BCP Evensong : 24th October 2004 2 Tim. 2:1-7
2 Timothy 2:1 You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others. 3 Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs - he wants to please his commanding officer. 5 Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor's crown unless he competes according to the rules. 6 The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. 7 Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this.
"When I was a boy, my father, a baker, introduced me to the wonders of song," tenor Luciano Pavarotti relates. "He urged me to work very hard to develop my voice. Arrigo Pola, a professional tenor in my hometown of Modena, Italy, took me as a pupil. I also enrolled in a teachers college. On graduating, I asked my father, 'Shall I be a teacher or a singer?' "'Luciano,' my father replied, 'if you try to sit on two chairs, you will fall between them. For life, you must choose one chair.' "I chose one. It took seven years of study and frustration before I made my first professional appearance. It took another seven to reach the Metropolitan Opera. And now I think whether it's laying bricks, writing a book--whatever we choose--we should give ourselves to it. Commitment, that's the key. Choose one chair."
First and Second Timothy and Titus are called Pastoral Letters because they contain Paul's encouragement and instruction to Timothy and Titus, who were responsible for overseeing the churches in Ephesus and on Crete.
Timothy was the kind of person who in spite of his youth (1 Tim 4:12), his natural reserve and timidity (1 Cor 16:10; 2 Tim 1:7), and his frequent ailments (1 Tim 5:23), was willing to leave his home to accompany the apostle on dangerous journeys, to be sent on difficult errands, and to remain to the very end Christ's faithful servant.
Second Timothy, which was written from prison, is Paul's last known letter. In this letter, Paul encouraged Timothy to remain faithful in the face of increasing persecution and false teaching and to preach sound doctrine and live a godly life.
Paul reminds Timothy to be strong in the grace, or undeserved favour, found in Jesus. He then wants to safeguard the truth of the gospel in two ways. Firstly by entrusting Paul's teaching to
dependable men who will pass it on. Secondly, through Timothy continuing in his ministry of sharing the good news.
Three illustrations are used by Paul to make the point to Timothy that he is to persevere despite hardship and that those who persevere will be rewarded.
The first metaphor used is that of a soldier...
3 Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs - he wants to please his commanding officer.
The Christian life is a spiritual battle against evil. The job of the Christian is to be wholeheartedly committed to Jesus, our commanding officer. We must not be deflected from this by getting entangled, a more literal meaning, in other things which should be secondary. Paul's main point is made to those who are ministers of the gospel, but this does not mean that any other Christian can deduce that their commitment to Jesus should be less intense!
Jesus has already won victory on the cross over sin, death and the devil. We are involved in a "mopping up" operation. In Iraq victory was won some time ago yet there is still fighting. The devil and his followers are still fighting, even though they have no prospect of avoiding defeat.
The second picture is of an athlete.
5 Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor's crown unless he competes according to the rules.
It has been suggested that, at this time, athletes had to adhere to rules that included a training period of ten months before they entered a race. Elsewhere Paul uses the metaphor of an athlete employing self-discipline in order to win the prize (1 Cor. 9:24ff ).
This illustration cannot be pushed too far. In a race only one competitor obtains the first prize. In the Christian life all who persevere in following Jesus will get the same prize, the crown of life.
The final picture is one involving farming...
6 The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops.
Of course, Jesus used many agricultural parables to illustrate truths about God and His rule. The Christian, especially the Christian minister, must sow the "seed" of the gospel. This will involve preparing the ground, and maintaining the soil and the crop once it produces shoots.
We can sow seeds by praying for people and inviting them to one or more of the events on our prayer bookmarks. The next two are the Doyle Dykes Concert next Sunday from 6 p.m. at St. Martin's and the Memorial Service for bereaved people on Remembrance Sunday from 6 p.m. However, how ever hard a farmer works he/she is still dependent upon factors outside their control. The unknown nature of the seed and the unpredictability of the weather are two examples.
God's Spirit is unpredictable too ( John 3:8 ). We do not know when and how He will be at work. But we are called to work hard at sowing and leave the rest to God. Then we can look forward to the harvest, when Jesus will gather up all who have persevered in following Him and take them to be with God forever.
The Greeks had a race in their Olympic games that was unique. The winner was not the runner who finished first. It was the runner who finished with his torch still lit.