Symbols of a Working Faith

vets day

Three kinds of workers illustrate a working Christian faith.

Please read 2 Timothy 2:1-7 in your Bible.  I use the NIV (1984).

From a sermon by Jeff Strite, “Til Death Do Us Part” 2/15/2009: “Every year, hundreds of Civil war buffs get together and put on mock battles. They don uniforms that soldiers of the North and South would have worn back then.

“During one reenactment, it was a hot sweltering day. The civil war buffs are sweating as they maneuvered into position for their battle, facing the usual frustrations involved in setting up such a display. However, one of the ‘Rebels’ got so tired, hot, and frustrated he threw in the towel and headed for the refreshment tent. As he tugged off his wool uniform he was heard to grumble: ‘I quit. We’re not going to win anyway.’

And, of course — he was right! Here was this civil war buff — who knows HOW everything is going to turn out. He’s tired, hot, and discouraged. He KNOWS his side isn’t going to win anyway… so he quits.”

Christian, we are in a similar situation.  The Bible tells us (as we learned last Sunday) who will win the war of good versus evil.  God wins!  How can we consider giving up when we know we’re on the winning side? I know from our vantage point it may appear we’re losing this particular battle, but the outcome of the war is not in doubt.  God calls us to soldier on.  That was Paul’s message to Timothy, too.

The passage begins with Paul calling Timothy to be STRONG, but not in his own strength, in the strength that God’s GRACE provides.  In this way – only in this way – will Timothy be able to keep his calling as a pastor.  His task is to pass along the faith to those who are spiritually mature and share in his work of preaching the truth about Jesus.

Paul uses three illustrations to show Timothy that endurance, obedience, discipline, and perseverance are going to be required to accomplish this work.  If we will faithfully exhibit these marks of integrity God will faithfully make our work fruitful.

  1. Two things distinguish a soldier’s work: endurance and obedience (vs. 3+4).

The first virtue exemplified by a soldier is Endurance.  The phrase ENDURE HARDSHIP is a new word created by Paul, combining the Greek words for “suffer,” “bad,” and “together.”  Normally, we think of endurance as being something we do solo, gritting our teeth and getting through.  Enduring together is a better and more godly way of thinking about it.

The second virtue illustrated by a soldier’s life is Obedience.  A GOOD SOLDIER’s priority is pleasing his COMMANDING OFFICER.  All followers of Jesus have God the Father as our COMMANDING OFFICER. This Greek word literally meant “the one who enlisted us as a soldier.”

In Philippians 2:25 & Philemon 2 the word for GOOD SOLDIER is translated as FELLOW WORKER, referring to Paul’s associate ministers of the Gospel.

With that priority, a GOOD SOLDIER avoids getting INVOLVED IN CIVILIAN AFFAIRS, which are “business, occupations.”  A soldier temporarily sets aside interest in a career as it would distract him.  Instead, he focuses on being a soldier, fulfilling his CO’s orders.

  1. One thing distinguishes an athlete’s work: discipline (v. 5).

His priority is receiving the VICTOR’S CROWN.  This is stephanos, the crown made of laurel leaves that was given to the winner.  It was a kind of “key to the city,” as the one wearing it was treated like a hero all day.  The word for the kind of crown worn by royalty was diadema; headgear that gave the wearer a different kind of celebrity.

With that priority, an athlete COMPETES ACCORDING TO THE RULES – that is – he exercises discipline.  An athlete demonstrates discipline while preparing for competition, devoting time and effort in training.  When he competes, an athlete who truly wants to win competes within the rules of the game.  We’ve seen lots of notorious examples of people who cheated and ultimately lost the big prize.

Self-discipline is difficult, but it is always more satisfying and easier than discipline exerted on us by others.  Paul specified what self-discipline meant for pastors in vs. 23-24.

  1. One thing distinguishes a farmer’s work: perseverance (v. 6).

His priority is receiving a SHARE OF THE CROPS.  In fact, Paul wrote that the HARDWORKNG FARMER deserved FIRST SHARE OF THE CROPS he raised.  Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 5:18, THE WORKER DESERVES HIS WAGES.  As a culture, we’ve gone from being farmers to being gardeners to ordering our food delivered to us.  In these transitions we’ve lost our personal connection to the land and the patience that working the soil demands.  We have to turn to the remaining farmers to learn perseverance.

With that priority, the farmer works hard; he demonstrates perseverance.  Seed does not grow overnight and it will not grow as productively if it is not tended.  The farmer plants the seed with the hope of a good harvest to follow.  While he waits, the farmer tries to reduce the effects of things he can’t control (weather) by doing things he can control (seed selection, weed control, irrigation).  In the field, there is no such thing as “fast food.”  It all takes time.

Three kinds of workers illustrate a working Christian faith.

