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LIVING FOR JESUS       2 TIMOTHY 2:3-7

           

            This morning, I want to pick up where we left off last week. If you were here last week, we were talking about how we were going to fulfill our mission statement: Reaching Sylacauga to love God and to others. The way we are going to do this is by teaching people to exalt the Savior (worship), equipping the saints (discipleship), and evangelizing the lost (witnessing). We spent the month of January talking about worship and this month we are talking about equipping the saints.

            So if you have your Bibles, I would like you to turn to the second chapter of the book of Timothy and the third verse. Let me read these verses to you and you follow along. In order for us to get into our text this morning, I want to quickly summarize of how we are to live for Jesus because the verses we are discussing today are connected to what we discussed last week.

            First, we examined the power for living the Christian life in verse 1. The power for being a successful Christian is understanding that we cannot serve Him in our own strength. We must be completely dependent upon Him and lean on the one who resides inside of us. His name is the Holy Spirit. I read in one sermon this week, that grace is not just the ticket to get us to heaven, but is the fuel for the journey. So it is through Christ help that we are guaranteed to be successful.

            Then we discussed the pictures for living the Christian life. Paul illustrates how we are to do this by giving us four portraits. The first was disciplining teacher. Even though Paul was talking to this young minister for the gospel to pass on the truths of God’s Word. We said it could be broadened to include spouses, parents, older and younger Christians, etc. Folks, I find that when I teach to more I am equipped to live the Christian life. Also, you retain what you learn and teach to others.

            This morning, I want us to continue looking at the pictures for living the Christian life. Before we look at the last three pictures, I want to show you that there is something common to all three. Paul said, in verse 3, share in the suffering. What Paul wanted Timothy to know is that there is going to be some suffering for living for Jesus. He didn’t try to sugar-coat Christianity by saying everyone is going to like you because you know Christ. He didn’t say everyone is going to accept your message because the want. The more politically correct we get in our society, the less tolerant people will be to the truth of God’s Word. Why? The reason is that people feel every truth is relevant and no one can say they have absolute truth.

            This suffering is not some disease you must endure or some surgery you might have to overcome. No, it is associated with knowing Christ and living for Christ. Later in this book Paul said, “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” As Christians, we are mocked, ridiculed, and insulted.

            In Christianity, there is a fellowship of suffering for the cause of Christ. In fact, Paul warned Timothy in 1:8 not to be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, but share in the suffering for the gospel. Now I realize that no one wants to hear this, but Jesus said, “In this world you will have troubles, but be of good cheer for I have overcome the world.” In other words, what Paul is saying is take your share of hardships.

            With this being said, let us move to the three illustrations that Paul gives Timothy. They are a dedicated soldier, a disciplined athlete, and a diligent farmer.

A DEDICATED SOLDIER – (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.

            One thing I believe is stated time and time again is that the Christian life is a battle because you are going against the grain of culture. The culture says one thing, but Christ instructs differently. In fact the Bible states that the Christian life is spiritual warfare. Paul in writing to the church at Ephesus wrote, “be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might” (6:10), he says, “Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm” (vv. 11–13). He admonished believers at Corinth about the offensive side of that battle, saying, “Though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses” (2 Cor. 10:3–4).

            Spiritual warfare is not fighting against flesh and blood, but against, Satan, the world, and the flesh. So Paul desires for Timothy to be a soldier in the army of God and not just a soldier who gives the minimum duty, but a good soldier who gives everything he has and got. Christianity is not a 9 to 5 job or sixty an hour work week. No, you are on duty 24/7. We can never let our guard down and must be alert and sober at all times.

Early in the 20th century, an ad in a London newspaper read: “Men wanted for hazardous journey: small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, and constant danger. Safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in case of success.” It was signed by the famous Arctic explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton and thousands of men responded.

