2 Timothy 2:1-6 Believers who are faithful to the gospel will be first to enjoy the reward
1 You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. 3 Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier. 5 Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules. 6 The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops. 7 Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.
Paul instructs Timothy to invest his resources into discipling worthy and faithful men. And He provides three virtues towards an enduring and effective ministry: The minister must be focused on kingdom’s agenda while denying his own. He must build on the fundamentals and not attempt to fast track the growth of the ministry. If he maintains vigilance and diligence, he will be first to enjoy the reward. Today’s devotion teaches: Believers who are faithful to the gospel will be first to enjoy the reward.
You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
Drawing upon Paul’s unashamed resolve to stand for the truth and God’s mercy displayed through the likes of Onesiphorus, He urges Timothy to be strong in the grace of God. This mission requires divine strength which only God can provide. Thus, Timothy has to discipline himself to draw from the reservoir of divine grace and never to venture beyond the limits of God’s will.
Entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
Paul instructs Timothy in matters that concern discipleship and church growth. First, he has to identify faithful men, and not just any men. But those who are faithful to the truth, so that the treasure of the gospel may be passed on unaltered to future generations. Regrettably, many are faithful to the task of evangelism, but not to the integrity of the gospel message. Nevertheless, the propagation of the true gospel hangs entirely on the faithfulness of the disciples.
Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.
Paul teaches the importance of maintaining focus on the kingdom’s agenda while denying his own. He uses the analogy of a soldier; the soldier lives to obey the instructions of his commander, while a civilian lives to fulfil his personal aspirations. As the soldier gives his life for the kingdom’s sake, he calls Timothy to do the same. Thus, he must not mix kingdom and personal agenda, or entangle himself in relationships or in financial commitments that distract, and prevent him from fully committing to his work.
Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules.
Next, Paul employs the athlete and emphasises the importance of discharging his mission according to the rules. In the process of establishing the church, he must never deviate from the principles lest he be disqualified. The principles that Paul mentioned are:
- Retain the standard of sound words, which is to maintain the integrity of the gospel by studying the word diligently and teaching it accurately.
- Be loyal to one’s leadership and standby them.
- Identify men who are loyal and principled. Disciple them and train them adequately so that they are qualified to be teachers.
- Do not be tainted by the darkness of the world. Maintain personal purity in private and in public.
The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops.
The farmer, in looking to a bountiful harvest must keep up the hard-work regardless of dire circumstances. Here, by using the analogy of a farmer, Paul encourages Timothy to be focused on the fundamentals of kingdom building. Timothy must be vigilant to operate not by his human instincts but by the Spirit. Especially in the face of toil and stress, one tends to listen to his human senses rather than to the Spirit. In the same token, Paul also incentivises Timothy with the promise of reward. Indeed, as the diligent farmer gets to be the first to enjoy a bountiful harvest, and so will the hard-working minister.
Those who are loyal and who serve out of goodwill make fitting disciples
Paul instructs Timothy to disciple faithful men who will be able to teach others also. This applies not only to Christian ministries but also to all organisations. Many churches and organisations today are populated by disciples who should not be made disciples. As a result, when these errant disciples rise to leadership they contribute to many of the organisations’ problems. Thus, Paul expressly instructs Timothy to entrust the work of the gospel to faithful men who are qualified to take on the leadership role: able to teach others also. And before they are given a place of prominence, they have to be proven over a period of time as worthy of the call. Faithful men must be proven of the following:
a. To be faithful is to be loyal to the leadership. Jesus chided the crowd who followed Him because they saw His popularity and the power that He possessed. Then He drew attention to the cost of following Him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head.” Luke 9:58. Jesus foresaw that many would leave Him when they realised the true rigours of discipleship. For many had come with selfish ambitions and misplaced expectations. Their chief intent is not to contribute to the organisation but to benefit themselves.
b. To be faithful is to be true to scripture in conviction and actions. Paul describes the world as it approaches the last days, “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money,… holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power.” (2 Timothy 3:1,2,5). But faithful men will stay true to the principles of the gospel despite tribulations and temptations. Before they ascend to leadership, they must be proven as salt and light first to their family, to their community and then to the world.
Therefore, believers must evaluate themselves if they are fitting disciples for their church or organisation. Leaders must not be impatient in wanting to grow the numbers but wait for faithful men to arise. Membership size do not contribute to the advancement of God’s kingdom, but faithful men do. Unfortunately, today’s churches are filled with people looking for blessings, and an acceptable Christian culture. However, the world cannot be changed by the lure of blessing or by Christian culture.
Fearing God and pleasing Him are the distinctive of a true disciple.
Paul instructs Timothy not to allow his private affairs to distract or hinder the gospel work so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier. And the one who enlisted him is none other than God Himself. The agenda of God’s kingdom ranks above all agendas. Paul cites the desire to please God as the motivation for all his endeavours. Why is the virtue of pleasing God of utmost importance to Paul? The reason being that God is the supreme Creator, infinitely wise, loving and powerful. And man as mere creatures must fear Him, and love Him with all his heart, soul, mind and strength (see Luke 10:27).
Here, Paul does not attempt to remind Timothy to please God; he assumes the fear of God is inherent within him. As the desire to please God is the foundation to eternal life, without it, one’s life’s work will come to nothing. That is why it is extremely important for disciple makers to select candidates who fear God, who desire to please Him in all their endeavours. Lest our efforts (in discipling them) come to nothing because they act out of their selfish ambitions. Therefore, let us be discerning and choose our disciples carefully.
