1. Be Strong in Grace (verse 1)
2. Train the Trainer (verse 2)
3. Pay the Price (verses 3-7)

Defeat! He lay there silently, all hope had fled away
so far behind, so error prone I can't make it all the way

I've lost, so what's the use he thought I'll live with the disgrace
But then, he thought about his dad who soon, he'd have to face.

Get up, an echo sounded low, get up and take your place.
you weren't meant for failure here, get up and win the race.

With borrowed will, get up it said you haven't lost at all
for winning is no more than this; to rise each time you fall.

So up he rose to run once more, and with anew commit.
He resolved that win or lose, at least he wouldn't quit.

Three times he'd fallen, stumbling, three times he rose again,
Now he gave it all he had and ran as though to win.

They cheered the winning runner as he crossed the line first place
head high, and proud and happy no falling, no disgrace

But when the fallen youngster crossed the line last place,
the crowd gave him the greater cheer for finishing the race

And even though he came in last with head bowed low, unproud,
you would have thought he won the race to listen to the crowd

And to his dad he sadly said I didn't do so well.
To me you won, his father said you rose each time you fell.

And now when things seem dark and hard and difficult to face,
the memory of that little boy helps me in my race.

For all of life is like that race with ups and downs and all,
and all you have to do to win is rise each time you fall.

Quit, give up, your beaten, they still shout in my face,
But another voice within me says, Get up and win the race.

- Author unknown

That’s a poem about running a race. You can easily apply it to life. God’s praise doesn’t go to the swiftest runner. God’s praise doesn’t go to the one who never stumbles. No, God’s praise goes to the one who finishes. God’s praise goes to the one who finishes well.

Proverbs 24:16 says, "A righteous man falls seven times, and rises again, But the wicked stumble in time of calamity." Think of those in the Bible who stumbled badly, but finished well. Moses murdered a man in cold blood, but later led the people of Israel into the promised land. And although he struck the rock twice and was prohibited from entering into the promised land, he was willing and able to do so.

David, after walking with God for years, stumbled by committing adultery with Bathsheba, yet he continued faithful until the end. Saul of Tarsus, was "a blasphemer, a persecutor and a violent aggressor" (1 Tim. 1:13), but He finished well. He "fought the good fight, ... finished the course, ... [and] kept the faith" (2 Tim. 4:8). Peter denied Jesus three times (Matthew 26:69-75), but later was reinstated by Jesus (John 21:15-17), and became a rock in the church. John Mark deserted Paul and Barnabas in Paphos when he saw how difficult the ministry was (Acts 13:13). But, later, finished well, as Paul said, "He is useful to me for service" (2 Tim. 4:11).

Such is the call of the Christian life. Such is the call of the Christian ministry. The prize goes to the one who finishes well, not to the flash in the pan.

Quite frankly, rare is the one who finishes well. I’ve read from several sources that for every ten men who set their hearts upon training for Christian ministry, only one will remain in full time ministry until the end. That number may seem low to you. And yet, when you look to the Bible, rare is the leader who remains faithful until the end.

Consider the 12 spies who spied out the land of Canaan. These men were chosen because they were leaders of their tribes. And yet, only two of the twelve remained faithful until the end.

Consider Saul or Solomon. Both of these men were entrusted with ruling the kingdom of Israel. And yet, in the end, they finished poorly. Saul finished as a raving lunatic. Solomon finished as a pleasure-seeking fool.

Consider Eli and Samuel. Both of these men were spiritual leaders of Israel. And yet, they failed to pass on their faith to their children. Both of these men had wayward sons (1 Samuel 2:12-17, 22-25; 8:1-5).

Consider Judas and Demas. Both of these men knew intimacy with a strong spiritual leader. And yet, both of them turned aside in the end. Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss (Luke 22:47-48). Demas loved this present world and deserted Paul (2 Tim. 4:10).

Not only is the true of spiritual leaders, we also have some examples of those in the pew who failed to finish strong. Consider Ananias and Sapphira. When they saw how many were selling their property and giving the proceeds to the apostles to distribute, to those in need, they attempted to get into the act. However, when it came time to give the money, they acted as if they were giving all the proceeds, even though they were holding back some for themselves. Their last act was to lie to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:1-11).