At the end of our passage (v. 7), Paul did not over-interpret these figures of speech, but instead called on Timothy to REFLECT on them, certain that God would supply him with personal INSIGHT into their meaning.  Similarly, when any of us read the Bible, we need to take time to pray and think about what we’ve read to gain a personal application of the truth.

A chaplain was speaking to a soldier on a cot in a hospital. “You have lost an arm in the great cause,” he said. “No,” said the soldier with a smile. “I didn’t lose it–I gave it.” In that same way, Jesus did not lose His life. He gave it purposefully.


Sermon #534

The Expositor’s Bible Commentary

The Daily Study Bible Series

Zondervan Bible Commentary

Waging War on Weariness #1


What are we to do when we are wearied?

I read an article entitled “Six Sneaky Signs of Exhaustion” by Zahra Barnes.  I’ve got to say five of the six weren’t “sneaky” at all.  Eating more junk than usual, fuzzy thinking, difficulty working out at the gym (say nothing of even getting to the gym), and being stressed were all pretty typical stuff.  The fifth sign, sleeping poorly, even once a week, was a little unexpected, but the sixth clue was the surprising one:  Your lips are dry.

Yes, cracked lips are a sign of dehydration which is, in turn, a cause of weariness. Chapped lips are a common woe in cold-weather climates but it can also be a marker of dehydration that can lead to exhaustion.  So, do somebody a favor today and check out their lips.  Go ahead, its a public service.  Do they look exhausted to you?

<Retrieved from on 2?11/17.>

A more reliable source of information is the Apostle Paul.  He identified the spiritual problem of weariness and offered good reasons for combating it with godliness.

Please read Galatians 6:1-11 in your favorite Bible.  I have used the NIV for this message.

The reformer John Calvin commented on this passage’s command DO NOT BECOME WEARY; because he’s referring to human nature, his comments are just as relevant today.

“This precept is especially necessary because we are naturally lazy in the duties of love, and many little stumbling-blocks hinder and put off even the well-disposed.  We meet many unworthy, many ungrateful people.  The vast number of the nedy overwhelms us; we are drained by paying out on every side.  Our warmth is damped by the coldness of others.  Finally, the whole world is full of hindrances which turn us aside from the right path.  Therefore Paul does well to confirm our efforts, so that we do not faint from weariness.”  (Calvin, Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries 11.114, as cited in The New American Commentary on Galatians, Timothy George, 1994.)

To command someone “don’t become weary” makes about as much sense as telling them not to sneeze or stop crying, etc.  In this life and with our nature, some moments of weariness are inevitable.

Paul is not writing to us about the avoidable or unavoidable moments when we naturally weary physically, emotionally, and/or spiritually.  His concern, as made clear in the text, is that we do not become so weary that we GIVE UP.  We must not become so characterized or paralyzed by weariness that we quit.  A faith that saves us is a faith that lasts us – until the very end of life, and beyond.

So we’re not going to take any time to discuss weariness in terms of what it is or how to avoid it.  Though those are worthy topics, we’re going to assume that weariness, discouragement, and being “sick and tired” are going to happen.  We’re turning to Scripture to find out what we can do about it when weariness strikes.

  1. Continue to do good anyway. (Galatians 6:10)

Watch for the word THEREFORE in Paul’s letters.  That’s the word that links steps in his teaching together.  The first five chapters contain specifics about good deeds to be done by the Christians in the church in Galatia, including the Fruits of the Spirit passage found just before chapter six. THEREFORE links that with the promise in v. 9 if we DO NOT GIVE UP, we will one day REAP A HARVEST.

This is a great choice of symbols: who ever planted a seed and reaped a harvest the next day?  There is always a gap of time between planting and harvesting, and plenty of work to be done in the middle.  The waiting time in between can tax a person’s patience.  But hang on.  Some kind of harvest will inevitably come.

In this case, harvesting is a sure thing because it is a promised based on the character of God.  With that in mind, we do what people do while they wait on a crop to mature; they look for work to do to prepare for the harvest.  In spiritual terms, this means we keep on looking for and acting upon opportunities to DO GOOD: whatever is godly, noble, and spiritually maturing. The inevitability of the promise being fulfilled is offered as a God-approved motive for not giving up when we are worn down by weariness.

The HARVEST comes at the PROPER TIME (kairos = opportune moment), not necessarily at the time of our choosing.  That is God’s choice, not ours.  In 1 Timothy 6:15, Paul also used kairos to refer to the timing of the Second Coming.  It will happen when God the Father has decided it should.

We’re not to be fussy about who benefits from our good deeds, but we are to particularly extend ourselves on behalf of THOSE WHO BELONG TO THE FAMILY OF BELIEVERS.  LET US DO GOOD TO ALL PEOPLE means that we are not to limit our love to those who love us and/or seems especially loveable to us.  In Luke 6:32 Jesus taught,

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?  Even sinners love those who love them.”

