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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Following the Master

2 Timothy 2:1-13
In reading this letter from Paul, we must remember it is probably his last letter before his martyrdom. He was a prisoner in Rome and was writing to his “son in the Lord.” Timothy had walked with him as Paul spread the Gospel westward. Timothy learned how to preach the gospel, how to train men and women to become mature in the faith, and how to rely on God for everything knowing his future is secure in the kingdom of God. Many times Paul stated he endured suffering so others would not suffer and so others could hear of the love of God brought to them through Jesus Christ. Paul is reminding and exhorting Timothy and those others who read this epistle to stand strong, to run the race, and to keep spreading the Word.
From verse 1, we hear Paul’s adamant statement that Timothy must continue to be strong. He is giving Timothy a reason to stand strong; he is reminding Timothy why. This “why” was spoken of in chapter 1. Timothy is to stand strong because Jesus has saved him and called him. Paul is telling Timothy things he had listened to before in Ephesus, “be strong in the Lord and the strength of His might” (Ephesians 6:10 NASB). He is not telling Timothy to be strong in his own power; Paul is telling him to be strong in the strength of God’s might. This is the God who created everything and who beat Satan, beat death, and made a way for His children to return to Him. Nothing can sidetrack His plans; He is God! Remember, that is what Paul is telling him. Paul continues this verse by saying, you, Timothy, can be strong; Jesus Christ’s grace enables you to be strong. You did not earn Jesus’ favor, but He has given it to you because of who He is and what He has done. Paul says to stand strong.
Paul continues to mentor Timothy by saying, do not just stand strong but also tell, convince, and teach what you have learned about Jesus to many witnesses. Set forth this teaching to others who will exhort and teach it to others. As you, Timothy, are preaching, keep your spiritual eyes open for the ones with whom you are to go the extra mile, to teach and disciple in depth so, they, too, can exhort, teach, and pass on the gospel. Paul says to preach, teach, and explain.
Paul makes sure to remind Timothy that while he is standing strong and preaching, teaching, and explaining, he will suffer hardships, too. Paul encourages Timothy not to shrink back from them and recant his faith but to stand strong and consider himself a soldier for the cause of Jesus. He tells him to suffer these troubles as a commendable soldier of Christ. If Jesus did not escape suffering, we who chose to die with Him will also experience hardships in this world. Paul says to remember a soldier receives his payments and just rewards from the one for whom he works. Therefore, if you work for Christ and let Him guide you in that work, He pays you with a currency that can never corrode, rust, or fade away. Jesus pays you with eternal life. Paul says to suffer hardships with him for Christ.
Timothy is familiar with Roman and Greek culture. He had a Greek Father and a Jewish mother and grandmother. Timothy walked with Paul throughout the Roman Empire. He saw soldiers, athletes, and farmers. Paul begins his discourse with a strong negative, as in, you would not be a strong soldier if you did these things. By saying this negative, he is implying Timothy will be a strong soldier, athlete, and farmer, people who work for Christ. An active soldier, like the Roman soldiers, he says, is hired to obey his commander and not become encumbered by everyday dilemmas and affairs. This soldier does not become entangled in everyday life, which would remove him or distract him from his work. The soldier is told what to do, what to eat, where to go, and when to sleep. He is trained, discipled, as Paul means to convey, to be a warrior for his commander and emperor. No soldier for Christ should become so entangled in everyday affairs that their attentions are removed from Christ and His work. Paul tells Timothy to follow his commander, his Master.
The second example Paul gives is of an athlete. Timothy, being half-Greek and having walked a part of the Roman Empire, has seen athletes. Athletes are not given to excess. They train their bodies to endure and to push on to reach a goal or prize. These trained athletes know they must compete following prescribed rules or be disqualified. Their prize is a wreath made of leaves or a trophy or another day of life. Paul speaks of this in 1 Corinthians 9:25 when he says, “Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They, then, do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable” (NASB). Paul is telling Timothy he must be his own trainer. Timothy must take control of what he reads, hears, and does. He must push on for Christ, for the prize. Timothy can choose to be average or lazy and not prepare himself for the coming days and, therefore, not be strong and endure for his chosen Lord, Jesus Christ. Alternatively, he can have self-control and self-discipline and become a strong cedar that will never fall even in the face of long, hard days of ministry, persecution, or death. Paul tells Timothy to strive for the glory of Christ and to win the crown of glory, the imperishable crown, eternal life with Christ. Paul tells Timothy to train, become strong, and endure.
The third example Paul gives Timothy is of a farmer. A farmer’s life is not easy. He has long hours and he does all the work, plowing, sowing, weeding, watering, and harvesting. Sometimes he takes on workers, trains and leads them, so they will be good workers for him. Sometimes they become such good workers they can strike out on their own and become farmers, too. This farmer analogy can be compared to the vinedresser, God, who calls us, waters and feeds us, and protects us so we can become farmers. Paul is telling Timothy he has become that farmer, too. It is his duty to plow and sow, water and feed, and then to harvest and spread the seed more from those seeds, which have matured under his care. Timothy is to train up others who train up others, to multiply, so all people can be informed and know Christ and His gospel. Paul reminds Timothy what he will reap is not just more fruit, which will bear more fruit; he will reap eternal life. Timothy has become a partner in the sharing of the crop, the message. Now he must spread the word through his seed, his fruit. Paul tells Timothy do not grow weary, work and bear reproducing fruit.