Warren Weirsbe wrote, “If Jesus Christ had advertised for workers, the announcement might have read something like this: “Men and women wanted for difficult task of helping to build My church. You will often be misunderstood, even by those working with you. You will face constant attack from an invisible enemy. You may not see the results of your labor, and your full reward will not come till after all your work is completed. It may cost you your home, your ambitions, even your life.”

Paul was an honest recruiter who spelled out the dangers of following Christ. He was unlike many so-called recruiters for the Christian faith today.

A good soldier avoids entanglements. The word entangled means to weave or intertwine. Paul is not talking about those things that are wrong in themselves such as families, jobs, hobbies, sports or recreation. These are all good things, but if we are not careful they can be a distraction from seeking first the Kingdom of God. In other words, God is calling for wholehearted devotion to him.

Luke 9 gives three examples of people entangled in the things of this life and who thus could not follow our Lord.  One was concerned about his personal comfort (vv.  57-58).Another wanted his inheritance first (vv.  59-60).The third was unwilling to give himself wholeheartedly to Jesus as Lord (vv.  61-62). Their lives were interwoven with non-essentials.

Also, a good soldier aims to please his enlisting officer. Audie Murphy was an unlikely hero. Weighing in at only 112 pounds and with the face of a child, Audie was 18 years old when he went overseas during World War II. Nothing about him suggested a hero in the making. Yet when called upon by his commanding officers to do the duty of a soldier, Murphy held nothing back.

By war’s end, the quiet boy from Texas had fought with extraordinary bravery and saved the lives of countless fellow soldiers. He returned home to an adoring public, was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, and received at least 36 other medals—more than anyone else in U.S. history, all because nothing meant more to him as a soldier than the will of his commanding officer.

In the same way, Christians must understand that we cannot serve two masters. We know that human nature has the tendency to be a man-pleaser. We can be more concerned about pleasing our spouse or parents or neighbor or fellow-worker rather than pleasing the Lord. So Paul calls young Timothy to make sure his one purpose is to please Jesus in all that he does. Jesus said in John 8:29, “I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.” II Corinthians 5:9, Therefore we have as our ambition … to be pleasing to Him.

A DISCIPLINED ATHLETE – (5)

            An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.

            Here in America, people are suckers everyday for a quick and easy fix for their problem. For example, people take pills for weight loss rather than discipline themselves with exercise and a balanced diet. The quick rich schemes are numerous rather than the idea of having a good work ethic. People are always trying to find shortcuts.

            The tragedy is that the same mentality has crept into the church, where you have so-called preachers say get saved and have all things go well for you. It is that health and wealth gospel. You know the name and claim it, blab it and grab it.

            But Paul uses an excellent metaphor for living the Christian life. He took the analogy of an athlete, which we are all familiar with in our everyday life. We all know that an athlete does not win a competition by jogging a few laps and calling it quits. No, a true athlete disciplines his body for the event he competes in by proper exercise and diet and rest.

            The difference between first and second places in an athletic event is not always a matter of talent. As in the fable of the tortoise and the hare, a less gifted athlete often surpasses another who is physically superior and more experienced, simply by having greater determination and persistence.

            While watching a decathlon meet between the United States, Poland, and the U.S.S.R., I asked a friend, who was coaching the American team, to identify the best athlete among all those competitors. He pointed to a slender, lithe young man, and I asked, “Do you think he will win today?” Surprisingly, he answered, “No.” When I asked why, he pointed to another athlete and said, “He’s going to win, because he has the greatest determination, the strongest will to win. He is the most mentally tough competitor I have ever seen.” Sure enough, he did win that day. His name was Bruce Jenner, and two years later he won the Olympic gold medal in the decathlon, which ranked him as the greatest athlete in the world.

            Paul writes (1 Tim. 4:7), “discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.” You can wish for godliness, you can try magic remedies for godliness, but you won’t become godly apart from the daily discipline of making the time to spend in the Word and in prayer. There are no shortcuts.   

