
II A Great Prize
A Those engaged in the Lord's work and service can expect more than hardship and hard work. They can also expect a reward. So Paul writes in verse 12, "if we endure, we will also reign with him" (2 Tim 2:12). A reward comes to those who endure trial and tribulation in their service to Jesus.
Again, we can return to the image of the soldier, athlete, farmer, and workman. The soldier completes his mission -- mission accomplished. The athlete wins the victor's crown. The farmer enjoys a bountiful harvest. The bricklayer completes a building project. Similarly, those who persevere in their devotion to Christ will inherit a great prize.
B Paul uses Jesus as a real-life example of what he is saying. "Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David" (2 Tim 2:8). Jesus is descended from David. Paul is emphasizing His humanity and all the suffering that went along with it, especially His death upon the cross. But Christ remained faithful to the end. Not once did He waver from the Father's mission to save the lost. As Hebrews puts it, He "endured the cross, scorning its shame" (Heb 12:2). But this suffering was not in vain because He was "raised from the dead."
The conclusion we are to draw from this: Jesus' suffering did not last forever and neither will ours; Jesus was rewarded with life and glory and we will be too. I like how Hebrews puts this:
(Heb 12:2) Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.Let us fix our eyes on Jesus. Let us remember Jesus. What happened to Him will happen to all those who are engaged in the Lord's work and service.
C Paul also points to himself as an example of this. In his work and service of the Lord he is "suffering, even to the point of being chained like a criminal" (2 Tim 2:9). I read earlier his description of his sufferings: lashes, stoning, shipwreck, and so on. The powers of this dark world and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms have tried their best to silence the apostle. But all his suffering is not in vain. Because the Word of God cannot be chained. In fact, Paul's chains somehow serve to advance the Gospel and results in the salvation of the elect.
What happened to Paul also happens to all those who faithfully do the work and service of the Lord. Our work is not in vain. Our work does not go unnoticed. The Lord -- out of grace -- gives us far more than we deserve.
(2 Tim 2:11-12) Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; (12) if we endure, we will also reign with him.
D It is a two-fold promise that we are given. First, we are promised life -- resurrection life in the future and power over sin in the present. Second, we are promised a crown and a throne -- we will reign with Jesus. We will rule alongside the Messiah and play a part in judging even the angels (1 Cor 6:3; Rev 20:4-6).
"Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus" (2 Tim 2:3). Christian life and service is not easy. It is not like a downhill bike ride to Monterey.
So, I want to encourage you congregation as you live the Christian life and I want to encourage you brothers as you take up or continue your service as elders and deacons to faithfully do your work. I want to encourage you to remember the soldier. Remember the athlete. Remember the farmer. Remember the workman. Remember Paul. But, especially, remember Jesus Who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
But now a word of warning for all of us: "If we disown him, he will also disown us" (2 Tim 2:12).
Paul ends this thought with a reminder that God remains faithful to us even when we are faithless:
(2 Tim 2:13) if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.However, those who know the Lord and do His work do not take advantage of His faithfulness. They remember His warning and work hard like the soldier, athlete, farmer, and workman.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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