You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier. And also, if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. The hardworking farmer must be first to partake of the crops.
2 Tim 2:1-6
One of the things I was brought up to be, was that the church and your faith was what you did. If we went anywhere or did anything, it was with people from church or those of faith. I guess what was instilled in me was that either you were all in, souled out, or you were not in at all. So, when I was in my teens, and rebelled against church and God, I got out completely. But when I came back, it was with all I had. No middle road. No sitting on the sidelines watching. Both extremes came with bumps and bruises by those didn’t agree with me, but it was who I was and brought up to be whether it was intended or not. I know one verse that has stayed in my mind my whole life is where Jesus spoke to the church in Laodicea about being lukewarm, "I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth” Rev 3:15-16. Other than the picture of being spit out of the Lord’s mouth, the thought of being wishy-washy was taken from my character, and replaced with taking a side and staying with it to the end or proven wrong. In fact, my dad used to say to me, “Stand up for what you believe in and don’t give up, unless you find out you’re wrong, then be the first to admit it and apologize.” Paul in the above passage has been telling Timothy everything he knows is true about the Lord and wants Timothy to take on telling this truth to others. He needs to prepare for this quest and be souled out for the Lord to accomplish this task. There’s no being lukewarm for the Lord!
First of all, we need to be strong in the love and mercy the Lord gives to all who are willing do what He calls us to do. Love and mercy from the Lord is grace. To me, this means that you’re going to make mistakes taking on this quest for the Lord, but He isn’t going to punish you for it. He’s going to lift you up so that you can make another try to do what’s right. The Lord doesn’t want you to fail, and you won’t fail, unless you give up. He wants you succeed. He’s like the coach on the sideline of a football game who is cheering you on. If you get hurt, He will do everything to get you well again, and the good thing is that all get to play, and you aren’t going to get cut from the team for not being good enough. You’re always on the Lord’s team if you’re willing to play.
Next, we need to prepare ourselves to be the best we can be. But it doesn’t stop there. We need to be able to teach others to teach others. Jesus in the Great Commission, tells His disciples to make disciples in all nations through baptism, AND to teach them to obey all that Christ commands of them (Matt 28:19-20). Making disciples to make disciples. Teaching other to teach others. Look at our military services. They are constantly bringing in new recruits, teaching them to be good at what they do, and moving them up to teach others to be good at fighting and protecting. It isn’t enough for you to prepare yourself, but you have to relay what you know to someone else to help them to be prepared. What’s the most important part of this strategy? Making sure you teach what is true and the best for the one you are bringing along. You don’t want them to learn bad habits or things that are not true. Think about how this pertains to the church. Make sure what you are teaching is according to God’s handbook for soldiers of Christ. Make sure it’s the truth. If it’s not, be the first to admit it, apologize, and start teaching the truth.
Next, we need to realize we are going to endure hardships, so Christian up. Please don’t follow the myth that because you are in Christ that everything is going to go perfect all the time. Jesus didn’t teach that, "Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” Matt 5:11-12 and "If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” John 15:18-19. Just because you are a follower of Christ doesn’t mean that you are going to have it easy. In fact, if you are doing God’s will it will be just the opposite, because the world will be faced with the truth of their sins and hate you for it. But Christian up, because you are in good company! They treated the prophets that way, they hated Jesus, and they made Paul and the other apostles suffer. Don’t let it make you give up.
The farmer analogy is so great. He prepares, he plants, he nourishes, and he reaps sometimes a great crop and sometimes not so great crop. But he is an example to us of patience and endurance. He goes through all of these steps and waits for the Lord to bless his work. But he isn’t done is he. He prepares for the next season of crops, and the next season, and so on. He will study to see how to grow his crops better and more efficient. He will always hope for a better crop even though he might not get it. He doesn’t usually give up because things didn’t go so good, but learns from his mistakes and looks to improve. Patience and endurance. It’s amazing to me, when someone will try something once, and if it doesn’t work out as they hoped, they give up and say it won’t work for anymore or for anyone. What did Edison say about his failures in inventing the light bulb? He was asked why after an incredible amount of failures he didn’t give up. His response was that he had just found how many ways it wouldn’t work, but he knew that eventually he would come across a way it would work, and kept on until he found it. Or something like that. It’s close J. Many times, it takes us being patient and enduring failure, to find a way for something we know is right, to be able to get it to work. Don’t stop trying just because you didn’t get the result you hoped the first time you tried.
This is a message to all churches of Christ and especially to our congregation. We have many workers who did their best, and a great job, but are at a point where they can’t do what they used to. There are some of us who need to become the leaders and workers, and help mentor/teach others to step up and help build up our congregation. We need more workers. What will you do to plant the seed, nourish it, so that the Lord can give the increase (1 Cor 3:5-8). In the same analogy as the army or other military services, there are going to be those who have served and ready to retire, but new recruits need to come in to keep an active army productive. Training needs to keep happening to make them the best army possible. Morale needs to be kept at a high level so the soldiers don’t get discouraged. What will we do to build up our congregation? Don’t look at someone else. What will you do to help build up our congregation? The time of excuses of the past are up, they are not productive, we need to be ready to serve today, and make sure the enemy does not win in our part of the world. Join with me in being souled out for the Lord. There is much to do. There is work for every hand.