Bible Study
The Second Letter of Paul to Timothy
(2) A Soldier, an Athlete, and a Farmer
II Tim. 1:13 - 2:7


Last week we were reminded by Paul of Timothy's sincere faith. He was not a counterfeit. He had a godly heritage from his mother and grandmother, but he was not just depending on their faith. He had personally committed his life to Christ and had been called and gifted to serve the Lord. However, throughout this letter Paul admonishes his son in the faith to be strong, endure hardness, keep and guard the faith. Paul did not want to see his son desert the Lord and wander from the truth like others whom he names in this letter. We must be faithful and diligent to the very end.

Read Ii Tim. 1:13-2:7

1. Keep and Guard

A. Being a disciple of Christ - staying in the faith instead of wandering from it - means that we have to "keep" and "guard". We do not automatically stay true to Christ. Just because we were born again at one point, it does not necessarily mean that today we trust and believe, are loyal to Christ and committed to Him till the end. Heb. 6:11 Paul had discipled Timothy and Timothy had learned much from simply being with Paul and listening to his teaching of others. So now Paul reminds him, "What you have heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching". Paul had set the pattern of sound, biblical teaching. Timothy was to keep it and follow that pattern. We are responsible as pastors, missionaries, deacons, pastors' wives, Sunday School teachers, etc. to set the pattern of biblical teaching for others to follow. How was Timothy to keep that pattern? "With faith and love in Christ Jesus." All he taught, and all we teach, must be grounded in faith and love for the One who has redeemed us.

B. Timothy was not only to "keep", but also to "guard". To keep is to hold onto. To guard is to protect so that it will not be stolen or lost. A "good deposit" of teaching had been entrusted to Timothy. It was like a deposit of money in a bank. The bank is entrusted with it to keep and guard it. If someone entrusts you with something valuable, they expect you to guard it so that it will not be lost or stolen. But we can carelessly lose the faith on which we are founded if we don't live obediently. Also our faith can be stolen from us by false teachers if we choose to believe their lies. It is not easy to guard a treasure. Think about what a hard job the Presidential bodyguards have. They have to be alert at all times to protect the life of the President. We may be tempted to neglect our duty or let down our guard. Titus 1:9 Paul reminds Timothy and us that we have a wonderful Helper. He is the Holy Spirit who lives within us. Rom. 8:9 The Holy Spirit reminds us of our failures and guides us to be alert and faithful to the truth. We must listen to Him and obey Him.

2. Deserters and faithful helpers
A. We can almost feel Paul's great disappointment and sorrow in this letter when he mentions those who have not been faithful and loyal, who have not kept the pattern of sound teaching, and who have not guarded the good deposit. It is heart breaking when we see those whom we have taught and discipled turning from the truth. Evidently there had been several of Paul's disciples with him from the province of Asia. Timothy no doubt knew them because he was from there. They may have been his fellow countrymen. Why would Paul give their names? In First and Second Timothy he names 6 different men who had bitterly disappointed him: Hymenaeus & Alexander (I Tim. 1:20), Phygelus & Hermogenes (Ii Tim. 1:15), Philetus (II Tim. 2:17), and Demas (II Tim. 4:10).  Undoubtedly Timothy knew these men and this is why Paul named them. He wanted to warn Timothy that some had been unfaithful to him and others had turned away from the faith. He didn't want Timothy to make the mistake of believing them or depending on them to do ministry. If we know that a man is a false teacher or false prophet we must warn people by naming him so that they are not led astray.

B. On the other hand, Onesiphorus, who evidently lived in Ephesus where Timothy was, had proved to be a faithful friend. Paul sends special greetings to his household in II Tim. 4:19. Here he asks God to show special mercy to his household because of his faithfulness to God's servant. Evidently Onesiphorus went to Rome for some reason - possibly even because of Paul. Whether or not Paul was the reason, Onesiphorus searched hard in that huge city until he found Paul. He was determined to help him, which he did. He was not ashamed of Paul's chains as some others were. He often refreshed him, though we don't know how. Paul asked for special mercy for him from the Lord because of his loving service. And this was not the first time that Paul had been blessed by Onesiphorus. When Paul was in Ephesus, he helped him in many ways. Jesus said, "Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers, you did for Me." Matt. 25:40 What we do either for or against one of God's servants will not be forgotten by God. He will bless us or condemn us for what we do to His chosen ones.

