In this modern society that we live in, people can be rather impatient. After all, we have come to expect things to move quickly. Therefore, if anything slows down unexpectedly, we get impatient and angry. We expect the food to arrive quickly; we expect the internet to not lag; we expect the train to never breakdown. However, such impatience will do us no good in our Christian walk with God. We know that the Christian walk requires endurance; we cannot demand instant blessings from God. Unfortunately, many have fallen by the wayside because they grew weary and gave up waiting upon God. In 2 Timothy 2:3-6, the apostle Paul had 3 important pictures to present to Timothy, to demonstrate to him the importance of endurance.
“Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier” (2 Timothy 2:3-4)
As soldiers of Christ, we need to “endure hardness.” Soldiers have to endure rigorous military training, just like those who enlist in the National Service. Such training is not pleasant, but it is necessary so that they are prepared for the demands of war. Unfit and ill-equipped soldiers will not win any wars. Christians are not involved in a war of guns and bombs, but we are involved in a spiritual war against Satan and his forces (Ephesians 6:12). In this war, we have to endure daily trial and temptation (1 Peter 5:8). Therefore, we have to undergo the necessary spiritual training, so that we can endure and win against Satan (2 Timothy 2:15).
As soldiers of Christ, we need also to be focused, and not to be “entangled with the affairs of this life.” The Roman soldiers in the first century were not allowed to own businesses, farms or vineyards, because it was deemed to be a distraction from their military vocation. We can imagine that soldiers deployed to the Middle East for war must be focused on their vocation; they cannot simply return home anytime to attend to other businesses. Christians have to be focused on our Christian vocation. We have been called out of the world to be God’s people (John 15:19; 1 Peter 2:9). However, we can be distracted by worldly things, and forget our primary vocation (Matthew 13:22; 2 Timothy 4:10). Jesus calls us to make a stand, and choose who we serve (Matthew 6:24).
“And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully” (2 Timothy 2:5)
Like sportsmen and athletes, Christians need to “strive.” Athletes need to strive and endure in order to win the prize. Running a marathon is no walk in the park; it takes much effort to run, and it takes even more effort to obtain the winner’s crown. In order to prepare themselves to run and win the race, athletes have to undergo strict and vigorous training. The Christian journey is likened to a long race (Hebrews 12:1). Like athletes, Christians have to strive in order to obtain the prize (1 Corinthians 9:24). Like athletes, we need to be disciplined in all things, so that we can obtain the incorruptible crown (1 Corinthians 9:25).
Like sportsmen and athletes, Christians need to “strive lawfully.” Athletes have to abide by the rules while competing; those who violate the rules will be disqualified. There have been those who had their medals stripped because they had been discovered to have used banned substances during the race. Christians too have to abide by the rules in the Christian race. We cannot simply bypass God’s commandments and jump straight into Heaven. Sin can cause us to be disqualified (Isaiah 59:1-2). We need to discipline ourselves in this race, so that we can abide by the rules and not be disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:27).
“The husbandman that laboureth must be first partaker of the fruits” (2 Timothy 2:6)
Like sowers and farmers, Christians must “labour.” Farming is hard labour. Farmers have to cultivate the fields for months in anticipation of the harvest. Often, the farmers only enjoy the harvest once or twice a year, depending on the type of crop. Christians likewise need to labour patiently in anticipation of the harvest. We labour to produce the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22); we labour to produce fruit of souls (Romans 1:13). Such fruit do not appear overnight; they are produced through patient effort.
Like sowers and farmers, Christians are “first partaker of the fruits.” The farmer deserves to eat the fruit and enjoy the reward of his labour. However, those who are lazy will not be able to produce or eat anything. It is the hard-working farmer that deserves to eat the fruit. The Lord’s labourers likewise deserve to eat the fruit of their labour. However, to obtain the deserved fruit, we must labour patiently.
Soldier, Sportsman, Sower
The Christian journey is a long journey: it is a long-drawn-out warfare; it is a long-distance race; it is a long period of cultivation before the harvest. Therefore, we need to learn endurance. We need to endure as good soldiers of Christ. We need to run this Christian race. We need to labour in the vineyard till we receive the harvest. Let’s endure.