II Timothy 2:4 No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.
5 And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.
6 The husbandman that laboureth must be first partaker of the fruits.
God directed Paul to use three different illustrations common to Timothy, to help him understand the importance of faithfulness. The apostle Paul had first hand knowledge of how a soldier operates. He had been arrested a few times and been in prison a few times. He knew what happened to jailers that let prisoners escape. He knew the fear a jailer faced when God shook the prison and all the prisoners were loose and the jailer was sure they had escaped. Paul was now under house arrest with soldiers guarding him every day and all day long.
A good soldier needs to be focussed on the task at hand. He cannot take a break and go for a walk and think that everything will be alright. In the Old Testament we have several examples of soldiers who were not good soldiers. We know that Amasa was not acting like a good soldier. King David had appointed him as the replacement for Joab. Joab had failed David a few times by acting against David’s wishes. Joab had not followed David’s instructions regarding his son Absalom. The armies of Israel had been involved in quashing a rebellion being led by Absalom. However, David wanted them to spare his son Absalom in the battle if at all possible. Joab disregarded David’s command and killed Absalom. After Absalom’s death, David commanded Amasa to be his replacement for Joab. Joab was not pleased with this demotion that he received, but he had no recourse at that time. Another rebel, by the name of Sheba tried to gain a following among the Benjamites, to split the nation. David knew this needed to be stopped before it ever gained any traction, so he commanded Amasa to gather the armies of Israel together to take care of this rebellion quickly. Amasa did not take this matter seriously and delayed fulfilling David’s orders. Joab was still around and he saw that this was a problem for the nation. He decided to take matters into his own hands again and he acted in a deceitful manner to get up very close to Amasa. Amasa should have known that Joab was like a wounded animal that was trying to protect himself and his territory. As Amasa was walking in lead before the army, his sword fell out of its sheath and he did not notice it. This is not a good thing for a soldier to lose his weapon and not even know it. He is quite vulnerable to defeat at that point. Not only that, but Amasa paid no attention to the fact that Joab was approaching him with his sword in his hand.
II Samuel 20:10 But Amasa took no heed to the sword that was in Joab’s hand: so he smote him therewith in the fifth rib, and shed out his bowels to the ground, and struck him not again; and he died. So Joab and Abishai his brother pursued after Sheba the son of Bichri.
Joab took advantage of a careless commander and he killed Amasa. What Joab did was wrong. He was acting in the flesh and took the life of another man without good cause. He would eventually lose his life in a violent manner as well. Joab did not wait for David to reassign him as commander. He took charge and David could not stand against him. Amasa proved himself not to be a good soldier. He was not trained to be aware of the necessary factors in a war and did not see the danger as it really was. It seems he had a problem with pride, being promoted to this important position, but unfit for that position. His pride blinded him to the seriousness of his position.
Paul was directed by God to remind Timothy that a good soldier pays attention to his training. He cannot be sidetracked by anything other than the task at hand. If the soldier is distracted by anything, even by pride, he is open to failure. He needs to have his emotions under control and he needs to know where his weapon is and who the enemy is. Timothy had allowed those who opposed the truth to intimidate him. He had failed to stand strong and true to his calling. He had failed to trust the Lord to guide him through the opposition he was facing. A good soldier wants to honour his commander. A good servant of God wants to please the Lord. He wants to be faithful to his calling.
In verse 5 Paul used the illustration of an athlete who is competing for a prize. God does not promote organized sports as we see it today. He simply used this illustration because it was something that was a part of society at that time. Sports has been a god for many for a number of years now. Many parents will sacrifice sleep and time and money in order to cart their child(ren) off to various places to get the practice needed to try to excel in their chosen sport. It is obvious from the sporting world, that this whole scene is designed as a distraction to keep children from mis-behaving. Children need to be occupied. However, they need to be occupied in useful things. Teaching children the truth about God and the need of salvation is of far greater importance than anything else. No one can really appreciate life until they are given eternal life.
A serious athlete wants to win. God teaches us here that a good athlete wants to do his best in an honest manner. We do not see that today. Every hockey team has their bully. They do more than just defend the forwards. They try to intimidate the other side and they like to get into fights to prove their authority.
Every sport has its referees who are supposed to watch that the game is played in a fair manner. God says an athlete cannot expect a prize if he cheats to get it. That is in a fair game. Again, we can see that unless a person knows the fear of God in his heart, honesty and integrity take a back seat. The runner wants to win first prize. He desires to be honoured for his honest efforts. God says he cannot expect that honour if he cheats.