However, before you get too discouraged, know that there are some bright spots in the Bible as well. Men like Abraham, Job, Joseph, Joshua, Caleb, Elijah, Jeremiah, Daniel, John, Paul, and Peter all began and finished well. Oh, ... to be sure, they had some bumps along the way, but nothing catastrophic. [1]

If you haven’t done so already, I invite you to open your Bibles to 2 Timothy, chapter 2. We are going to look at the first 7 verses of this chapter.

2 Timothy 2:1-7
You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier. Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules. The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops. Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.

In these verses, Paul is instructing Timothy how to have an enduring ministry. He focuses upon Timothy, himself, and tells him how to endure. He focuses upon the ministry that Timothy has, and tells him how to ensure that it will endure. He focuses upon the sustained effort that an enduring ministry will take.

Appropriately, my message this morning is entitled, "Enduring Ministry." Each of these verses describes how to make it through the rigors of ministry. And what is true of ministry is also true of the Christian life.

Here’s my first point, ....
1. Be Strong in Grace (verse 1)

That’s what Paul says in verse 1, "You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus." This verse comes right on the heels of the end of chapter 1, particularly, verses 15-18. In those verses, Paul mentions the many who deserted him. Chapter 1, verse 15 speaks about those who deserted him: "You are aware of the fact that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes." He also mentions Onesiphorus, who stood by him.

2 Timothy 1:16-18
The Lord grant mercy to the house of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains; but when he was in Rome, he eagerly searched for me and found me— the Lord grant to him to find mercy from the Lord on that day—and you know very well what services he rendered at Ephesus.

After these words come the strong words, "You, therefore, my son." It’s as if Paul is seeking to grab the shoulders of Timothy and get his attention, jolting him into his duty as a minster of the gospel. "Timothy, in light of these men, please do the right thing; don’t give up, but be faithful until the end." Have a ministry that endures.

The first way to do this is to "be strong in grace." That’s practically word for word what it says in verse 1. You say, "What does that mean." It means faith. It means trusting in the power of Christ, rather than in the power of yourself. It means constantly praying for the Lord for strength. Such is the only way to endure in the Christian life.

Bill Mills and Craig Parro, of Leadership Resources International, have written an excellent book together entitled, "Finishing Well." The book deals with the problem of pastoral burn-out, when pastors so lose heart that they cannot continue in the ministry any longer. In the introduction, they write, ...

We began this project realizing that burnout in the ministry is a terrible problem today. We knew that many of our brothers and sisters struggle with burnout and that some would fall. Although we wanted to bring some help from the Scriptures to encourage their hearts, the more we studied God’s Word and talked with pastors, missionaries and denominational leaders, the more we realized how wrong we were. Not only is burnout a widespread problem today, in fact, burnout is inevitable! In addition to our own weaknesses, we face pressures, demands and expectations, as well as battles with Satan. As a result, every one of us will burn out unless God is there, present with us in the ministry. [2]

This is what Paul is saying: "Timothy, let God be there with you. Let the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Let the grace of Jesus fill you. Let the grace of Jesus move you. And be strong in that grace that is in our Lord Jesus Christ." I believe that Paul was passing this on to Timothy by way of personal experience. He knew what it was to be weak and vulnerable. He knew how the grace of God helped him in these times.

In 2 Corinthians 12, he describes the process of being inflicted with a thorn in the flesh. The thorn may have been a physical ailment. The thorn may have been another person, who was intent upon harming Paul. The thorn may have been a demonic spirit that was sent to torment Paul. We don’t exactly know what it was. But, whatever it was, it was painful. And Paul wanted to be rid of it. So, he prayed, "God, free me of this thorn."

Three times he prayed. Three times God said, "No. It will stay." But, God didn’t leave Paul all alone. Rather, he said, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness" (2 Cor. 12:9). And with this, Paul was content, saying, "Most gladly therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me." The thorn made Paul learn to be strong in grace.

Paul knew what it was to be weak in himself. Paul knew what it was to be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and he’s passing it on to Timothy. Paul had experienced it. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul is describing his apostolic labors. He said, "By the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of [the other apostles], yet not I, but the grace of God with me" (1 Cor 15:10). Paul labored hard for the gospel, but he knew that it wasn’t himself. Rather, he knew that it was the Lord working in him.

And that’s what Paul is urging Timothy to do. Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. Let His grace dwell within you.

