A Hardworking Farmer

by LA UBF   10/11/2003     0 reads



2 Timothy 2:1-13

Key Verse 2:6

1. Read v. 1. "My son" refers to Timothy, the Apostle Paul's top disciple. What does the Bible say about Timothy (Acts 16:1; Phi 2:22; 1Co 16:10; 1Ti 4:12; 2Ti 1:7; 4:9, 16)? How is it that the "grace" that is in Christ Jesus makes a man "strong"? 

2. Read v. 2. What do the following statements teach us about the way to serve the Lord's redemptive purpose: 1) "entrust"; 2) "to reliable men"; and 3) "the things you heard me say in the presence of many 'witnesses'"? 

3. Read vs. 3-7. Reflect on what the Apostle Paul is saying. In what respect can a Christian be compared to: 1) a "good" soldier; 2) an athlete winning "the victor's crown"; and 3) a "hardworking" farmer? What can we learn from each of them to help us have a "fruitful" life in the Lord? 

4. Memorize v. 8. "Gospel" means "good tidings (or good news of great joy) (Luke 2:10)." In what respect do the following factors constitute such "good" news for all who believe: 1) "Jesus Christ" (Mat 1:21; Isaiah 61:1-3); 2) "raised from the dead" (1Co 15:22-23); and 3) "descended from David" (Matthew 1:1; Luke 2:11; Rm 4:6)?

5. Read vs. 9-13 and describe: 1) the cause of Paul's suffering (9); 2) the  purpose of his endurance (10); and 3) his reason for living such a sacrificial life (11-13). What can we learn from Paul? 



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A hardworking farmer


2 Timothy 2:1-13

Key Verse 2:6

“The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops.”

Today we would like to think about how to live a fruitful life. In Genesis 1:28, the Lord God created mankind and commended mankind to be fruitful and increase in number. When Jesus came, he also revealed the purpose of calling his disciples, “I called you to bear fruit that lasts forever.” So bearing fruit is something we must both think about and work on as a matter of first importance. And now we would like to think about this purpose based on what the Apostle Paul said to his disciple Timothy. As we know, the Apostle Paul was one of the most fruitful servants of God. At the time Paul wrote 2 Timothy, he was near to finishing his life's journey. In fact, many Bible scholars surmise that Paul wrote this epistle and addressed it to Timothy with the realization that his last moments here on earth were fast approaching. Thus many of Paul’s words written in this epistle are testamentary in nature. 

Paul had bore a lot of fruit in his life, in that he brought the gospel to so many people across the Roman Empire, thus producing many disciples. But of all the disciples he produced, Timothy ranked first. Indeed, 1st and 2nd Timothy indicate that Paul wanted to establish Timothy as his “successor,” taking charge of the churches he had thus far pioneered. This is why, in 2 Timothy 2, Paul sums up for Timothy what to bear in mind as a newly appointed young “junior shepherd,” so to speak. As a young shepherd, what should Timothy do? What are the key points Timothy must hold onto, so he can live as a fruitful shepherd? We can categorize Paul’s exhortations into three classes: first, exhortations for Timothy himself; second, exhortations for his disciples; and third, exhortations concerning his fellow soldiers. 

I. Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 

In v. 1, Paul exhorts Timothy to first be strong. A minister must be strong. A weak shepherd cannot serve, protect, train, or lead sheep. Have you ever seen a weak shepherd taking good care of sheep? I do not think so. Sheep are weak, so shepherds should be strong. If you are not strong spiritually, you had better resign from your position as a shepherd. 

How then can one be strong? That’s a good question, particularly when we think about Timothy. The scriptures abound in describing many good and strong points Timothy had as a shepherd. He was faithful, sincere, and loyal. He had a pure heart. And he was reliable. But he had one critical weak point: the spirit of timidity. 

