Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 15 April 2019

The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops.   2 Timothy 2:6 (NIV).

This verse, along with the previous ones, should be considered all together to get their full impact.  Together, verses 1-6 say “You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules. The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops.”

Think of it this way:   keep your eye on the ball because the reward for this is better than anything else you can imagine.

Sometimes I wonder where I fit in.   I’m working at my fifth company in three years.   To be honest, that sometimes shakes my confidence, especially when your work is done or the client moves in a new direction.  The reasons for moving around so much are many, but they all end at this place:  I’m currently employed at a great company, and I’m so thankful for it.   Yet even here, after so many moves, even when I’m thankful to be working and working where I am, I wonder where I fit in.

I wonder if farmers feel that way.   It must be a challenge to stay motivated to get up every day and work patiently at growing crops, husbanding animals, and maintaining your homestead.   It’s good work, peaceful work, rewarding work I’m sure.   But it must also be frightening at storm times, or when the rains come too early, too much, too little or late.  Athletes prepare for competition; farmers prepare for the harvest (and then for the rest months, and then planting, weeding, and the next harvest).   Like athletes who are always preparing for the next competition, or consultants who are always implementing the last version of software in anticipation of the next future implementation, farmers prepare now for the next harvest and the times after that.

Sort of like Jesus did for us, preparing us now for the next harvest after this life.   That means we need to heed Him, let ourselves be prepared, and keep our eyes on the ball of His presence, His teaching in our lives; let Him reward us as He sees best.  It prepares us now for both living here in the fallen world and the harvest in heaven when the full crop of His believers are brought together in eternal praise and celebration.  THAT is the place we’ll fit in best.

For further reading:  1 Corinthians 9:10, 2 Timothy 2:7.

Awesome “farmer” Jesus, prepare me now, I pray, to serve You better.  

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Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 11 April 2019

Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules.   2 Timothy 2:5 (NIV).

My wife and I have an ongoing rib about rule-following.   She’s a dedicated rule-follower.   I’m more of a rebel.   It wasn’t always this way; over the years we’ve switched roles.   That happens in relationships.   But, overall, one of her more admirable character traits is her devotion to following rules, staying in-between the guidelines.

This character gift stems from the years she grew up playing in competitive sports.   Basketball, volleyball, and especially softball:  my wife played on numerous teams over the years.   She has a box full of trophies that testify how she was good at it, too.  I never played organized sports.   My parents were anti-athletic, discouraging me from team athletics   I never took the time to learn how to compete by the rules, or train for the race, or run a victory lap.   It’s one of the things I would do over if I could.

Still, that doesn’t negate what Paul says here in verse 5.  In Paul’s day, the Greeks still conducted the Olympic Games.   Thus, his verse here would have meant something to the people of that day who were familiar with the athletic culture that surrounded the games.  They would have understood what it meant to prepare for competition, to race against the best in the sport, and to do so within the confines of rules that made competition fair.   And they would have understood that the competition was for a trophy and the glory that comes with it, both of which don’t last.  If they last, then tell me who were the great champions in the ancient Olympic Games that ran for over a thousand years?

Jesus does that same thing, you know.

Jesus says that human glory dies but He doesn’t.   Jesus knows that the trophy for which we strive – the cross – was already won by Him for us.   Jesus understands that we prepare every day for competition, to race our races, and that He lives within us to encourage us to strive for what is best, competition or otherwise.  And Jesus knows that so much of our life is made up of living in a culture that requires we abide by rules, how His rules – love God and love your neighbor – supersede all human rules while helping us to still live within them.

More and more, I think that’s why my wife is such a rule-follower.   She is constantly improving her outlook, her behavior to live more like Jesus, to share His Spirit with others in how she conducts herself.   THAT is the race she sets out to run every day, and she’s much better at it than I am.  That’s the race that matters.

For further reading:  1 Corinthians 9:25, Mark 12:30-31, 2 Timothy 2:6.

Lord, help me run my race today!  Thank You for running with me.