3. Be strong! Endure hardship!
A. Paul gives many warnings in this letter. He tells Timothy to avoid quarreling, godless chatter and stupid arguments. I wish Christians today would beware of those same things. Paul names the deserters and faithless leaders so that Timothy would know that he must not trust them but rather avoid them. Maybe it sounds as if Paul is being too negative. But now he mixes encouragement to Timothy with warnings about those who have fallen away. He's saying, "Timothy, you're not like that! Don't fall in the same hole, my son." What an encouragement that must have been to know that the great apostle considered him his son. One of the most important ministries we have is the ministry of encouragement. People may fall to the enemy if we do not help to encourage them.

B. Paul gives his son 2 powerful commands: Be strong!  Endure hardship!  It reminds us of what Paul wrote to the Ephesians. Eph. 6:10 You have to be strong with an inner strength to endure hardship. Paul is not just talking about physical strength even though he uses a soldier, an athlete and a farmer as his illustrations. He tells Timothy to be strong "in the grace that is in Christ Jesus". Mere physical strength is not enough when facing false teachers and falling saints. He needed to be strong in grace - the grace he had received and the grace with which he was to live.

C. Here we see the proper progression of a biblical ministry. First, Timothy himself had to keep the pattern of sound teaching and guard the good deposit with the help of the Holy Spirit. Now Paul goes further to tell him not only to keep but also to teach the things he had heard Paul say before many witnesses. And then he took it one step further. He was to teach reliable men who would be qualified to teach others. It's like 4 spiritual generations, beginning with Paul who taught Timothy who was to teach reliable men who in turn were to teach others. This is how the Lord causes the church to grow and expand, and it should be the goal of our ministries.

4. Three illustrations
A. Paul said that Timothy should be like him, enduring hardship like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. A soldier of real mettle will be able to endure hardship, discipline and pain in the performance of his duties. This is why they make Boot Camp so tough for the new soldiers. The softness has to be taken out of the soldier so that in battle he will be able to endure pain and suffering and still be faithful to his job. Another important aspect of a good soldier is that he is careful to avoid civilian affairs, like getting drunk, fighting and going AWOL (away without leave). Why is this important to him when he used to do those things before he was a soldier? It's because he has a commanding officer whom he wants to please. So the Christian soldier needs to learn how to endure hardness, and not get distracted by worldly things. Rom. 13:12-14 Our greatest desire should be to obey the orders of our commanding officer - the Lord Jesus Christ. John 14:15

B. The second illustration Paul uses is an athlete. Athletes also have to endure hardship. Anyone who wants to be in the Olympics must spend years in practice and training. In fact, Olympic champions testify that the one important thing in their lives for years was their exercise, training and practice. They have little time for anything else. But what good is all that work if when they get to the Olympics they don't compete according to the rules? They will be tossed out and lose everything. If an athlete disobeys the rules of the competition, it doesn't matter how good he is or how long he has suffered, he will be thrown out and disgraced. Athletes were thrown out of the last Olympics because they had been taking drugs. This disqualified them. So the Christian athlete must follow the rules of the Christian race as thoroughly outlined in God's Word. Disobeying the rules means being "thrown out" like the man at the wedding banquet who refused to wear his white garment washed in the blood of Christ. Matt. 22:11-13

C. Paul's third illustration is of a farmer. A soldier must avoid distractions and obey his commanding officer. An athlete must follow the rules of the game. A farmer must work hard in order to have a good crop. A farmer can't sit around and dream that he will have a big crop. He has to cooperate with the Creator to prepare the ground, plant the seed, remove the weeds, and finally harvest the crop. He will have to work in the cold, the wind and the hot sun. He will have to use his head and his body. As a soldier and an athlete have to endure hardship, so does a farmer. If he is faithful, he will receive his reward when the crop is harvested. There is nothing easy about any of these vocations, but each brings a reward when faithfully accomplished.


So what do we learn about the Christian life from these illustrations? It's not easy and we must be willing to work hard and endure. We must follow the orders of our "General" without becoming distracted by the world. In other words, God's Word must be first. We must listen and obey. We must come under the discipline of the "game rules" if we are to win the race. II Tim. 4:7-8 And we must work hard if we hope to have a crop as our reward. We must faithfully sow the seed of God's Word, even though we often do it with tears. Psa. 126:5-6 If we are faithful now we will one-day return with songs of joy bringing our crop of fruit.

(c) 2003 Juanita Simpson

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