Knowing Timothy's weakness, Paul says, "Be strong!" How could he be strong? In the previous lesson on Ephesians 6:10, we already saw that one can be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. But this time, in talking to Timothy, Paul said, "Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus." What does he mean by "in the grace that is in Christ Jesus"? In view of the way in which the word grace is used in other passages, we can conclude that grace is a generic term used to describe all the gifts which the Lord God has made available for those who put their trust in the Lord. The gifts are many. For example, there is the gift of the forgiveness of our sins and its sin-cleansing power for those who put their trust in the Lord. Then there is the gift of serving others, the gift of teaching the word of God, the gift of healing, etc. and so forth. But of all the gifts, the gift of the Holy Spirit is the greatest one. In fact, the Holy Spirit is, in a sense, Jesus' replacement, whom Jesus sends to reside within us and help us to bear fruit. As we pay attention to him, he works within us so that we can understand the Bible, teach the Bible, and thus serve the flock in wisdom, kindness, gentleness, love, power, and patience. 

Yesterday I came across a book entitled, "Classic Sermons on the Grace of God" by Warren Wiersbe. This book had been sitting on the bookshelf of my living room for a long time. When I looked at the cover of this book, it was seemingly begging me to pay some attention to it. So I had mercy on this book. I picked it up, opened it, and looked at the table of contents. Then one title caught my attention: "The Energy of Grace," a sermon by John Henry Jowett. I don't know who Jowett is, but because of the title, I eagerly read the sermon. Unfortunately, there was not that much to draw from the sermon. But I still found the title interesting: “The Energy of Grace.” This man viewed the grace we find in Jesus as a source of energy. Where then does this energy come from? Two Bible passages come to mind: Isaiah 11:2 and 2 Ti 1:7. Isaiah 11:2 reads, "The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him--the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD." In fulfillment of this verse, Jesus came and said in Luke 4:18-19, "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." Does this passage seem something a strong shepherd would say and do? Yes it does! Jesus is the strong shepherd. It was out of the strength of the Spirit of the Lord that Jesus was able to help the weak become strong. But this power of the Lord's spirit is not just for Jesus. In fact, while he was close to his departure from this world, Jesus promised to give the disciples this gift of the Spirit so that they would not be “orphans.” Therefore, we must ask God that he would anoint us with the Spirit of the Lord which comes with such powerful faculties as the spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the spirit of counsel and of power, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD. Add to these faculties the spirit of love and of self-discipline, as Paul says in 2 Timothy 1:7. 

“Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” So this exhortation is identical to the plea to be filled with the Spirit of God. Then one can be a strong shepherd. Thus, irregardless of personal weaknesses, or regardless of challenges, one can accomplish powerful works for God, and thereby truly live as a shepherd or shepherdess for God’s flock.

I have recently seen some brothers and sisters struggling hard to carry many crosses: catching up on their schoolwork, feeding sheep, writing Bible testimonies, attending this meeting or that meeting, preparing a symposium message, etc. and so forth. Oh, add to all these things the daily fight with L.A. and SoCal traffic. And if you are married, and if you have children, you then have additional crosses to bear (like baby-sitting). How can we carry all these crosses? At first glance, it seems impossible for us to carry these crosses and still live as fruitful ministers of the gospel. But one thing is very clear: unless we are filled with his Spirit, we cannot possibly carry these crosses to the end. One may endure for a little while, but sooner or later, he will burn out. However, when we are filled with the Spirit of God, no matter what the stress and conditions, we will function beautifully. Like a brand new 12-cylinder Jaguar which has been finely tuned, we will perform smoothly, even as we drive up a mountain as steep as the San Bernardino Mountains.

Therefore, before trying to exert ourselves for anything or anyone, we must first remember what the Apostle Paul said, "Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus," and get into his Spirit by constantly praying and meditating deeply on his word.

II. Entrust to reliable men. 

The second point in becoming a fruitful shepherd is to focus on the point of the mission, that is, disciple-making. Before getting into the details on this point, let us first make one point real clear: disciple-making is not something we are to do later but at the outset of our life in ministry. We see Jesus doing the same thing. Jesus began his public ministry at around the age of 30. Upon beginning his public ministry, the first thing he did was to go out to a beachside and fish men like Peter, John, James, etc. Then as Jesus taught the general public, he still focused on the disciples. So from first to finish Jesus concentrated his efforts on his disciples. 

The Apostle Paul did the same thing to his disciple Timothy. As he appointed Timothy as a young pastor of the churches he pioneered, the first thing Paul asked him to do was to make disciples. In fact, in reading 1st and 2nd Timothy, which are known as the pastoral (pastor literally means shepherd), we can see that this was all Timothy was called to do, that is, to make disciples. After all didn't Jesus command his disciples to make disciples of all nations? 