            Paul said that an athlete competes according to the rules. In the Greek games, which continued for centuries under Roman rule and were still being held in Paul’s time, every participant had to meet three qualifications—of birth, of training, and of competition. First, he had to be a true-born Greek. Second, he had to prepare at least ten months for the games and swear to that before a statue of Zeus. Third, he had to compete within the specific rules for a given event. To fail in any of those requirements meant automatic disqualification.

            The rules by which we can compete are the standards by which God has set forth in His word. In other words, the athlete does not invent the rules in which he will compete anymore than a Christian can invent their own rules for living the Christian life. Yet, many are trying to do so.

            Some want to call themselves Christian, but don't want anything to do with Christ's Church. Some want to call themselves Christian, but don't have any desire to curb the sin in their life. Some want to call themselves Christian, but have no desire to share their faith with anyone else. Some call themselves Christian, but think that giving 2% of their income is enough for the Lord's ministry. Christians are to be like athletes in the sense that we do not invent the rules of the competition--we follow them. Being a Christian means living according to the standards given in Scripture.

            Also, athletes compete to win; yet they strive for a wreath that is perishable. In using the analogy of an athlete, Paul asks the question, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. And 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. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified” (1 Cor. 9:24–27).

            As Paul emphasizes in that passage, the wreath (stephanos) for which the Greek athletes competed was perishable, but the one for which the spiritual Christian competes is imperishable. It is “the crown [stephanos] of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:8), “the unfading crown of glory” we will receive “when the Chief Shepherd appears” (1 Peter 5:4), “the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12; Rev. 2:10). One day, like the twenty-four elders, we “will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast [our] crowns before the throne” (Rev. 4:10).

A DILIGENT FARMER – (6)

            It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops.

            Finally, the farmer suffers because he is hard working and faithful in performing his duties. Farming is not just putting seed in the ground and then gathering the harvest. No, there is much preparation that goes into planting a crop. First, there must be the tilling of the soil to get it ready to receive the seed. Then there is constant gardening of keeping the weeds out so that the plants are unhindered from producing a good harvest. Then there is patient waiting and finally there is the gathering of the crop.

            Compared to the lives of the soldier and the athlete, the life of a farmer is rather boring. The soldier lives on the edge of life and death on the battlefield. The athlete has the thrill of the cheering crowd as he runs toward the goal. But the farmer works long and hard, plowing and planting, and goes home tired. About the most exciting thing he can see is, “The corn grew two inches last week!” Whoopee! Why does he do it? He is looking for the harvest.      

            Many Christians’ lives are like the farmer’s. Although there may be occasional times of excitement and special satisfaction, the daily routine is often, in itself, unattractive and unrewarding. But whatever their day-to-day responsibilities may involve, all faithful believers are promised God’s blessing and reward. We may be underpaid, treated unfairly by our boss or fellow employees, and misunderstood or unappreciated by fellow Christians. But Christ’s reward to His faithful disciples is never deficient, never unfair, never late, and never omitted.

            After he shares these observations, Paul writes, Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. This is very simple. There are all sorts of parallels he could draw concerning the Christian life. All sorts of observations Paul could make. He is saying to Timothy. Consider these three examples. Timothy, meditate on them. Make your own observations. As you do so, the Lord will open up to your understanding other dimensions of your life and ministry.

            There are here today those who by grace are ordering your affairs under the one great driving purpose of obedience in the pursuit of God’s call upon the totality of your life. These verses are given by the Holy Spirit to the encouragement and comfort of your souls. Barclay concludes his section on these verses like this : “One thing remains in all three pictures. The soldier is upheld by the thought of final victory. The athlete is upheld by the vision of the crown. The husbandman is upheld by the hope of the harvest. Each submits to the discipline and the toil for the sake of the glory which shall be. It is so with the Christian. The Christian struggle is not without a goal; it is always going somewhere. The Christian can be certain that after the effort of the Christian life, there comes the joy of heaven; and the greater the struggle, the greater the joy” (p.163).

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