Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus (2 Tim 2:1)
Recently, I heard a friend of mine, Allen Rae, speak on 2 Timothy 2:1-6. In this passage of Scripture, Paul tells Timothy that Timothy needs to be strong in the grace of Christ. Clearly, Paul is not telling Timothy how to be saved by the grace of God, since Timothy was already a believer. In fact, Paul had chosen him to be his right hand man in the important work in Ephesus. Timothy is Paul’s “son” in the faith.
Instead, Paul is telling Timothy to live the Christian life by grace. The life the pleases the Lord can only be lived in that power—the grace that God provides. But it is also just as clear that this kind of life is not automatic and the believer, if he wants to be strong in grace, must desire and choose to do so.
Paul gives us three examples of what being strong in grace looks like. Each illustration shows that such a life is not automatic. But they also show what the grace of God can do in the life of the believer if the believer will take advantage of that power.
The three illustrations are: the soldier (verse 4); the athlete (verse 5); and the farmer (verse 6). A person does not become a good soldier, a successful athlete, or a productive farmer automatically.
The good soldier, Paul says is focused on pleasing the One who called him into service. This focus takes precedence over any other desire in the life of the soldier. For the believer, the One who calls us, our Commander if you will, is none other than Jesus Christ. The believer who is strong in grace is the one who focuses on Him and not the things of this world.
The successful athlete is one that is self-disciplined and strives for a prize. The prize is something he hopes to obtain in the future. The successful athlete goes through the grueling training program before him because he wants to win the trophy or medal that is available. This illustration shows us that the life of grace is lived in view of a future reward at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
The productive farmer is one who plants seeds and sees a harvest. He shares in that harvest. It seems to me that the emphasis Paul is making here is that that hard working farmer enjoys the fruit of his labors in this life. As he plants seeds in the lives of others he sees those results. For the believer, this would be the impact that we can have in the lives of others as we serve them by using our gifts. In other words, being strong in grace has benefits here and now.
I have been around a number of good soldiers in my life. I have admired (from afar) the self-discipline that successful athletes exhibit. My grandfather was a farmer and I can tell you that his harvest of crops involved a great deal of hard work. None of these things are easy.
But Paul is saying that with God’s grace they can be great illustrations of what a Christian can be. If we allow the grace of God to work in our lives, by trusting in His power to transform us, we can be believers who are focused on the Person of Christ, live our lives in light of coming eternal rewards, and see the fruit of that grace in the lives of others.