Paul now stops Timothy and says think on these things, consider them and make them a part of you. Stand strong, endure and persevere with hope. You are under a commander, Christ Jesus, but you are also to discipline yourself for the task like an athlete. Not only that, you are to plant, sow, and reap for the eternal granary. See how you have gone from being mastered, to mastering yourself, to being master and training others. Train up others to do likewise and command them to continue this cycle of learning, believing, growing, sowing, and harvesting. Multiply for the kingdom.
As final considerations, Paul wants Timothy to think upon and ponder what Paul has said and what he is saying for the Lord. Paul reminds Timothy to ask God to give him understanding in all things. Paul knows he will not be around for much longer and he wants to remind Timothy to ask the Lord for understanding in everything. He tells Timothy to seek the Lord’s knowledge, wisdom, and understanding in every matter. Let Him be his mentor and master now and always. He tells Timothy to hold in his memory and call to mind what he, Paul, has been told, considered, and found to be true, that Jesus Christ, the One who is risen from the dead, who is a descendent of David, is not just affirmed in history but in the gospels. His message is the gospel. He is why Paul willingly suffers hardships and afflictions, even to being considered a trouble to the government, even to imprisonment. On the other hand, remember, the Word of God, Jesus Christ, cannot be imprisoned. He has proven nothing can take Him as a prisoner when He beat death and rose from the grave.
Paul perseveres for this reason, with hope in good and bad times, because of the hope of eternal life with Jesus Christ. It is because of those, whom God has chosen to be His children, Paul endures, so they may listen to, reach for, and attain salvation, deliverance from evil now and forever, through Christ, and so they may obtain eternal glory. Paul has often spoken in this manner and Timothy has without doubt taken notice of it. Paul wanted to say it again for Timothy, his “son.” “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions” (Colossians 1:24 NASB). Paul suffers with rejoicing and he wants to remind Timothy he continues to rejoice even knowing this imprisonment will end with his death. Paul’s suffering has been for eternal good and glory so others could acquire a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Paul tells Timothy to rejoice in suffering for Christ so others may come to Him.
Paul ends with four conditional statements. These “if, then” statements show our humanity juxtaposed to God’s divinity. Paul tells Timothy this teaching he and you can trust; listen well and know with a deep heart knowledge. 
If we died with Him, gave up our old ways and died to them,
Then we will live with Him forever. 
If we endure for Him, persevere with hope,
Then we will reign with Him, we will live in blessedness with Him. 
If we deny Him, turn our backs on and reject Him,
He will deny us also. 
If we are faithless to Him, if we deny and betray him,
He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself. 
Humanity without God is dead, without hope, and rebellious. We are sinful and have no hope beyond earth without Him. God is deity, not a man who sins and needs repentance. He is not unfaithful, for that is against His nature, His being. Our rebellion and unfaithfulness breaks His heart. The greatest juxtaposition ever is that God is God (I AM) and we are just humans, created by I AM.
Paul, in summation, told Timothy, several things, which boils down to being a disciple of Christ. He starts with three physical actions for Timothy to take, be strong, teach and explain the gospel, and endure suffering. Paul said to do these things as a soldier, athlete, and as a farmer for Christ, obeying, strengthening, and harvesting for Him. Paul then tells Timothy to do two mental actions, think upon, consider what I taught you, and remember Jesus Christ and His love for you and His chosen ones. Paul says to remember this is for whom I suffer hardship as a criminal; the gospel cannot be chained or bound. The gospel will be spread whether we suffer and die or whether we live in freedom. In addition, this is why he has endured in everything, bad and good, so the chosen children will obtain salvation and eternal glory. Is that not enough to make enduring persecution a reason to rejoice and live?
            Finally, Paul says, “It is a trustworthy statement for if we die with Him, we will also live with Him…” (vs.11, NASB) This teaching we can rely upon with our full trust; Jesus is the Christ who died for our sins and rose again so we could have eternal life and live with Him forever in His kingdom. This is enough for which to die. Since that is so, eternal life with Christ is reason enough for which to tell others and risk being slandered, persecuted, tormented, or killed. Paul tells Timothy this letter is probably his last word to Timothy before his death, but his momentary persecution and death will have been worth it if even a few people come to know Christ and gain eternal life with Him. Rejoice at their understanding and acceptance. Keep standing strong and teaching others so Jesus may be proclaimed, accepted, and glorified through you, whether in life or death. Endure, persevere with hope, knowing Jesus has won and through Him, you have victory. God is faithful.
What is your response to Jesus?
What is your response to His calling on your life?