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. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. —2 Timothy 2:3–6 (ESV)
This letter is written to a younger pastor, Timothy, by his mentor, the Apostle Paul. Paul had worked with Timothy in the past and now writes to him to encourage and instruct him. We gather from the letter that Timothy is somewhat timid, perhaps lacking the confidence and fortitude he needed in a tough ministry situation.
In today’s text, Paul uses three illustrations to encourage and challenge Timothy. First is the image of a soldier. Paul says, “Suffer hardship with me as good soldier of Christ Jesus.” He explains that a soldier is focused on his duty, not entangled with daily life. Second, Paul pictures an athlete, reminding Timothy that such a person is only crowned when competing according to the rules. This may imply the discipline required to train, not unlike the soldier. Finally is the image of a hardworking farmer who enjoys the fruits of his labor.
Paul tells Timothy to be brave, willing to suffer, disciplined, and hardworking in the task to which God has called him. Of these qualities, consider which one (or ones) God might want you to pursue in the coming weeks as you fulfill your calling. And pursue it with confidence, knowing that God—not just any person—has called you, and He is able to give you exactly what you need to discharge your duties as a good soldier.