You say, how do you do that? Trust the Lord. Every moment of the day, be praying for strength. And then, live in the strength that God provides. This is what it means to "be strong in grace." It’s the only way to endure in your ministry.

Do you remember Jesus’ words, "apart from Me you can do nothing" (John 15:5). This includes ministry. This includes the Christian life. If we think that we can do it on our own, we are arrogant and misguided. Do you want to have an enduring ministry? Do you want to have a fire that continues to burn hot for Jesus? Be Strong in Grace (verse 1)

Secondly, if you want to have an enduring ministry, ...
2. Train the Trainer (verse 2)

This comes in verse 2, ...

2 Timothy 2:2
The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

At this point, Paul isn’t focusing upon Timothy, himself, enduring in his work. Rather, Paul is focusing his attention upon the ministry that Timothy is laboring to build in Ephesus. He wants to make sure that his work is an enduring work.

Here’s Paul’s counsel:"Timothy, take what you learned from me. Take my life. Take my teaching. Take my example. Take my suffering. Find some men. Find some faithful men. Find some available men. Find some teachable men. Find some capable men, and teach them everything that I have taught you, with the expectation that they will find others to teach as well."

And the implication is this: That the others will pass on what they have learned to faithful, available, teachable and capable men, who will pass on what they have learned to faithful, available, teachable and capable men, who will pass on what they have learned to faithful, available, teachable and capable men, who will pass on what they have learned to faithful, available, teachable and capable men. That’s what I mean by training the trainer. For the ministry of the church to continue strong, there needs to be a training mentality.

Paul said in Ephesians 4:11-12 that the leaders of the church have been given by the Lord to equip the saints for the work of service to the building up of the body of Christ. Leaders equipping and saints serving.

I love how this works at Rock Valley Bible Church. As many of you know, some members of our church family were in a motorcycle accident on Friday. By God's grace, they are OK. They sustain some major injuries, though, and will be in the hospital for a while. It took our friend two phone calls to people at church to be surrounded by people in the emergency room. People showed up late Friday at the hospital to express their love for them. I know that food is going over there this afternoon. Appropriate help will abound to them. They told me yesterday that they felt loved. That’s just the way that things run here at Rock Valley Bible Church.

The leaders of the body focus their attention upon training. The saints of the body focus their attention upon serving. But, here in 2 Timothy 2:2, the training mentality isn’t merely to be focused upon training this generation for living. Rather, the focus is upon training this generation to be capable of training another generation.

That’s my point -- "train the trainer." "Train the one who is able to train others. This is the most efficient way to endure that your ministry will endure."

I trust that you know the difference between multiplication and addition. Let me illustrate it this way. Let’s think about Rock Valley Bible Church. In general, I tend to talk about our church in terms of families. There are about 30 families who call Rock Valley Bible Church their home. So, let’s think about growth by addition. Now, suppose that each week, we add a family who visits our church and decide to stay and fellowship with us. Every week, another new family comes to Rock Valley Bible Church and sticks around.

That means, at the end of the first year, we would have 52 more families at church which would be 82 families. At the end of the next year, we would have 52 more families. That would be 134 families. By the end of the third year, we would have 186 families. By the end of five years, we would have 290 families. In ten years, we would have 550 families at Rock Valley Bible Church.

That’s pretty good growth. We would be a big church in town, needing multiple pastors and a new building. Such would be wonderful. But, that’s addition growth.

But, now, let’s imagine that we would multiply. Suppose that every family here would focus on bringing in one other family to Rock Valley Bible Church throughout the course of the year. Think of the family that lives in your neighborhood. You begin to share your lives with the mother and father and children. You lead them to Christ. You see them come to church. Over the course of a year, you train them to do the same thing with another family. That’s one year, each family in this church reaching another family.

At the end of the first year, we would double in size and have 60 families. At the end of the second year, we would double in size again and have 120 families. At the end of five years, we would have nearly a thousand families at Rock Valley Bible Church. At the end of ten years, we would have over 31,000 families at Rock Valley Bible Church and would be the biggest church in the nation, with more than 100,000 people attending!

This all would happen if each family trained one family over the course of a year. That’s multiplication. And that’s God’s plan for enduring ministry. It is the ideal.

