Hello, dear reader! I hope you’ve had a wonderful week so far. And if that isn’t the case, I pray you readily receive the peace that passes understanding and the goodness of His grace that supernaturally pushes us to persevere and rids us of Worry’s crippling weight (Phil. 4:7, James 1: 2-3). I pray you accept the Lord’s invitation to transfer your burdens to His shoulders and receive His light yoke instead! (Matt. 11:30)
Today marks week three of this surface-skimming study of 2 Timothy 2:3-7. For those of you who’d rather not click over to biblegatway.com for the reference, allow me… 😉
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. Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this. -2 Timothy 2:3-7
Today my focus shifts from the metaphor of the courageous soldier to that of the disciplined athlete. Paul writes that in order for any of us to win and be victors of this race – aka, “Life” – we have to abide by the rules…and that takes discipline! In today’s McDonaldized culture of convenience and quick fixes, easy remedies are both aggressively sold and sought, especially in the areas of health and wellness. Diet pills, exotic miracle ingredients, 6-week programs, 7-step plans, machines that melt fat with lipid-seeking Gamma rays…you name it, it’s being touted as the latest and greatest fitness tool. “Discipline,” in other words, is not a very popular marketing adjective.
This athlete metaphor seems to echo the adage that cheaters never win! If it was my goal to do the 5000-meter run in the Olympics, I wouldn’t jog occasionally as training, nor would I fuel my body with cheeseburgers and 7-Eleven Slurpees. To compete on a winning level, athletes daily discipline themselves with strict training, proper diet, and adequate rest.
1st Timothy 4:7 exhorts us to discipline ourselves to be godly. This sort of training is by no means a passive exercise that tolerates a nonchalant attitude or half-hearted effort. There are no short-cuts to godliness and no silver bullets to impede the infernal arrows of the enemy. It is only through an unwavering devotion to prayer and sacred, quiet, quality time spent with the Lord that we can truly grow, thrive, and confidently run our race as Christian “athletes.”
1st Corinthians 9:24 tells us to run “in such a way as to get the prize.” Even though we’re not competing against other Christians (there are plenty of crowns to go around in Heaven!), we’re still to conduct our lives with the vim, vigor, zeal and zing required of any pro-level athlete.
Charles Simeon was an English clergyman living in Cambridge in the early 1800s when he received a portrait in the mail (photography wasn’t around yet). It was a painting of a dear young missionary friend who’d recently died of tuberculosis while serving the Lord in India. After the portrait was unpacked, Simeon couldn’t bear to look upon it. Instead he:
“…turned away, covering my face and, in spite of every effort to the contrary, crying aloud with anguish. . . . seeing how much he is worn, I am constrained to call to my relief the thought in Whose service he has worn himself out so much; and this reconciles me to the idea of weakness, of sickness, or even, if God were so to appoint, of death itself. . . . I behold in it all the mind of my beloved brother.”
Simeon hung the painting over the fireplace in his living room and in the company of dinner guests would declare, “There, see that blessed man! What an expression of countenance! No one looks at me as he does; he never takes his eyes off me and seems always to be saying, ‘Be serious. Be in earnest. Don’t trifle. Don’t trifle.’”
I think those two words best encapsulate the exhortation for the godly athlete. Life is short, a mere mist that appears for a split-second before vanishing into one of two unseen realms, existing in real yet intangible dimensions (James 4:13-14). We have a specific purpose, a unique calling, a specially-designed course mapped out from the beginning (Rom. 8:28-30). Let us follow in the onward-marching, ever-running footsteps of the soldiers and athletes who’ve gone before us and were willing to sacrifice all. Let’s lean on the Lord to guide us and with His help, never trifle.
Stay fit, stay faithful ~<3 Di