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God wants us to be strong. Strong means “the ability to withstand great force or pressure.” It is to be rugged, stalwart and powerful. The opposite of strong is delicate, feeble, frail or weak. The apostle Paul commanded Timothy to be strong. “You then, my child, be strengthened in the grace that is in Christ Jesus….” (2 Timothy 2:1). Timothy was struggling in his ministry. Paul was about to die.
The aged apostle wrote 2 Timothy to encourage Timothy. The theme to 2 Timothy is, “The spiritual life is hand to hand combat.” Life is not easy! It is especially difficult to serve the Lord Jesus. In 2 Timothy 2:1-7 strength is found by building four character qualities into our lives.
First, we must be teachers. Verse 2 reads, “…and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” A teacher learns the truth and then communicates it to others. Paul taught the truth and gave it to Timothy. Timothy was to pass the truth down to others. We are part of a long line of godly men and women.
The spiritual battle is won or lost in the mind. In 324 BC Alexander the Great’s men mutinied at Opis, Mesopotamia. They were tired of conquering. Alexander delivered his greatest speech. He encouraged them to fight for glory, wealth and to prevent future attacks. He reminded them of the truth.
Spiritual strength is found in the Word of God. The Bible is compared to a hammer, a fire and a sword (Jeremiah 23: 29, Hebrews 4: 12). The only commodity the church possesses is the truth. We think God’s thoughts my meditating on the truth. We learn God’s Word and then pass it on to others.
Second, we must be soldiers. “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 (verses 3-4).” A soldier suffers hardship. A soldier is not entangled. A soldier pleases one person- his commanding officer.
The apostle Paul wrote from the Mamertine Prison. Even today this prison is one of the darkest and most bizarre places to visit in Rome. Political prisoners doomed for execution were kept there. A door offered access to Rome’s sewer system. The bodies of executed prisoners were probably thrown there.
Did Timothy endure hardness? Did he please the Lord Jesus? Yes! He went to prison for his faith. Several years after Paul’s death, the author of Hebrews wrote, “You should know that our brother Timothy has been released, with whom I shall see you if he comes soon” (Hebrews 13: 23). The Christians in Afghanistan are suffering. We must endure hardness.
Third, we must be athletes. Verse 5 says, “An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.” The Greeks were famous for their Olympic Games. A person trained for ten months for the games. We play by the rules found in God’s Word. We are sinners. God is holy. Jesus died for us. Salvation is found in Christ alone. His grace or unmerited favor makes all of this possible.
Fourth, we must be farmers. “It is the hard working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops.” It is more blessed to give than to receive. We receive the greatest blessing by serving the Lord Jesus.
My wife’s grandfather was a farmer in Iowa. Every Sunday morning before church he walked his fields and weeded. Much of a farmer’s life is hard work and drudgery. We must be faithful in the small things.
Paul finishes this section by writing, “Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything” (verse 7). Paul reminded Timothy that God had not given him a spirit of fear (chapter 1 verse 7). Nero’s persecution was vicious. Some in the Ephesian church rejected Timothy’s leadership. False teachers were powerful and sophisticated. Timothy felt overwhelmed.
Fear is not God’s way. Instead, we patiently trust God. Be a teacher. Be a soldier. Be an athlete. Be a farmer. Do it all for God’s glory and you will be able to withstand great force and great pressure.
Ethan Hansen is a pastor at Faith Bible Fellowship in Big Lake.
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