Now, this all sounds good and well, but it doesn’t take into account several things. First of all, the training process is a long, hard process, difficult to produce in a year, much less two or three with the busyness of life and children and jobs. Paul had his disciples, but he didn’t have many. Remember chapter 1, verse 15? "All who are in Asia turned away from me." Remember chapter 4:16, "At my first defense no one supported me, but all deserted me." This was after a life-time of ministry! There were few who followed Paul faithfully until the end. Let’s be encouraged with names like Timothy, Titus, Luke, Erastus, Tychicus, Onesiphorus, Onesimus. So, let’s be realistic in how fast multiplication can work.

Second, this doesn’t account for those who fall away, or for those who fail to train another family in this course of a year. And when you fail in the beginning of multiplication, the rest doesn’t grow as quickly.

But, regardless, multiplication is God’s plan for ministry. This was the method of Jesus. He focused his attention upon 12 guys, and He entrusted these guys with the responsibility to train others. After three years this is all that he had who He trusted would impact the world. And it worked.

Now, certainly, it was God working behind the scenes in these things. It wasn’t without problems. Early in the life of the church, the apostles were doing everything. But the widows were being neglected in the serving of the tables. It was a chance for the apostles to get back on track and focus their attention upon prayer and the ministry of the word (Acts 6:4). They focused their attention upon training. They focused their attention upon training the few deeply, rather than the masses.

J. Oswald Sanders wrote, "The training of leaders cannot be done by employing the techniques of mass production - disciples are not manufactured wholesale. They are produced one by one." [3] Really, that’s the way that Christian ministry works. It’s not done by the masses. Rather, it’s done by the care of the individual. It’s not done by addition. It’s done by multiplication, as leaders focus their energy on multiplying themselves in the lives of others. It’s not done by focusing on quantity. It’s done by focusing on quality.

Many other ministries properly have this as their focus of operation. As you all know, I have made several trips to the country of Nepal. While over there, I have been involved with the ministry of Leadership Resources International. Their vision overseas is to be involved with "Launching Pastoral Training Movements." They aren’t doing this by having big conferences. Rather, they are doing this by gathering small groups of men (12-20) in a small group and have come back repeatedly to meet with them. This happens twice a year for four years. These men are being trained with the expectation that they will pass on what they have learned to others.

Whenever I have taught with them, it’s always with the intent that those being taught will pass it on to other men in their sphere of influence. In fact, at every meeting we have had, they have a time of reporting on their 2nd generation training group. It’s quite thrilling to see the work passed from one pastor to another. They call their training, "TNT" - Training National Trainers.

At first glance, you might say, "That seems odd. You want to provide pastoral training and you travel halfway across the globe. And at the end of four years, you only have a group of 12-20 men? Are you sure that’s the best thing to do? I remember having a conversation with Bill Mills, the founder and former president of Leadership Resources International. For more than 30 years, he has travelled the globe, speaking to many groups of people. He told me this, it’s easy to gather a group of foreign pastors and have a big exciting conference. But afterwards, they put whatever training material they received back upon the shelf and continue as before, waiting for the next big conference to come. He told me how he’s finished with such a methodology, because he doesn’t see the growth. Rather, he has come behind the methodology of TNT in recent days, trusting that God will accomplish his purposes his way.

So, think about it. Just do the math. These 12-20 guys each train another 12-20. And you have trained over a hundred pastors deeply -- life on life, in a far more effective way than you could ever have done in a large seminar.

The whole reason why I have taken this training and sought to bring it to fellow pastors in the Rockford area is for the same reason. I want to pass along what has been given to me. I’ve really been praying about bringing it to other areas of the church as well. Sunday school teachers. Other faithful, available, and teachable men. I have sought to do this with our elders. I have spent time with them passing on the knowledge I have gained. They are capable men as pastors of our church. They have led small groups. They can help bear your burdens. They have an open invitation to preach any time.

And that’s what Paul calls Timothy to do in the ministry. Be Strong in Grace (verse 1). Train the Trainer (verse 2). And finally, ...
3. Pay the Price (verses 3-7)

This comes in verses 3-7, ...

2 Timothy 2:3-7
Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier. Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules. The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops. Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.

This section of Scripture here practically preaches itself. We see three illustrations here. The first illustration is that of a soldier (verses 3-4) The second illustration is that of an athlete (verse 5). The third illustration is that of a farmer (verse 6). They all teach the same thing: Hard work is often needed to obtain a fruitful result.

