As you know, our men’s conference was held this past weekend and Phil Newton was our guest preacher. His text for the conference was Second Timothy, and there were many convicting and wonderful truths he set before us from God’s Word. In one of our Saturday sessions, he preached from 2 Timothy 2:3-7:
“Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier. And also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules. The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops. Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.”
Based on this text, Phil gave three specific applications:
(1) Be Focused like a Soldier. Soldiers are recruited to suffer. This is antithetical to much of American Culture — we want comfort and ease, not suffering. In the Christian life, we will face difficulty and opposition as well as the challenge of our own fleshly weaknesses. We need to be spiritually and mentally prepared with the armor of God (Eph 6) to face such suffering in the grace of Christ.
Soldiers also have single-minded loyalty. A soldier’s loyalty is to his commander – to please the one who enlisted him. It is the Lord Christ whom we serve, thus we are to do all to the glory of God, to obey Him and do His will for His good pleasure.
Soldiers also serve with corporate consciousness. A cohort served together their whole lives. They lived as one and died as one. There was a sense of cohesiveness in battling the enemy, and a sense of responsibility toward one another. Likewise, we are a body — when one member of the body is suffering or honored, the whole body is suffering or honored.
(2) Be Disciplined like an Athlete. (A good cross-reference is 1 Cor 9:24-27) Athletes practice rigorous discipline. Likewise, as Christians, we also must discipline ourselves for the purpose of godliness. If we are going to be faithful as followers of Christ, we must pay attention to details. That is what discipline is about — giving attention to the details of living as a disciple of Christ. Thus, we can’t grow complacent. We must rigorously pursue Christ.
Athletes also abide by the rules. Integrity matters. We must run the race in accordance with the rules. As Scripture says, let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. Live in the grace of Christ Jesus. Integrity means moral soundness. When we sacrifice our integrity, we tarnish the reputation of Christ. But when we honor and obey Him, our faithfulness to Christ beautifies His reputation in the church and in the community.
(3) Be Diligent like a Farmer. Farmers make much of preparation; they work very hard. Those who do not work hard will not have their farm very long. Farming is a combination of hard work and patience. Diligent work coupled with patience is also what should characterize our Christianity — laboring and patience in doing the Christian disciplines.
Farmers also enjoy the harvest. The farmer’s diligence insures the future. He obeys and plants and cultivates, and God is faithful to bring the harvest. Many Christians try to find shortcuts to fruitfulness. There are none. The idea of spiritual shortcuts is a lie from the enemy. So don’t grow impatient with yourself — keep faithfully plodding and do not stray to the right or the left. Christian growth in grace comes as we are diligent, but also through realizing that the results belong to God. The Bible shows us so much about endurance through the examples of the saints.
In my family article last week, I wrote about how to recover our motivation in our walk with God. This message from our men’s conference communicates similar truths. I have been praying for our entire church family to grow stronger in the discipline of loving Christ — for those who have faltered in the means of grace to resume reading their Bibles and voicing
God-honoring prayer, and for those who remain diligent to plumb the depths of God more fully. Join me in praying and in laboring to that end. I love you all dearly!