The Soldier, Athlete and Farmer

Paul wrote to his protege Timothy instructing him about his life as a Pastor and I believe as a Christian. To drive home his point, Paul draws analogies from three occupations—soldier, athlete and farmer.
Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops (2Timothy 2:3-6).
One may ask, what relationship exists between these three? Reading carefully, you will notice common themes of discipline, suffering, commitment and hard work running through these occupational analogies. This tells us somethings about the Christian life. Timothy as a Pastor and a Christian was to learn lessons from these occupations. So must we also.Firstly, the Christian life is compared to the life of a soldier: “Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him (vv3-4). The life of a soldier is marked by discipline and a vigorous training regime to make them fit for life as a soldier. Like a Soldier, the Christian life is a call to suffering and discipline. Christianity is not a bed of roses and comfort. A soldier must be combat ready always just as the Christian who wrestles not against flesh and blood must be combat ready. Not in a militant sense; but in prayer, in defiance of the pleasures of the world and flesh, in endurance and perseverance in the face of adversity and persecution. Again, as the soldier seeks to honour the orders of their superiors or the one who enlisted them, the Christian is called to the service of honouring Christ and be ready to please Him (Romans 12:1-2).

Next, Paul compares the Christian life to the life of an athlete: “An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules”(v5). A footballer, tennis player, marathon runner or any athlete of any sports discipline doesn’t just show up at a sport event and begins winning medals. They train. And train. And train. Apart from that, there are rules and until those rules are followed, an athlete is disqualified. This is instructive. A Christian cannot live their lives wantonly in sin. To be a Christian is to live by the rules of Christianity, so to speak. It is to live in obedience to the commandments of God.

Finally, to the farmer. “It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops”(v6). A farmer clears a land, prepares it, plants and patiently waits for a harvest. All these demands hard work. It is labour. In that same sense, the believer is called upon to labour. Labour in holiness. Labour in service to God. Labour in loving one another. Labour in pleasing God.

Now, whatever is true of these three occupations, the believer is called to emulate. And the beauty about this, is that, the believer is not called upon to do that by their self-will or human strength. Rather, they are “strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (v.1).

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