Consider the soldier. He signs up for the army. The moment he writes his signature on the piece of paper, he is no longer his own. The United States now owns him. The armed forces tell him where to go. The armed forces tell him what to do.

The soldier, making one choice in the matter, to sign his name over to the armed forces, has no more choices to make. He is like a slave. The armed forces will tell him where to sleep. The armed forces will tell him when to rise. The armed forces will tell him what to wear. The armed forces will tell him what to eat. The armed forces will tell him how to act.

If the soldier is needed in another part of the country, the armed forces will move him. If the solder is needed in combat, the armed forces will send him to Iraq or Afghanistan.

During the days of combat, things are particularly difficult and dangerous. I remember speaking with a friend of mine, who spent some time in Iraq. He told me of how he spent many nights sleeping in the sand, under the open air, as there were no barracks where he was working. He would dig himself a little hole to escape the heat of the desert. He would sleep there for the night. If that’s where he’s sleeping, you can imagine the other sorts of difficulties that he faced.

But, beyond difficult, a war zone in a dangerous place to me. Driving a Hummer through the streets of Iraq can be particularly dangerous, as roadside bombs have killed many.

Now, it’s not like there are no benefits to being a soldier. Oh, there are many benefits, -- which is why many sign up for the armed forces. First of all, the government provides for his every need. The government provides food, clothing, shelter, even providing pay for his service. The government trains him in useful skills. Upon discharge, a multitude of benefits come -- medical care, tuition help, opportunities for loans and mortgages, helps in securing jobs, funeral benefits, and a host of other benefits that go to veterans. On top of all of that, the soldier is doing an honorable thing, protecting his family and his country. Without soldiers, any government will fail to exist, as it will be overrun.

And there are likewise benefits to the Christian life as well, which makes a commitment to follow Jesus Christ worth it all. But, with the benefits comes the difficulty. In dealing with Timothy, Paul calls him to be soldier. Join in the difficulty. Verse 3 says, "Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus." It's as though he is saying, "Timothy, you are with me in this battle. We are fellow soldiers of Christ Jesus. He has called us to the task of spiritual warfare. We have enlisted. Yes, it’s a hard road. Yes, it’s a difficult course. So let’s get it on."

This is everything that chapter 1 is all about. Chapter 1 verse 8 says, "Do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God." We will see this theme again. 2 Timothy 3:12 tells us, "All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." And 4:5 says to, "Endure hardship."

We are soldiers for Jesus Christ! Let us take up our calling. Let us go forth with strength. We are in active service. There are comforts to life that we will willingly pass by, because we have a greater call in life.

John Piper, in his excellent book, "Don’t Waste Your Life," describes how we, as Christians, ought to live with a "wartime lifestyle." Piper writes, ...

Sometimes I use the phrase "wartime lifestyle" or "wartime mind-set." The phrase is helpful-but also lopsided. For me it is mainly helpful. It tells me that there is a war going on in the world between Christ and Satan, truth and falsehood, belief and unbelief. It tells me that there are weapons to be funded and used, but that these weapons are not swords or guns or bombs but the Gospel and prayer and self-sacrificing love (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). And it tells me that the stakes of this conflict are higher than any other war in history; they are eternal and infinite: heaven or hell, eternal joy or eternal torment (Matthew 25:46).

I need to hear this message again and again, because I drift into a peacetime mind-set as certainly as rain falls down and flames go up. I am wired by nature to love the same toys that the world loves. I start to fit in. I start to love what others love. I start to call earth "home." Before you know it, I am calling luxuries "needs" and using my money just the way unbelievers do. I begin to forget the war. I don't think much about people perishing. Missions and unreached peoples drop out of my mind. I stop dreaming about the triumphs of grace. I sink into a secular mind-set that looks first to what man can do, not what God can do. It is a terrible sickness. And I thank God for those who have forced me again and again toward a wartime mind-set. [4]

There are affairs of everyday life that ought not to entangle us (verse 4). Instead, we ought to ignore them and realize that we are in a battle.

Well, in verse 5, the illustration changes to an athlete.

2 Timothy 2:5
Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules.

Consider the athlete. The athlete trains for his competition, with great dedication. He is careful in what he eats. He is careful to get enough sleep. He spends countless hours at the gymnasium or in the weight room. He will watch films of himself. He will study his competition, looking for weaknesses. He will work with his teammates, coordinating efforts of the team.

