2 Timothy 2:3-7
3 Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in the concerns of civilian life; he seeks to please the commanding officer. 5 Also, if anyone competes as an athlete, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. 6 The hardworking farmer ought to be the first to get a share of the crops. 7 Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. — 2 Timothy 2:3-7
Images of Endurance in Leadership
by Matt Purdom
What images come to your mind when you think of ministry? Can you see yourself ministering in any of these pictures? Could you consider yourself on the front lines like a soldier who presses towards the enemy—tired, weary, but vigilant because of the clear mission set before you? Or could you consider yourself as an Olympic athlete—sweating and breathing heavily while competing for the gold against the world’s best opponents? Could you picture yourself as a farmer—working with your callused hands in the humid heat or in the mud and rain, from dawn till dusk, season after season, to produce a harvest that your community depends on in order to survive?
How do you visualize your enduring pursuit to live out and proclaim the gospel to people where you live, work and play? We all have points in our careers, dreams, and callings where we have reached the “end of our rope,” due to the enemy’s arsenal of weapons, our opponents’ peak performances, or the dry and difficult ground where we were planted to cultivate growth. A key question is this: how do we realize the gospel’s relevance for our endurance?
In 2 Timothy 2:3-7, the apostle Paul used three metaphors to encourage his son in the faith, Timothy, to endure the hardships of gospel ministry. Penning his letter from prison, Paul wrote, “And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, commit to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” Paul was passing on his mantle of ministry, and he felt Timothy needed encouragement for the endurance of the ministry of making disciples who were making disciples in the midst of people deserting the faith (2 Timothy 1:15).
Paul tells Timothy he should “share in suffering” those hardships or difficulties others have experienced in gospel ministry. He illustrates these hardships using metaphors that require faithful endurance. The first metaphor of the soldier introduces the enduring leadership quality of “single-mindedness.” This was demonstrated by first-century Roman soldiers, who would abstain from marriage and would enlist for twenty-five years or more of military service. Similarly, the athlete illustrates endurance by competing against his opponents, single-mindedly focused on the reward: a “perishable wreath” (1 Corinthians 9:25). Lastly, the farmer gives undivided attention to his crops, knowing he will receive the “first fruits” of his labor.
New Testament scholar Andreas Köstenberger summarizes this well. “The main point of Paul’s threefold illustration is that Timothy must be willing to pay the price and endure hardship in the ministry according to the principle, ‘no pain, no gain,’ remembering that ‘beyond warfare is victory, beyond athletic effort a prize, and beyond agricultural labour a crop.’”
- How you can put into practice Paul’s final instructions in verse 7: “Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything”? What sources of spiritual devotion provide you with the satisfying spiritual sustenance of grace? These might include prayer, Bible reading, scripture memory, listening to sermons or meeting with godly believers.
- What is your “pre-game” workout before you face-off with the competition? For me, I start my mornings with reading several chapters of scripture, journaling the ways the Holy Spirit applies them to my life. I conclude with prayer that God will use these truths in my life and in the lives of those whom He has placed along my journey.
- Over the next few days, begin to experiment with new spiritual rhythms to increase your endurance. I pray that you will be able to sustain or return to the joy of His grace and to your mission of making disciples who make disciples where you live, work and play.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Christian Standard Bible® and CSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.