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Disciplined Service

2 Timothy 2:3-7
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. Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules. The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this. (NIVUK)

For some people, the Christian faith is a nice way to be comforted and feel better about yourself.  Certainly God brings us real comfort as we trust in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 1:3-5), and those whose hope in Christ is firm have a confidence to move forward in obedience.  But Paul is suffering in prison.  His faith was not about feeling good about himself, but being confident that Jesus would be with him in the suffering and would meet him the other side of death (2 Timothy 4:6-8).

In this life, Paul’s goal and advice to Timothy was to please his commanding officer, Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:10).  He has chosen us to be soldiers in His army – peacekeepers who bring His love to a warring world.  But because many in the world resist His love, and reject His people, bringing the gospel of peace to them is hazardous.  To be a true Christian will involve courageous, disciplined, and sacrificial service.
Paul introduces three pictures of how we should follow Jesus: as our military commander, as the athlete who enters a competition and as a farmer who works hard for a good harvest.  All three scenarios demand hard work, self-discipline and endurance.  There is no suggestion of personal comfort being one of the objectives, quite the opposite.  The motivation to continue is not the immediate ‘feel good’ factor, but the end result (Hebrews 12:1-2).  That result brings glory to God and also a reward to those who have served faithfully. That reward is literally ‘out of this world’: it is not accessible in this life but assured in the next.
It is important to think about why God has saved us.  Otherwise we will live the Christian life to suit ourselves.  Instead, He has saved us to participate in the battle to expose the evil in people’s hearts and announce the gospel; to run the race which Jesus has arranged uniquely for each individual believer; to sow the seed of the Word and to harvest the crop of righteousness and new believers.  That is why Jesus paid for us with His blood and bought us … He therefore owns us and has full rights over us.  Pleasing Him should be our highest ambition.  So, let’s think about how closely our lives match up with that – and having thought, let's decide to make decisions which will lead to self-denying, gospel-peace bringing, and God-glorifying action.

Supreme Lord of all. Thank You for being in charge of everything and for uniquely tailoring my fight and race of faith so that I can bring glory to You. I am sorry when I have sought my own comfort and ignored my responsibility of being a good soldier of Jesus Christ (not in physical violence but standing against the devil’s lies). Help me to control myself and strive for the objectives You have set into my life, and to sow the Word and reap a harvest of souls and righteousness. Please help me to have such a desire to please You that I will work hard and endure suffering for the sake of the gospel. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams