Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Suffering and Hard Work on Mission (2 Timothy 2:3-7)

In this passage Paul instructs Timothy to suffer, and then to consider what he (Paul) is saying. That is because Paul uses three mental pictures to clarify what he means by suffering.

Timothy is to suffer the way a soldier would. Paul says the soldier gives up things in life in order to please the one who enlisted him. You do not waste effort and energy in activities that do not help you accomplish your mission.

Timothy is to suffer the way an athlete would. This applies to the way that an athlete follows the rules and guidelines imposed by the contest. You do not engage in activities that would render all your efforts worthless.

Finally, Timothy is to suffer the way a farmer would. Farming is tough, hard work. However, if the farmer does not do the work well, then his livelihood and that of the people depending on him would be in danger.

Paul asks Timothy to carefully consider these instructions. This is something people don’t always do. The assumption of many is that these pictures are all there to highlight the reward. That this is one of the passages (and there are such passages) justifying professional ministry work. Here this is not the case. The theme in this passage is suffering. Not exactly persecution suffering, but that other kind of suffering that we don’t like to talk about as much. Hard work.

Ministry is a difficult, demanding, thankless task. If you are engaged in missional living (professional or otherwise) and you haven’t realized that fact, you probably aren’t doing it right.

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