A Bible study through 2 Timothy
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.
“Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.”
Enlisted men and women have willingly placed themselves under a ruling authority who assigns their missions and commands their actions. Therefore, these individuals do not have the same freedoms as civilians. They may be called to leave at a moment’s notice to fulfill a mission or get deployed to some corner of the world. For this reason, they must be careful not to get too comfortable with civilian life because at the end of the day they are not civilians, they are military personnel.
This is the image Paul uses to remind us of our call to single-minded devotion to Christ. While we have not put ourselves under a government, military authority, we have willingly submitted ourselves to the lordship of Jesus Christ. He is our Commanding General. He calls the missions and sends us to various parts of the world to battle the enemy and redeem the lost. Therefore, just as the soldier cannot get comfortable with a civilian’s life, so also the Christian cannot get comfortable with the pleasures of this world. As Paul said, we must not get entangled in civilian pursuits.
What are some civilian pursuits? Civilians are involved in social circles, careers, politics, family matters, accumulation of wealth, and other domestic matters. While these are not bad things in and of themselves, for a soldier, they could be distracting. Soldiers do not have the freedom to get involved in these types of things while on active duty. They have a duty to perform that requires their readiness and full attention.
So for the Christian, what would some of these distractions be? What would be the spiritual equivalent to civilian pursuits? Actually, I believe it is some of the same things. Those not living for the kingdom of God get caught up in appearances, achieving success, climbing the corporate ladder, having the perfect family, making influential friends, building a comfortable life, and getting involved in things that really have no eternal value. While these are not bad or wrong things, they can become distractions from our main goal. Therefore, we must not get distracted by the cares of this world. Our aim should be to please Jesus and always be ready to follow Him when He calls us out.
Paul gives us some other examples in this passage of what faithful devotion to Christ looks like. He notes that we don’t get the prize unless we play according to the rules, and the harvest cannot be enjoyed unless we put the work into sowing and maintaining the crops. Therefore, as Christians we cannot expect to share in the glory of the Lord for all eternity if we are not willing to put in the effort and make sacrifices here on earth to live completely devoted to God. The rules are simple: do not be conformed to the pattern of this world and to set Jesus Christ as Lord. Therefore, let’s abide by them, working faithfully in the place God has put us and keeping ourselves free from becoming entangled in civilian affairs.
We have been given a divine mission by the King of kings and Commander of the universe. Therefore, let’s live our lives in reflection of this truth. So stay on mission and keep your eyes fixed on the end goal: Jesus Christ!