Theme: Persevering in God’s Work
In this week’s lessons Paul continues to encourage Timothy in his Christian life and ministry.
Scripture: 2 Timothy 2:1-3
Not only is there a need to work hard in general areas of life, but it is true in Christian ministry and service, and it is also true in the Christian life. There is no easy way to holiness. It is hard work. We have to discipline ourselves and work at regularly reading, studying, and applying the Bible. We have to work at maintaining a consistent and thoughtful prayer life. There is no easy way of doing the Lord’s work in leading other people to the Lord and discipling new believers. It requires hard work to listen to other people’s problems and share in their troubles. Christians do this kind of hard work week after week, and sometimes year after year with another person. And it can sometimes take a long time to see the fruit of those efforts. We must toil faithfully if we would experience the blessings of a spiritual crop. That is what Paul is passing on to Timothy, and we need to learn this, too.
From these three examples we see that hard work and perseverance are required, and sometimes we might get discouraged and feel like quitting. Perhaps Paul knew this danger of discouragement, because in the following verses he gives Timothy some incentives to keep working diligently. The first motivation is the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul tells Timothy, “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David” (v. 8). What does he mean when he says this? He means that Jesus Christ is our example. Jesus was the divine Son of God, with all the heavenly advantages at his disposal. Yet he came to earth in humble circumstances, sharing the limitations and troubles of humanity in order to be our Savior. He was eventually falsely accused and mistreated shamefully in being executed on a Roman cross for our sins. But Jesus triumphed in all these things by being raised from the dead, which those who belong to Jesus will also experience when Jesus returns and raises up their bodies from the dead. Remember Jesus, because there is nothing you’re asked to do, no burden you are called to carry, no difficulty so hard that even begins to match what Jesus Christ faced and endured for you.
The second motivation Paul gives to Timothy is to remember the gospel. Paul writes, “This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained” (vv. 8b-9). What does he mean when he talks about that? Just as when he talks about Jesus he is talking about our example, so here, when he refers to the gospel he is talking about our power. Even though our work is hard, we are given strength through the gospel. God brings forth the fruit that he promises to give, and we know that his word doesn’t return unto him void.
When Paul says that God’s word is not chained, he’s contrasting that with his own circumstance. He was chained. There was a time when Paul was free to travel about, preaching the gospel wherever the Lord directed him. But now that is over. He is chained in prison, and does not expect to be released. By contrast, however, God’s word is not chained. Nobody can chain that word because it is the powerful word of the living God. This word is going out all over the world, and everywhere it goes God is going to use it to bring forth fruit. So if you feel discouraged by the hardships of life, remember that God is acting through his word, and his will is that you be faithful and share that word, by which the Holy Spirit will do his work in the lives of other people.
Finally, in verses 11-13 he gives as another motivation to work hard the promise of reigning with him in heaven. If we died with Christ we will also live with him the life of the resurrection. If we endure we will also reign with him. The difficulties might be great and the hardships might be many, but the day is coming when they are all going to end. From the perspective of eternity, the hardships of this life are a very short thing indeed.
A soldier endures the hardship of the battle and stays focused on his duties because he knows that it is better to please his commanding officer and receive the reward of that service. An athlete endures the hardship of training because he knows that this discipline leads to the victor’s crown. A farmer endures through the hard work of planting and harvesting because afterward he will enjoy the fruit of the harvest. Paul wants Timothy, and every Christian, to think that way about our Christian life and the work God has given us to do.
How does Paul use the Lord Jesus Christ as a motivation to work hard?
Describe how Paul uses the gospel as a motivation for Timothy.
Reflection: What does the Bible teach about heaven? How does that motivate you toward holiness?
Key Point: Remember Jesus, because there is nothing you’re asked to do, no burden you are called to carry, no difficulty so hard that even begins to match what Jesus Christ faced and endured for you.