Disciplined Like A Soldier
Brethren, if we are to be faithful in the work of the ministry we must be intentionally focused on what Christ has called us to. There is no doubt that there are many different areas which could distract us. Our personal sin, laziness, or even an inability to properly prioritize can lead us to drift along instead of purposely pursing the path of Christ. Distractions abound around us in the form of social media, entertainment, and even the ideas of individuals could detract from the calling of Christ. We need to remain driven to see what He has called us to with clarity so that we can wisely steward our lives well for His glory. The Apostle Paul, knowing our need to remain intentionally focused, told Timothy:
“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.” -2 Timothy 2:3-4
A soldier who is on mission would not allow civilian affairs to distract him from his duty. While there is no doubt a time for rest and entertainment can be a gift of recreation from God, brothers, we must be driven to live as a good solider of Christ Jesus. It is ever so easy for us to be so caught up in that which does not matter. Do you and I neglect to visit someone simply because we spend too much time on Facebook? Are our families suffering because we do not prioritize them rightly? Are we really “too busy” for sermon preparation or are we simply too unorganized because we have lost vision of our calling to make the best use of the time? These are not accusations against my fellow ministers, but simply thought-provoking questions for us all (myself included) to constantly consider. We have a high and holy calling. Our lives are to be used in warfare for the glory of the great King who is Christ. Let us not be entangled, let us serve for the pleasure of the Lord who has enlisted us in His service.
Compete Like An Athlete
It is vital that we not only ensure we are fighting like a soldier but that we are focused on obeying the commandments given to us in Scripture. This is where Paul switches the metaphor to that of a competitive athlete:
“An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.” -2 Timothy 2:5
Whenever we talk about using our lives intentionally or fighting to remain driven like a soldier, these are not worldly analogies to be more like the self-help gurus of our secular culture. No, these are distinct calls to be biblical in every way, that is a pivotal distinction. We must not simply learn the best time management tips and tricks or try to figure out how to use the newest hack on social media. These can be good and helpful, but we have an ultimate calling, a foundational standard which is Scripture. Our goal is not merely self-growth, but to be conformed to Christ in very way. High-level athletes learn to compete hard. They are driven to train with a relentless work ethic, game day is where they fight to the end, and they seek to be constantly improving. No doubt, these are all admirable traits. Yet, we must point out that Paul specifically says that they compete according to the rules. It is possible to intentionally fight hard and yet disqualify yourself because you neglected the rules. A basketball player can be a hard-worker, but if they try to tackle everyone on the court like a football player they will foul out quickly before doing anything of value.
So also, we as pastors are called to work hard, but we must specifically labor according to the standard of Scripture. It is not cultural ideas, the newest church growth trend, or even our own inclinations in our heart which serve as our foundation for directing our work. No, brothers it is the Word of God itself! Do we submit to the priorities of Scripture so that we might compete according to the rules? Are we prioritizing the visitation of the widow and the orphan (James 1:27)? Is our preaching marked by the unflinching declaration of Scripture with patience as we seek to teach the Word of God (2 Timothy 4:1-2)? How about our prayer lives, do we pray as directed by God’s Word or do we neglect this most important matter? When we shepherd the flock are we seeking to lead them both in speech and example into that which is exalting to the Lord Jesus Christ? Let us compete, labor, and work with diligence, but let us not be simply loose canons. No, may we seek to know the rules Christ has set before us and spend our lives according to what He has revealed!
Patient Like A Farmer
Soldier-like discipline, athletic level competitive drive and focus on the rules, these are both outlined for us as examples of pursuing pastoral ministry with faithfulness. Yet, there is one more which Paul gives:
“It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops.” -2 Timothy 2:6
The Greek word for hard-working means laboring to the point of exhaustion. A farmer works very hard hours during the peak season and for much of the year. They do so with patience and faith in the harvest to come. We are seeking a spiritual harvest working the fields as Christ has commanded (John 4:35). We should expend our energy to the max in this effort. It is good to feel tired after a full day of ministry. Certainly, we must prioritize our families and keep all of life in alignment managing it all well as part of the very basic qualification of our character (1 Timothy 3). Yet, there is no mistaking Paul’s meaning here. We are to quite literally push ourselves to the max in this calling Christ has given to us. There will be many times you and I are tired in the word, preach anyway! On multiple occasions we won’t “feel like” having one more conversation, keep working! We must exercise patient endurance. This is where you and I have to remember the calling given to us. It is vital that we know our “why” which is the glory of Christ in His eternal kingdom. That is why we labor. The reality that He is worthy of all praise and worship puts fire in our bones to keep going one more step. Let us exercise that patience!
Brethren, I pray that this post is a reminder for all of us to stay focused. Our calling demands of us that we intentionally pursue the Lord without distraction. We have such a joyful calling that is worth far more than we could ever give. May we labor with the utmost diligence. Let us strive every second for the magnification of the name of our glorious Lord who has enlisted us. Be disciplined like a soldier, driven like an athlete, and patient like the hard-working farmer. In all these things, may we remember it is the strength of Christ we depend on as He works in and through us for the sake of His body the church!`