Be strong, Devotional Commentary for September 15-21
This is the Word of God. May the Spirit of Truth give us wisdom and insight to receive what has been conveyed through His Word by His Inspiration.
1You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
2And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
In last week's meditation, we highlighted two particular points which Paul emphasized in his exhortations to Timothy. He told him to hold on to what he was taught and to keep the good thing committed to his care. In other words, Paul urged Timothy to be faithful to the true doctrine of the Gospel and to guard the truth. It was clear to Paul that such matters cannot be attained by the sheer persistence of the will.
But it is in this context of godly counsel that Paul continued to urge Timothy to be strong in the Grace of Jesus Christ. It was necessary for Timothy to stand his ground and remain firm and steadfast in his faith in light of the people's mixed reaction to the Gospel. Some like the people in Asia stood in opposition while others such as the household of Onesiphorus believed.
Drawing from his own experience, Paul strongly urged Timothy to look to God's all-sufficient Grace for his strength, lest he should be discouraged by the unbelief of some or the negative influences of others. So Paul told Timothy to remove his focus from himself and his shortcomings, and place it upon Jesus Christ by Whose Grace God's Will would be accomplished in him.
Timothy needed God's Grace not only to lead and to teach, but also to have the wisdom to identify faithful men to whom he would pass the sound doctrine he learned and the true teaching of the Gospel. Timothy was charged to preserve the truth and teach the sound doctrine of the Gospel. He was instructed to hand down what he learned and preserved to competent and reliable men who would pass the truth to others. Paul conveyed to Timothy what was given to him by the Holy Spirit and asked him to pass the same truth to faithful men who would teach it to others. In this way, the true Gospel would be preserved and shared from one generation to the next, unadulterated.
3You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
4No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.
5And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.
6The hardworking farmer must be first to partake of the crops.
7Consider what I say, and may the Lord give you understanding in all things.
Paul expounded his instructions to Timothy by using three vivid metaphors to illustrate his point: the soldier, the athlete, and the farmer. He underscored the dedication of the soldier, the endurance of the athlete, and the perseverance of the farmer as invaluable qualities to be emulated by the Christian. Timothy was called to be like a soldier, an athlete, and a hard working farmer in his service to God.
The soldier is a dedicated man. He takes risks, accepts hardships, faces consequences, and focuses on the mission at hand. The soldier operates at the command and pleasure of the officer in charge. The soldier is neither distracted by the noise around him nor by the desire to indulge in the easy things of life. So Paul reminded Timothy that he was a soldier in the Lord's army: dedicated, focused, obedient to his Master, and, ready and willing to take on suffering if necessary.
Every competitive athletic event has its rules. Athletes must abide by the rules of the game in order to compete and have the potential to win the prize. Each athlete must run the course from start to finish and play by the rules. Every athlete who has his or her eyes on the trophy must endure to the end. Like the winning athlete, Timothy must abide by the rules of his calling and endure to the end with a sacred determination to finish the course both in his Christian life and in his Christian service.
Unlike the athlete, the hard working farmer has nothing glamorous or showy except his skill, the plough, and his sweat. Especially those farmers who do not have the benefits of mechanized farming, put their hands to the plough and never look back. They know that the harvest could only come if they persevere through their hard and toilsome work. Hard work is not only essential to good farming, but also indispensable for the promises of good harvest, which would be the rewards of the farmer's hardwork. So said the itinerant missionary to Timothy, he must be relentless in his labor for the Gospel in the world where the field of lost souls is ripe unto harvest.
The soldier has his dedication and focus, the athlete his endurance and discipline, the farmer his hard work and hope; but the Christian needs the dedication and focus of the soldier, the endurance and discipline of the athlete, the hard work and hope of the farmer, as well as his own faithfulness, commitment, diligence, and courage. Paul impelled Timothy to seriously consider what he taught him as the Holy Spirit gave him understanding. "You therefore, my son," said Paul to Timothy, "be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus", for the task at hand is the work of God.
Two major points mark Paul's exhortation to Timothy in the text at hand. Timothy must be strong, and he must have understanding.
Paul's instructions to Timothy continued to be more definitive and forceful as he gradually carried on his explanations of the ministerial landscape of his commission. The closing verses of the first chapter of his second letter to Timothy expose the people's varied responses to the message of the Gospel. Some oppose while others receive the Good News with gladness. Still others remain indifferent while many more are puzzled. Some are vengeful while a few reflect a sympathetic attitude.
That is why Paul exhorted his son in the Spirit to be strong: strong in Grace which is in Jesus Christ. He did not want Timothy to be discouraged by the lack of a greater response to his ministry. He did not want Timothy's expectations to be quashed by what might appear to be a diminished return. He did not want him to be devastated by the resistance he might face as he preached the Gospel. He wanted him to grow up spiritually and find his strength and wisdom in Jesus Christ. He wanted to wean him from the shadows of his childhood faith and from his dependence on his mentor.
Even though it is filled with lost souls needing God's merciful redemption, the animosity of the world to the things of God is not hidden from Timothy. Hence, as a minister of the Gospel, he needed to be strong in Christ and have the focus and attributes of a dedicated soldier, a winning athlete, and a hardworking farmer. Timothy's youth and inexperience should not be used as an excuse for noncommittal, but should be all-the-more the impetus for a persevering devotion to live for Christ and to serve God.
Paul's exhortations to Timothy were not issued as a command to be performed. He urged Timothy to diligently consider his admonitions and capture the essence of what he was taught. However, this understanding is not a simple intellectual grasp of what is said. Neither is it a commonplace familiarity with what is disclosed. It is a surpassing discernment comprised of human diligence and divine revelation.
While it is absolutely true that the Holy Spirit leads the redeemed into all truths, God's children must exercise unfeigned diligence in their search of what is revealed by the Holy Spirit. While it is the Spirit Who gives wisdom, knowledge, and understanding, the Christian must respond with utmost appreciation of what is perceived through diligent comprehension. Simply put, a wholesome discernment occurs when the child of God reflects on what is revealed and diligently applies the faculties of a renewed mind to the revealed truth.
What is granted must be received. What is illuminated must be perceived. What is graciously and actively imparted must be received humbly and enthusiastically. The Christian perceives as God grants understanding. So were the words of Paul to Timothy and every believer across the ages: be strong in the Grace of Christ and have understanding by the Spirit of Truth, for divine illumination triggers diligent study and godly understanding. God's strength is perfected in our weakness and His wisdom is given abundantly.