GETTING THE MESSAGE/Paul preaches Christ in prison
Paul’s second letter to Timothy is written while Paul is in prison awaiting execution. The apostle is aware his imprisonment has shaken the faith of many Christians, so he writes to encourage Timothy. He does this, not by telling Timothy how to avoid suffering, but reminding him the Lord has appointed sufferings to accompany the preaching of the gospel.
In Chapter 2:1, Paul instructs Timothy to “be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” Christians have the need to be continually strengthened by grace. The work Timothy had to do was difficult, and like Paul, he would face extreme circumstances.
He directs Timothy to pass along the truths he has taught Timothy to faithful men. It is vital that the truth of Christ be proclaimed and taught to men. This is not only because souls will be saved, but because the truth honors God. Remember God’s glory in salvation to be strengthened by grace.
The word of God strengthens His people if we search and apply it. There is no switch or magic button for the Christian to press to be strengthened by grace. The Christian life is one of striving, seeking, and struggling to grow in grace, while resisting sin, the world, and the devil. By faith you can extract the comfort of a promise from Scripture.
We must distinguish between being justified in Christ and being strengthened in Christ. To be justified is to have God accept you for Christ’s sake, because Christ made atonement for your sins. To be strengthened in grace is your usefulness or service to God in view of so great a salvation. In fact, the great hindrance to the growth of a Christian is that we undervalue Christ’s love.
Grace makes a new man. As a Christian, my mind is still my mind, my desires are still my desires, and my will is still my will. Christ redeemed me that these would no longer be for sin or my own glory, but for the glory of God. And that is where the struggle, the fight of faith comes from. God is at work in the Christian, but so is sin.
We have to want to be godly to be strengthened by grace. We are dependent upon the Lord Jesus, but we also have a responsibility to serve Him. So the Christian mindset is such that because Christ is at work in me, I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.
In verse three, Paul tells Timothy, “Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” The Lord leads us into suffering that we might honor Him, and reap a reward on the day He is glorified. A soldier is a combatant for his Lord. If Christ calls you His soldier, then you call Him, “my Lord.” You can endure more than you think or imagine with Christ as your Lord.
Paul gives Timothy common examples of people in pursuit of something that motivates them to focus and diligence. In verse 4, it is a soldier who knows he has become a soldier in order to please the one who enlisted him. His mission is very clear, so he doesn’t get involved in things that would distract him from it. In the same way, a Christian seeks to please Christ, who has enlisted and redeemed his chosen man to do good works in His name.
In verse 5, everyone knows that an athlete doesn’t just show up to run a marathon. He has to put in the work, the training that is required. In those days, someone who wanted to compete had to produce proof that he has been training for at least 10 months. Discipline is required of the contestant or he has no chance at a crown. The Christian life is compared to a race because it requires effort and self-control. It isn’t easy, but when confronted with obstacles, you have the power of God to rely on.
The last example is a farmer. A farmer, once he puts his hand to the plow, still has a long way to go before he enjoys his harvest. He must plant, hoe, drive away vermin and pests, and then gather and receive the reward of his labors. The Christian must labor, but his help comes from the Lord.
The Christian, therefore, pursues higher ends. He must have a view of the transcendent; God who is above the world and the certainty of his promise after this world. None come to Christ unless they hear and think good things of Him. Likewise, none will sacrifice for Him, unless they think He means what He promises and it seems good to them to honor Him. Faith carries with it the strength of the Lord.