Let’s face it; all people are created in the image of God, Jesus died for all of them, and God loves them all.  We have been loved with unconditional and unlimited love, so we must aspire to, as much as we can, do exactly the same.

The word ESPECIALLY means that we give first attention and extra effort to fellow believers.  Yes, that means “preferential treatment.”  Other believers are our primary neighbors.

We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.  Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up.  (RMS 15:1-2)

This does certainly not excuse stiffing outsiders.  Remember, Paul lead with ALL PEOPLE and the Bible calls us to love OUR NEIGHBOR, which is another way of saying ALL PEOPLE.

  1. Wait on the Lord.

He will see justice is done and the Law of Sowing and Reaping is observed. (see Galatians 6:7-9 and 2 Chronicles 36:15-16)

In Galatians 6:7-9 we find the Law of Sowing and Reaping.  This Law can be stated as follows: “All deeds are seen and remembered by God.  One day, He will reward good doers and punish evil doers.  Perfect justice will be served.”  Though it doesn’t necessarily take effect as quickly, this law is as inevitable and reliable as the law of gravity.  God cannot be MOCKED; this law cannot be violated.

The use of SPIRIT and FLESH is mentioned to compare good and evil.  Just as you can expect a certain plant grow where you plant that kind of seed, you can also expect an appropriate reaction from God for the things you choose to do.

– A lifetime wasted on deeds that flow from a selfish and evil heart results in DESTRUCTION; it is a life lost.

– A lifetime spent on deeds the come from the Holy Spirit within true followers results in ETERNAL LIFE.

– Judgment Day is a reality and the wise person begins today to stockpile good deeds.

In 2 Chronicles 36:15-16 we see both sides of God’s reaction to human actions:

The Lord, the God of their ancestors, sent word to them through his messengers again and again, because he had pity on his people and on his dwelling place.  But they mocked God’s messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the Lord was aroused against his people and there was no remedy.

Because the Lord had PITY on HIS PEOPLE AND HIS DWELLING PLACE, he gave the people of Judah and the city of Jerusalem warnings and opportunities to repent.  But they repeatedly chose the world and its false gods and the result was that the WRATH OF THE LORD was AROUSED against them.  Note the ominous words: THERE WAS NO REMEDY.

Like the people of Judah, God graciously gives every one of us every opportunity to repent and be saved.  For those who refuse, their choices will catch up with them.

His salvation is coming (see Lamentations 3:25-26 and Hebrews 9:27-28).

In Lamentations 3:25-26 we read,

The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.

This verse details a GOOD thing from God = God is GOOD to those who place their HOPE in Him and not in any worldly thing.  It also conveys a GOOD thing we do = It is GOOD to WAIT QUIETLY for the LORD to bring our salvation.

Waiting is so often contrary to human nature that where it is practiced, it may be a sign of the Holy Spirit in us.  The only thing worse than having to wait is having to WAIT QUIETLY!  This means that the right kind of waiting is one that is marked by patience.  It means we cease our manipulations and instead devote our attention to the LORD and allow Him to do it for us.

In Hebrews 9:27-28, we read about the certainty of this promise of salvation:

Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting on him.

Just as death is inevitable but comes suddenly and one should prepare for the moment, so the Second Coming of Jesus Christ an inevitable event that will happen suddenly and for which we must be prepared.

On that day, Jesus will recognize His people and take them into the presence of God the Father.  Those who are rewarded with SALVATION on that day THOSE WHO ARE WAITING ON HIM.

In a sermon on Isaiah 40:27-31, Pastor Joe Alain compared two kinds of weariness.  He wrote; “There is a weariness that we might describe as a good weariness. It’s the kind of being tired that comes as a result of some accomplishment. You’re tired but you’re satisfied. For example, you work out and you’re tired, but it feels good because you know you’ve accomplished something. You play hard and you become tired but it’s a good kind of tired, a rewarding type of weariness.
“But then there is a soul-weariness that is draining and anything but satisfying. It’s the kind of weariness of the soul that weighs you down. You’re tired spiritually, you become burned out, you get tired of fighting the spiritual battle that is going on the inside, you become weary of fighting the good fight of faith. When that happens, we give up and we give in to living a lesser life than God intends for us.”

<Retrieved from on 2/11/17.>

Obviously, the Apostle Paul wrote about the second kind of weariness.  The first kind is a gift from God, an act of grace that is a natural reward for having done right.  The second is a curse from the devil, trying to distract us with pettiness and discourage us into bitterness.

This kind of weariness is not part of the life God intended for you.  It is a serious problem.  We are going to spend a few Sundays learning how we can be encouraged and ward off weariness.  We’re going to get at the heart of the matter, to expose what goes wrong when we walk in self-destructive ways.