“Of Soldiers, Athletes, and Farmers!” #4

First Presbyterian Church of Elmer

107 Chestnut Street

Elmer, NJ 08318

Sermon Notes (Sunday March 13th, 2016)

Rev. Mouris Yousef, Pastor

Of Soldiers, Athletes, and Farmers!” #4

119:89-96; 2 Timothy 2:1-7

 

Today we wrap up a four-week series of messages based on 2 Timothy 2:1-7. My goal is to help us understand the nature of the Christian life. I’ve found the passage from 2 Timothy 2 a very helpful one. The apostle Paul uses three analogies, in describing the Christian way of living: the soldier, the athlete, and the farmer. The last two Sundays we covered the first two analogies, Christians are likened to good soldiers and committed athletes.

 

In the image of soldiers, we are encouraged to endure hardships and avoid all kinds of entanglement. In 2 Timothy 2:3-4 we read, “Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.”

 

In the image of the athlete, we are encouraged to consider the nature of the Spiritual race. In 2 Timothy 2:5 Paul uses a key word to describe the nature of the race. He uses the word “compete.” “Anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules.” The word compete comes from a Greek root word which is agon. We get an English word directly from this Greek word – the word is Agony. The Greek word speaks of the striving, anguish, agony and pain of those who run a race. Christian life, therefore, is not a playground; it’s a battlefield. Christian life is not a picnic; it is a life of agony. In Luke 22:44 we read about the Author and Finisher of our faith who ran the race till the very end. Luke says, “And being in an agony He prayed more earnestly: and His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”

 

Paul’s third picture, the picture of a hard working farmer, is found in 2 Timothy 2:6. We read, “The hard-working farmer will receive the first share of the crops.” As we look together at this last analogy, pleas allow me to underscore two important observations:

 

First: Persevere Like a Farmer

What is the picture here? What the Scripture is emphasizing? What does it mean to be a hard-working farmer in the Christian life? I believe the emphasis is on hard work. We are to work even when there is NO evidence of any harvest. I assure you it is so hard to do so. Farmers only harvest for about 2 weeks a year. But do they laze around for the rest of the year? No – farmers always doing something. They are hoeing, or fertilizing, or sowing, or weeding, or fencing. Even when they cannot see any action, they keep working hard.

 

The story of this old farmer captures the idea of what Paul is saying here. The story is told about an old farmer who was very ill. He called his two sons to his bedside and said, “My boys, my farm and the fields are yours in equal shares. I leave you a little ready money but the bulk of my wealth is hidden somewhere in the ground, not more than eighteen inches from the surface. I regret that I’ve forgotten precisely where it lies.” When the old man was dead and buried his two sons set to work to dig up every inch of ground in order to find the buried treasure. They failed to find it but as they had gone to all the trouble of turning over the soil they thought they might as well sow a crop, which they did, reaping a good harvest. In autumn, as soon as they had an opportunity, they dug for the treasure again but with no better results. As their fields were turned over more thoroughly than any others in the neighborhood they reaped better harvests than anyone else. Year after year their search continued. Only when they had grown much older and wiser did they realize what their father had meant. Real treasure comes as a result of hard work.

 

It should come as no surprise that the things in life that are the most important take honest effort and hard work. In Galatians 6:9 we read, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” And that’s what we are to do, too. We need to keep following and trusting Jesus even when it seems like the foolish thing to do. We need to keep working for Jesus, even when it seems like there is nothing happening. The reward that God promises to His children who keep working hard is that they will receive the first share of the crops.

 

Second: The Christian As a Reflective Learner

After his three illustrations, the apostle Paul adds a request and a promise in 2 Timothy 2:7. “Consider what I am saying, for the Lord will give you understanding in all things.” If Timothy thinks over these analogies God will give him insight into the nature of Christian living. We notice that revelation and human thinking are brought together in Paul’s instruction. Paul does not promise that God will give any revelation without Timothy’s doing any thinking. Nor is it that Timothy’s thoughtfulness alone will give him understanding. Rather there is a combination. Timothy must do the thinking and God will do the revealing! Responsible human activity with God’s blessing upon it will bring spiritual understanding. He will understand “everything”. That is, Timothy will grasp the many-sided implications of the analogies Paul has used.

 

On one hand, Paul’s words here are a call to us to engage in serious study of the Scriptures. He wants Timothy to give the Word of God a very serious attention. It will not be enough to expect heavenly illumination if Timothy will not spend time meditating on the meaning and significance of God’s words through Paul. On the other hand, heavy study alone will not be enough either. With all the thinking that Timothy does, something additional is needed. The Lord Jesus Christ must give understanding. Christian study the Scripture on their knees, perhaps not literally but in their attitudes. We need God’s help. With all our thinking, all our study-aids, there is need of something over-and-above human thoughtfulness. Psalm 119:96 says, “To all perfection I see a limit, but your commands are boundless.” That’s why we need the Lord to give us understanding in all things.

 

Friends, from these three pictures of faithful Christian living, we glean that Christians should be: dedicated like soldiers, disciplined like athletes, and diligent like farmers. My friends, this is normal Christianity. Nothing less than this will stand the test. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” 1 Corinthians 15:58. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Amen!

 

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