Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Soldier, the Athlete, and the Farmer

 

You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier. And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. The hardworking farmer must be first to partake of the crops.” - 2 Timothy 2:3-6

Growing up in the country with a few cousins and friends nearby, on the rare occasion that we had enough to do it, we would gather in the field across from my house and play softball.  We would plan ahead, calling each other and asking a simple question, “Are you in or are you out?”  And if you said you were in, you were expected to be there, so we had enough to play.  Throwing jackets on the ground for bases, using an old split handled wooden bat and having no gloves, we would run bases through the uncut grass, and play for hours.  We weren’t equipped well, but we had passion for the game!  When we said we were in, we were in 100%!
Paul was somewhat of a coach to Timothy.  He was his mentor, and his accountability partner.  In 2 Timothy 2:3-6 Paul gives Timothy some advice about ministry.  We often hear the word ministry and think only of a church pastor, a “minister”.  But as Christians, we are all to be ministers.  Ministering to others is the action of a Christian.  It can be preaching, teaching, delivering meals to the hungry, visiting the sick, mentoring youth, and probably a thousand other ways.  And contrary to what the “repeat this prayer after me” or “sign this card” so-called ministries will lead you to believe, we are not saved to sit! We are saved to serve.  Paul describes ministry to Timothy using three secular occupations, a soldier, an athlete, and a farmer, as examples.

Of the soldier, Paul says “You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.”  Paul warns us that ministry isn’t easy.  It is FILLED with sacrifices.  A Roman soldier was not allowed to take on a secular job, unless it was not contrary to his calling to be a warrior.  He was to be available at all times for war.  Being a soldier was to be his primary task, job one, the thing he invested most of his time into. 

As a minister, you cannot love the world and its treasures.  In Matthew 6:24, Jesus tells His disciples, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” If you spend your time chasing after the treasures of the world, you will most likely miss the treasures of Heaven.  We all have jobs to do that pay our bills, but when the focus of your life becomes the job, the position, the power, and the growth in the company, you’ve started trying to serve two masters.  Jesus Himself says no one can do it. 
Of the athlete, Paul says “And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.”  An athlete trains, exercises, and prepares long and hard before competing.  He understands the ‘rules’, what it takes to succeed.  He takes time to warm up before the competition. 

A good minister takes the time to study and learn so they have something to offer.   There are ministries inside and outside our churches that are dying because their leaders have stopped taking the time to study and learn something new.  Without something new going in, they have nothing but stale words to give.  They lack inspiration, desire, and excitement for the ministry. 
2 Timothy 2:15 says “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. If you don’t take time to learn, you will have nothing to teach.  If you have nothing to teach, your ministry will die.

Of the farmer, Paul says “The hardworking farmer must be first to partake of the crops.  It’s interesting that Paul didn’t just refer to a farmer, but a hardworking farmer.  Anyone can grow a crop and harvest it.  But a hardworking farmer will check it before harvesting.  I remember many times, growing up on a corn farm, seeing my grandparents walk to the field, tear off an ear, and open it to see if it was growing well.  They were patient to keep tending the crop and waiting until the ears had developed fully before harvesting the crop. 
A good minister has to continually look at what they’re raising to see if it’s good or not.  Many ministries die with the leader because no successor has been raised.  A minister who does not look to find someone to inherit the ministry isn’t being a good steward of the work God has given him.  We are called to teach others so that they can teach others, not so they can swell like a ripe tomato on a vine till they burst!  Our ministries should not only grow a strong group of Christians, but make new Christians as well.

Ministry in all its forms has the greatest reward of all, and that is the favor of God.  But not all that minister will hear Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.” (Matthew 25:21) Not all ministers are “good and faithful” servants.  Many will never find the “joy of the lord” that comes from serving at all.
Children of God, I have one question for you.  Are you in or are you out? There’s no time to sit on the sidelines.  In Revelation 3:15-16, God says to the lukewarm church that has no desire or excitement to do His will, “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.God gets sick at our lack of desire to serve, and our contentment to ride a pew into Heaven.  Find your passion to serve, and you’ll find your ministry.  And when you find it, you’ll know the “joy of the lord” that only comes from working beside Him.

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