“Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs—he wants to please his commanding officer. Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules. The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this.” (2 Timothy 2: 3-7 NIV)
Like a spray of bullets, Paul hits us with not one, but three word pictures in his second letter to Timothy: soldiers, athletes, and farmers. Has Paul had too much coffee or is there a common thread? (Check last week’s post for my blog on the first word picture: a soldier.)
This week, let’s move to Paul’s picture of the athlete. In September, I decided to train for a marathon, my fifth. The son I mentioned last week was to begin intense training in October. My heart was grieving over the letting go process and the fact that the Navy was going to do its best to beat down my child. Since I couldn’t train for him, I chose to train with him. As he endures more punishment than I could ever stand, I will run my miles and pray for him.
To compete well, speed work and long runs fill my training schedule. Yet, the speed work and long runs are for nothing if I don’t wear my race bib, attach my timing chip, and follow the race course. Training is wasted if I don’t run according to the rules. It is this requirement of obedience Paul mentions in his picture of the athlete.
God has a standard. We cannot choose for ourselves how we will live. He says, “Be holy as I am holy.” Yes, there is grace, but grace does not give a license to sin. To run well spiritually means God calls the shots and we do things His way. When we stumble, we confess, ask for forgiveness, then get up and keep going as His Spirit leads us.
The victor’s crown awaits.
Questions for the Week:
1) How do athletes train for their sport? What things do they refrain from and why? What things are sacrificed for training?
2) Give some examples of rules athletes are expected to follow. Are these rules unreasonable? Why?
3) How do we train for godliness? What things are sacrificed for training?
4) What rules do you think Paul is talking about in this Timothy passage? Is it reasonable for God to expect His children to make such choices? Why? Where does grace come in?
5) What benefits do athletes experience over someone who is not an athlete? What spiritual benefits do God’s children experience over those who do not know Him?