William Sangster, a popular preacher and writer of the 1950’s, said this: “The church is painfully in need of leaders.” In the Scriptures God is frequently described as searching for a man of a certain type; not “men”, but “a man”; not a group, but an individual. I Samuel 13:14 says, “The Lord has sought out for Himself a man after His own heart.” In Ezekiel 22:30 God says, “I searched for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the gap . . . but I found no one.” Are you such a person? What kind of a person is it that God is looking for? In II Timothy 2:1-7, the apostle Paul, after telling Timothy to “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus”, describes such a person by using four images:
I. A TEACHER (verse 2)
In verse 2, the first image Paul uses to describe the Christian leader is that of a teacher. A college student was having difficulty with his studies so he finally decided to talk to his professor. He complained, “I’m studying hard. I’m doing my best, but I just can’t retain what I read or try to memorize. Do you think it would help if I hired a tutor?”
Clearly understanding the young man’s problem, the instructor replied, “No, I wouldn’t recommend that at all. You don’t need a teacher, you need a pupil!” He knew that learning is increased when we share our knowledge with others.
This professor’s advice reminds us of believers who know many Bible facts but still have a poor understanding of scriptural truths. They attend church every Sunday, listen faithfully to religious broadcasts, and study the Scriptures personally; yet they seem to lack a working knowledge of the Bible. What’s the problem? They never do anything with that information! They don”t need to be taught more; they need to tell others what they have learned. As they put it into practice, they will begin to understand it more fully. That is what Paul said to Timothy in verse 2. The things Paul said were confirmed by many witnesses as being the truth of God. There are many teachers today who compromise the Scriptures so that they are acceptable to the mentality of this age in which we live. Paul is telling Timothy to “entrust” the things he’s learned from him to faithful men. The word “entrust” gives the picture of a precious treasure being placed in the safekeeping of another person. We each have things that we treasure, either because they are expensive or because they have sentimental value. If you were going on a trip, would you hand these items over to a total stranger? No! You would give them to a trusted friend with information on how to care for and protect them. The Gospel is a precious treasure and should be given to “faithful men” who won’t misuse it or abandon it.
The teacher is described in verse 2 as equipping others to teach, not satisfied with just communicating the message. The nature of the Gospel message demands that it be propagated or reproduced in the lives of others. The ultimate goal of the teacher is to see God’s Word passed on to others, and through them to still others. That is the key to reaching this world for the Lord Jesus Christ.
II. A SOLDIER (verses 3-4)
The second image that Paul uses is that of a soldier. You could say that if any apostle was an authority on soldiers, it was the apostle Paul. He had been in prison and chained to soldiers during much of his Christian life. What comes to your minds when you think of a soldier’s life? In verse 3, Paul describes a soldier as one who is willing to suffer hardship. The apostle Paul was a good soldier of Jesus Christ because he suffered for the cause of Christ, and had the scars to prove it. There was a popular saying during World War II: people would often say to each other, “there’s a war on!” It was a reminder to them that hardships were to be expected and accepted.
Fellow Christians, there IS a war on! We, as Christians, are in a war against the world, against our own sinful flesh, and against Satan. Are we willing to accept all the hardship that comes as a result of identifying with the cause of Christ? As modern-day believers, we may not all experience great persecution for our faith, but we do face hardships and trials. Our faith in Christ is not an escape from them, but it does give us the strength to endure them.
In verse 4, Paul says that a soldier is obedient and loyal. The words “on active duty” describe the life of a soldier of Christ as a constant battle. There are no “furloughs” or “vacations” from the Christian life. Constant and complete dedication is needed. A soldier also does not “entangle himself in the affairs of everyday life”. A Roman soldier was forbidden to engage in civilian occupations and was told to avoid becoming overly involved in the affairs of the market-place. He was a soldier first and his loyalty was to be to his commander.
The Christian is also to be single-minded. This may mean laying aside certain habits, amusements, pursuits, and maybe even certain relationships, not necessarily because they may be wrong in themselves, but because they may be an entanglement, keeping us from performing our primary responsibilities as servants of the Lord Jesus Christ.
III. AN ATHLETE (verse 5)
In verse 5, Paul uses the image of an athlete to describe the Christian. The word “competes” comes from two Greek words which were used together to describe a “professional” as opposed to an “amateur” athlete. It was a full-time dedication of one’s life to excellence in the athletic event or events he had chosen. Paul says that the goal of the athlete is to win the prize by “competing according to the rules”. Several athletes in the 1976 olympic games were discovered to have taken prohibited drugs. Their medals were taken away from them. All those years of preparation and hard work were for nothing!
As a Christian leader, the standard is God’s Word, and we have several umpires observing what we do and how we do it. We have the divine umpire, and He doesn’t miss a thing. But we also have the Christians and non-Christians around us. I’ve personally found that some non-Christians will tempt you, test you, argue with you, and antagonize you, but inwardly many of them want you to succeed, to pass their tests, because they want something worth believing, and worth giving themselves to. God is looking for faithful Christians, faithful to Him and to His Word, whatever the cost. And some day we will win the prize when God rewards our faithfulness to Him.
IV. THE FARMER (verses 6 and 7)
The fourth image that Paul uses to describe the Christian leader is that of the farmer. In verse 6, he describes the farmer as being “hardworking”. The word means working to the point of weariness and exhaustion. As a kid, I remember spending a week with a friend on his parents’ farm. We went to bed early every night and got up really early every morning. His mother made the biggest breakfasts that I have ever seen! There were eggs, pancakes, potatoes, meat, rolls, fruit, and hot cereal. I soon found out why there was so much food. We worked hard after breakfast gathering the eggs, feeding the chickens, cows, horses, and pigs, spraying the weeds, and picking the ripe fruit and vegetables. By lunch time, and also at supper time, I was famished and ate lots of food. After the week was over, I can remember coming home exhausted. Now I knew why their son liked to spend a week with us once in a while!
The farmer must be content to keep working hard, and also to keep waiting. More than any other worker, the farmer has to learn that there is no such thing as quick results. It takes months after the seed is sown and the ground is continually watered and cultivated, that the fruit, vegetables, and grain finally begin to ripen and can be harvested. But all that hard work will finally pay off.
The Christian life is also hard work The Christian too must learn to work hard and also to wait. Often he will sow the seed of God’s Word into the hearts of others and see no immediate results. Sometimes it takes years of sowing and watering before some people respond to the Gospel message and are saved. But we must, like the farmer, keep on working and waiting. The pastor and author, John R.W. Stott, said: “This notion that Christian service is hard work is so unpopular in some happy-go-lucky Christian circles today.”
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION:
Let me summarize the qualities of a good Chrtistian leader. As a teacher, he should be characterized by faithfulness to uphold the truth of God’s Word, and a zeal to see it reproduced in the lives of faithful people, and then passed on to others. As a soldier, he is to be undistracted from his calling and willing to endure anything for the cause of the Lord Jesus Christ. As an athlete, he is to be above reproach in his actions, attitudes, and methods, both before the eyes of the world and the eyes of God. And as a farmer, he is to work long and hard, trusting God for the harvest to come.
Will you be such a person: the kind of person that God and His church seeks after; the kind of person that this world needs? Will you be able to say confidently to those you are teaching and helping to grow spiritually, what the apostle Paul said in verse 7: “Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything”?