Timothy was called to something much greater than any sporting event. He was called to preach the Word of God faithfully and consistently. He would need to spend hours in prayer and in study and he would need to know how to answer every man that asked him why he believed what he did and what the significance of that belief was. He could not do that if he only wanted to talk to people who were friendly toward him. He needed to trust God and go and talk to those who might not be so friendly. He needed to talk to those who demonstrated their opposition to the truth. He needed to trust God to work in the hearts of the enemies of the cross.
There were many false teachers in Paul’s day. They preached a false Gospel. They preached a works type of salvation. Timothy knew this. He had worked with Paul long enough to know that. Those false teachers might have gained a following of people. However, they did not have God’s approval nor His blessing on their work. Timothy had been faithful and he had faced opposition. He had become weary in the battle and he needed to get back to humbly following God’s will and recognizing the blessing of seeing souls saved by the power of God.
In verse 6, Paul used a third example. The husbandman is one who works with the land. If the farmer sits in his house in spring and does not get out and work the field and sow the seed, he cannot expect to get a crop. He will get weeds. He might get a few grains that were left over from the previous year. However, he will not get a good crop.
Paul wrote about the husbandman that laboureth. He needs to get out there and do the work required. If he does the work required, he can expect to see some fruit from his labours. He needs to trust God to give him the weather and the moisture needed for the crop to grow, but if he sits at home and refuses to plant the crop because last year was a “bad” year, he cannot expect a good crop this year.
Because the farmer worked hard to get the crop into the ground and to keep the weeds out as much as possible, he can look forward to a harvest. He can look forward to being rewarded with an increase. He gets the blessings of that increase. He worked hard for the crop and thus he can then enjoy the blessings of the harvest.
Again, the point God is making is that a true servant of God cannot expect the rewards of his labour for the Lord if he does not labour faithfully for the Lord. There are preachers who listen to other preachers’ sermons and copy them off for themselves. There are those who use prepared outlines and might change a few things and use them as their own. They do not bother to do the work of studying and letting God guide them in their work. They might end up with a very “polished” sermon that impresses the ears of the simpleminded, but they lack the power of God. Men like that are either poorly trained, or not even saved. A faithful servant of God spends time in prayer and asks God to direct him in his preparation so that he can present a message from God’s Word that is blessed of God.
The servant of the Lord is just that, he is a servant. He is not required to make up his own story. God is not a cruel taskmaster as Pharaoh demanded of the children of Israel in Egypt. Pharaoh forced them to find their own straw and yet the tally of bricks needed to be the same. God supplies His Holy Spirit to indwell every true child of God. He has also given us His Word which He is preserving for each generation. He provides the mental skills needed to study God’s Word faithfully. He provides the willpower to develop the discipline needed to spend the time and effort in the study of His Word. He changes the nature of the saved individual to be able to see the value of studying His Word faithfully. He also changes the perception of the saved person to see the value of quality time in God’s Word.
Jesus told Nicodemus:
John 3:3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?
5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
You cannot value the things of God properly until you have been born again. The new birth is the work of God. You cannot go to a Monastery and isolate yourself from society and expect that somehow that will make you more spiritual. God must begin the good work in your heart. He is drawing all men unto Himself. Unless a person listens to His drawing and turns to Him in repentance, trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation, nothing good will come of that drawing. When the person responds obediently to that drawing God begins that good work in the life of the born again saint.
Timothy was not called upon to do the impossible. He was simply called upon to be a faithful servant who would be willing to let God guide him to those individuals He wanted him to speak to. The Holy Spirit was at work already. Timothy needed to provide the words from the Word of God to guide the person to the truth. He should expect opposition to that work. God’s Work is of much greater importance than any human work. The devil knows that and he is competing for the souls of people. He wants to distract the “soldier” of God. He wants to get the “athlete” to win unlawfully. He desires to keep the “husbandman” from putting the crop into the ground and looking after it. The devil is the destroyer. Timothy needed to understand that. He also needed to understand that as he would faithfully serve God, God would reward him with blessings that the careless saint would never know. Timothy needed to do the same thing he was told to teach others. He needed to submit to the Lord with his heart, soul, and mind. God would take care of the rest.