Approved workmen. Clean vessels of honor. These are positions and descriptions that we ought to strive for. However, what practical steps can we take to attain them? In his letter to Timothy, Paul gives us some answers to this question. He writes:
“So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness.”
~2 Timothy 2:22-25a
How many different types of bowls and containers are in your house? You probably can’t count them all off the top of your head. I know I can’t! We have bowls and containers that serve a variety of purposes. Mixing bowls are used for baking while stove top pans hold simmering soup on chilly fall evenings. Meanwhile, some Tupperware containers hold leftovers while others are used to take out compost scraps. We have beautiful serving bowls that are used to elegantly present food, while at the same time we possess drab, boring containers that are used as garbage cans or laundry baskets. These different types of containers or vessels have different purposes depending on what they’re made of and how clean they are.
Paul used this picture of different types of household containers to reiterate the importance of walking in God’s approval. We’ve already studied his teaching on being approved workmen, but now let’s take a look at this somewhat different angle and see what God wants to teach us about being clean vessels ready for God’s service.
Today, we’re going to look at one of my favorite verses in 2 Timothy. This verse has encouraged and challenged me over the years. It is one of those words from God that set the standard for Christian living and constantly calls us up to greater levels of godliness and Christ-likeness. It is a standard that we all constantly need to strive for. We cannot grow complacent in this endeavor, but must constantly keep this reminder before us. This exhortation is about being an approved worker of God who knows how to properly handle and use God’s Word.
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”
~2 Timothy 2:15
The title of this Bible study is “Run Your Race” and is taken from Paul’s many analogies of the Christian life being like a race to be run and finished well. However, in order for us to faithfully finish our race, we must not become distracted. We cannot get pulled off course by the flashing lights or promises of a better life that appear off of God’s straight and narrow track. We must stay focused on the race and the finish line, and, most importantly, we must keep running.
For this reason, Paul gives us a powerful exhortation to stay on mission and remain focused on our God-given assignment in the form of another analogy. He compares the Christian to a soldier who is on mission and cannot get mixed up or entrenched in civilian life. Just as a Navy Seal or special operations officer does not get distracted with local gossip, politics, or even personal appearance while on a specific mission, so also, we must be completely focused on the mission God has assigned us and not get sidetracked by peripheral and trivial things. Here’s what Paul wrote young Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:3-7.
As you may have already noticed, 2 Timothy is packed full of rich truths and valuable nuggets of wisdom. Remember, these are Paul’s final words and instructions to his son in the faith; therefore, the wisdom and encouragement he shared are precious and worth carefully studying. Therefore, as we head into chapter two, let’s take a moment to examine the first two verses and a word of wisdom that would be easy to overlook in this fast paced epistle.
“You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”
~2 Timothy 2:1-2