The church must not be hasty in growing numbers, but build strong fundamentals
Athletes who do not follow the rules are those who take short cuts, cut corners, and have no respect for the sport. And such will be disqualified from the competition. Here, Paul warns church leaders who are not led by the principles of the word, for such are selfishly ambitious no matter how noble their causes may be. For their ministries will not endure even though they may seem to thrive for a moment. Jesus and Paul showed us the rules to a fruitful and enduring ministry:
Salvation only by faith – Both Jesus and Paul preached faith: righteousness and reconciliation with God, as the entrance to God’s kingdom. Paul said, “The righteous shall live by faith.” (see Romans 1:17). Without continual repentance by turning from self-centred living to god-centred living, the work of the cross yields no forgiveness for them. Unfortunately, the church has made material blessing and escape from hell the motivation to convert to Christianity. As a result, many remained outside God’s kingdom. Such are “saved” by works; they supposed by reciting the sinner’s prayer and going through water baptism they are saved regardless of their behaviour. Regrettably, the church is populated by such people who are no different from idol worshipers looking for blessings and a cheap means of exoneration for their crimes.
Personal growth – Jesus grew in wisdom and stature. Paul was given divine revelations through which he grew and taught the churches. Many of today’s pastors do not pay attention to their personal growth. They are busy shoring up their personal profile by building and naming ministries after themselves. As a result, they are shallow and are no different from owners of private businesses. Many cannot hear God, they see and discern with their eyes but not by the Spirit. Because they are not used to sanctifying their hearts, they have no knowledge or discernment. Because they lack discernment, authority over the angels and the elements are not entrusted to them.
Discipleship – Jesus and Paul chose their disciples and taught them by the very testimony of their lives. The pastors of today’s churches are too busy running programmes and attending meetings, they neglect the ministry of discipleship. On one hand, they lack conviction of the word, for they merely regurgitate what has been passed down to them. On the other hand, they lack discernment and recruited into leadership many who are not adequately discipled. Their discipleship programmes are built on training manuals as opposed to regular devotion to the word. Hence, they produce leaders that teach and disciple from their minds rather than convictions from their hearts. As a result, they produce disciples with man-made visions of church growth using evangelistic tactics but devoid of kingdom vision, divine wisdom and power.
Believers who are faithful to the values of the gospel will be first to enjoy the reward.
Jeremiah was instructed by God to purchase land ahead of the restoration of Israel (Jeremiah 32:6,14-15). Jesus promised the disciples as well as those who followed Him a place of prominence when He returns (Matthew 19:28). Lazarus, being a faithful follower of Jesus was rewarded by a resurrection (John 11:38-44). A barren Shunammite woman who served Elisha by setting aside a private room for him every time he passed by was healed of her barrenness (2 Kings 4:8-17). Indeed, God rewards those who are faithful to His cause ahead of the others. To be faithful to the gospel is to be kind and generous through good works, to be diligent and responsible in our work. Jesus said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ (Acts 20:35). What are the rewards that this material world cannot give? The reward that God gives enables believers to reflect the attributes of Christ and to rule creation with Him. With these rewards, we may prosper and be a blessing to the world. I will describe a few:
a. Eternal beauty and glory – Very much like a flower that blooms in the abundance of water and minerals, our hearts become enriched with many colours giving off fragrances in the spirit when we do the works of the gospel. This is apparent when we interact with God-fearing people… they have a certain glow around them which makes us feel safe, accepted and welcomed. On the other hand, there are those whose auras fan out like walls shutting themselves in, their eyes flaming with envy, anger and suspicion.
b. Wisdom and knowledge – This is represented by the spiritual gift: word of wisdom and knowledge (1 Corinthians 12:8). There is a difference between the gifts of wisdom and knowledge. The gift of the word of knowledge allows the believer to know things within his sphere of authority, from intimate details of people around him to the economic and moral conditions of the nation. Wisdom, on the other hand is divine guidance (pertaining to a situation) based on knowledge of future events that are unknown to the public. With divine wisdom, he counsels his flock in the way that they should go.
c. Authority over the element and the angels – God’s divine design is to subject all creation (including the angels) under the charge of man of which Jesus is the first. Hebrews 2:8 says concerning man,
“You have put all things in subjection under his feet.” For in subjecting all things to him, He left nothing that is not subject to him. But now we do not yet see all things subjected to him.” Hebrews 2:8
God will in time delegate a measure of authority not to all, but to those who are worthy. Such believers will become exceedingly effective in their prayers. Just like Elijah, whose prayers move the rain clouds and Moses, in parting the sea, they will become the channel through which God discharge His rule and blessing over humanity.
Do you consider yourself a disciple who is loyal to the leadership and true to the word? Be loyal to the leadership by supporting your leaders in your church and organisation. Pray for them and be sensitive to their needs. In so doing, you enable them to disciple you effectively and cause you to grow in wisdom and authority.
Are you being pressured to fast-track the growth of God’s kingdom or your organisation by short-circuiting the fundamentals? Whether as parent, manager or church leader, it is important to look first at your personal growth. Indeed, one cannot give what he has not received. And at the same time build discipline and character into your children, trainees and disciples. A healthy family, department or church will eventually bear fruit.
Are you focused on gifts and rewards as opposed to character and spirituality? Spiritual gifts and rewards cannot be acquired by human means or by training but by an anointing from heaven. Nevertheless, as we are found loyal to leadership and faithful to the tasks given to us, God will in His time reward us appropriately.
Dear Lord, make me a disciple who is worthy of your call. Cause me to be loyal to my church and true to your word. Cause me to grow in your likeness and reward me in your perfect time. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.