Staying for the Long Haul

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They are familiar images to anyone who has spent time studying the Scriptures. Paul reminds Timothy, his son in the faith, that there are three examples he needs to follow, that of a:

    1.    soldier (2 Timothy 2:3)
    2.    athlete (2 Timothy 2:5)
    3.    farmer (2 Timothy 2:6)

A good soldier is focused on the task, obedient to his commanding officer. The battle is not easy—or safe.

An athlete obeys the rules of the competition. He can’t expect to win if he cheats and looks for an easier road to victory.

A farmer is rewarded according to how hard he works. And even then the harvest is not guaranteed, as any farmer knows.

All of the three examples, as diverse as they are in life, carry a common theme. They picture people who persevere in difficulty: through war, through pain, through uncertainty.

In the end Paul pushes Timothy to do the same, to endure: “Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect...If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will disown us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself” (2 Timothy 2:10-13).

Paul’s final example is Christ Himself. He died. He endured. He remained faithful.

As we read the letters Paul and others wrote we get the sense that the believers of the early church were no different than believers are today—unhappily. Paul was a veteran, but Timothy was just a young man starting out in ministry. It wouldn’t have been easy for him. Hence the encouragement from his mentor to keep on going and not to give up.

You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus,” he writes in 2 Timothy 2:1. There’s the secret. The grace of God in Christ that makes weary soldiers strong, renews the vigor of fainting athletes and gives farmers courage to get out of bed before the chickens are even up.

His grace really is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9).


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