During his practices, he will often push himself to the limits of his ability -- running wind sprints, running laps. In fact, I remember in my college days, often finding that the games we played were less grueling than the practices that we endured.

The athlete will drill on the specific skills needed to compete. The golfer will hit hundreds of golf balls every day. The basketball player will shoot hundreds of shots every day. The baseball player will hit as many pitches as he can. The soccer player will touch the soccer ball thousands of times every day with his feet. The quarterback will make as many throws as he can, until his arm can’t take it any longer. The sprinter will practice getting in and out of the running blocks. The long distance runner will pay great attention to his pace.

I remember listening to a man preach a series of four sermons entitled, "The Christian Life Described By Athletic Imagery." It was a great sermon series. He talked about how much athletic competition has to teach us about the Christian life.

It teaches, ... 1. Submission to authority
It teaches, ... 2. Discipline
It teaches, ... 3. Self-control
It teaches, ... 4. Hard work
It teaches, ... 5. Courage
It teaches, ... 6. Teamwork
It teaches, ... 7. Endurance
It teaches, ... 8. Focusing on the goal. [5]

We know about these things. Timothy knew about these things. I know, because Paul told him. 1 Timothy 4:7-8 says, "Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; For bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come." In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul spoke of the need to compete for the prize. "Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore, I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; But I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified" (9:24-27).

And surely, Paul had used such imagery before in the fifteen years of knowing each other. But, technically verse 5 isn’t so much about the training of an athlete. Rather, Paul focuses our attention upon the competition, itself, "an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules" (verse 5).

Now, I don’t think that it excludes everything that we have thought about regarding the training of an athlete. Because, without the training, there is no chance on the day of competition. But, the focus here is upon the day of competition. All of the athletes are out to win. And there are strict rules you need to go by. The runner can’t start until the gun sounds. The football player can’t grab the opponent by the facemask. The basketball player can’t stand in the lane for more than 3 seconds. Those are the sort of rules that you play by to get the prize.

Paul is telling Timothy, "You are an athlete. You certainly need to train hard. But, play by the rules." You have one tool, "the word of truth" (2:15). You need to handle it well (2:15). Don’t wrangle about words (2:14). Avoid worldly and empty chatter (2:16). Don’t be quarrelsome, but be kind to all (2:24). Be patient when wronged (2:24). Gently correct those in opposition (2:25). Train and compete according to the rules. There is a prize at the end of the tunnel. Set your mind upon the prize.

Consider the soldier. Consider the athlete. Thirdly, Consider the farmer.

"The hard working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops."

It is a lot of work to be a farmer. Think about everything that a farmer does. He buys the seed. He tills the ground. He plants the seed. He cares for the plants. He weeds the field. He harvests the crop. It’s hard work.

Any of you who have a garden know of the hard work that it is. It is part of the curse. God has designed it to be hard work.

I remember in high school, working at detassling corn in the fields. In order to produce a quality hybrid seed, you would remove the tassels off one type of corn and let another pollinate it's ears. It was strenuous, hard work. You would arrive in the fields early in the morning, when the dew is still on the corn stalks. The dew drenches you and makes you very cold. But, by afternoon, it's more than 100 degrees in the fields. And, it's very humid. It's very hard work.

But, such is only a small glimpse of the hardship of the farmer who does this sort of work throughout the growing season. But, the farmer will willingly do this because his eye is upon the reward, sharing in the harvest of the crops.

Similarly, in the Christian life, there is a goal in mind. The hard work is all toward the end goal.

Verse 7 says, "Consider what I say." He says, ...

2 Timothy 2:7
Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.

Think about what he is saying. He is saying, "There is a prize. So go at it hard to get the prize. If you want to have an enduring ministry, do these things -- Be Strong in Grace, Train the Trainer, and Pay the Price."

This sermon was delivered to Rock Valley Bible Church on September 11, 2011 by Steve Brandon.
For more information see www.rvbc.cc.

[1] See Steve Farrar’s excellent book, "Finishing Strong," chapter 2 for more detail about those who finished poorly, finished so-so, and finished well.

[2] Bill Mills and Craig Parro, Finishing Well, p. 19, italics theirs

[3] J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership, p. 183

[4] John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life, pp. 111-112.

[5] George McDearmon, "The Christian Life Described by Athletic Imagery" can be heard here: http://www.tbcnj.org/sermons/Olympics.html.