The Process and the Prize

Paul used three images to describe the process and the resulting prize of our partnership with Jesus.

Beyond warfare is a victory. Beyond competition is a prize. Beyond farming is a crop.

The Process

Paul used three images to emphasize what people who partner with God and his purposes do.

(1) Single-minded devotion to God’s purposes.

Success in war is dependent on soldiers working as a team under the direction of their officers.

Share in suffering like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.

No one serving in the army gets entangled in everyday affairs; the soldier’s aim is to please the enlisting officer (2 Timothy 2.3-4).

Imagine how ineffective an army would be if every soldier did as they pleased.

Armies are effective when soldiers follow the battle plan of their leaders. The unified effort that is designed for maximum effectiveness is dependent on each soldier following orders.

Paul made it clear that “[Jesus] is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything” (Colossians 1.18).

The world needs a unified message from Jesus’ followers about God’s love and grace. They will have it when the people of God set aside their individual plans and follow the game plan of the Lord.

The best way to partner with Jesus is to recognize him as the Head of our lives and give him first place in everything.

(2) Necessary Discipline

Coaches tell their teams, “I’ll make you do what you don’t want to do, so you can get what you all want to get.”

The saying, “You play like you practice,” captures the importance of disciplined practice.

If discipline is needed to win an athletic prize, imagine how important it is to win the hearts of people for the sake of Christ.

Paul reminds us of this principle. “And in the case of an athlete, no one is crowned without competing according to the rules” (2 Timothy 2.5).

I frequently write about prayer, Bible reading, and obedience. As we engage in these three practices, we will experience a prize that is infinitely richer than the wilted vegetables that formed the laurel wreath of first-century athletic games.

Besides the joy of living the best life possible, the prize of a disciplined follower of Jesus is the number of people they help experience a personal relationship with God.

(3) Work!

Following Jesus is not a luxury sport. Self-surrender and discipline are themes that dominate today’s Bible verses.

Paul’s third example emphasizes the role of work.

It is the farmer who does the work who ought to have the first share of the crops (2 Timothy 2.6).

Followers of Jesus set aside self-centered behavior and work to partner with Jesus. We don’t labor in vain.

We know that beyond warfare is a victory. Beyond competition is a prize. Beyond farming is a crop.

Think About It!

Paul asks his readers to “Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in all things” (2 Timothy 2.7).

As if thinking about warfare, sports, and farming were not enough, there are two more examples to consider.

Paul imitated Jesus, who is the ultimate example of self-giving love.

Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David—that is my gospel,

For which I suffer hardship, even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But the word of God is not chained (2 Timothy 2.8-9).

Jesus went through the hard work of the cross to experience resurrection and give humans eternal life.

Paul suffered the kind of hardship that was reserved for the worst criminals in the Roman empire.

The grave couldn’t hold Jesus down and prison chains were not able to stop the word of God.

May we be encouraged by these examples. May we give the plans and purposes of God the same energy as a soldier, an athlete, or a farmer does their work.

YouTube Video

Rudy Ross and I have produced a video on this passage. It can be found on the Bob Spradling channel.

Please email your prayers to The Maywood prayer team will pray for you.

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