How then was Timothy supposed to make disciples? We find the answer to this question in v. 2. "And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others." Many prominent Christian practitioners have written many books on making disciples. Some of these books come with many ideas, theories, and principles. And some of these books come in hundreds and hundreds of pages, each with many fine and detailed points written in small print. But in this one simple verse, the Apostle Paul describes how to make disciples in a nutshell. Let us think about his exhortation in three ways: 1) what are we to entrust?; 2) to whom are we to entrust?; and 3) why are we to entrust?

(1) The things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses...

Paul says, "And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men..." This expression answers the first question we have: what are we to entrust? In Paul's eyes the venture known as "disciple-making" is like a man establishing a trust. Paul was a lawyer. He was called a Pharisee of Pharisees, and in a way, a Pharisee of Pharisees is the same as saying "a lawyer of lawyers," because he had to know the Jewish Law inside-out. As a lawyer, when Paul used the word "entrust," he undoubtedly had in mind “a trust,” which is a legal term. Have you heard about "a living trust"? Nowadays, in order to avoid inheritance taxes, rich people with millions and billions of dollars establish a legal entity called “a living trust.” Then they transfer all of their assets into this living trust, so that, when they die, they will technically not even have a penny to their name. The result is that they are not taxed because, technically, they have nothing to be taxed. Yet, within this living trust, the person who deposited his money is designated as a trustee. So he can write a check out on behalf of the trust. And he can give money to whomever he desires, especially to himself, all according to the terms and conditions of the living trust. 

But Paul did not have any money. All he had was perhaps a few pairs of socks, maybe the pair of sandals he was wearing, his clothes, some notebooks and ballpoint pens, and his Bible; that was about it. Yet as an apostle of Jesus Christ, Paul was not poor – he had the message of salvation called the gospel which is the greatest treasure of all, a treasure far greater than all the greatest treasures in the entire universe. 

Paul describes this treasure by saying: "And the things you hear me say in the presence of many witnesses..." Notice the word "witnesses." Why in the presence of witnesses? Again, as a man with a professional discipline as a lawyer, Paul used this term with the Day of Judgment in mind. The deal is this: if I share the gospel to you, and you understand it, by God's law, you are thus given the choice to either accept it, and thereby be saved it, or to reject it, and remain condemned. Thus, on the Day of Judgment, you cannot say to Jesus who asks you, “What did you do with the gospel?”, "Oh, No. No one preached the gospel to me." If you say this, and try to escape from the fiery lake of burning sulfur, it will not work because you won’t have that excuse. For this reason, each time Paul went to an unbeliever, when that man did not accept the gospel and becomes rebellious, he shook the dust off of his feet and moved on. Why? Because he wanted to leave the dust particles as physical evidence that he indeed served the gospel to that person, so that at the time of judgment, if this man makes a lame excuse, he would present the dust as physical evidence. You know what? Jesus the supreme judge maintains in his spiritual archives the dust as an exhibit to his court documents concerning everyone who ever had the opportunity to hear the gospel! Just as the dust is used as tangible evidence so too do those who heard Paul expounding upon the gospel serve as live witnesses to speak against you, so that you will not be able to make a lame excuse! What a dreadful thought this is! 

The point however remains the same. The gospel is the treasure of treasures. And as a shepherd for God's flock, Timothy was obligated to share this gospel to all peoples on earth. For this purpose, in many of his journeys Paul took Timothy along, so that Timothy would know what the gospel was all about, and how to present the gospel to many different peoples. 

Now, Paul was about to leave this world. It was thus Timothy's turn to do the same thing with his disciples. And he was called to entrust the gospel message to his disciples. 

Let us not forget that gospel is not as simple as it sounds, though, for essentially, the essence of the gospel is Jesus himself. And in order to fully know and understand who Jesus really is, we need to struggle to understand the whole Bible, and teach our Bible students the whole Bible, especially Genesis and the four gospels. Genesis is not an old story. Many classify it as an outdated book. But Genesis is the most important book of the Bible because it is the foundation for the rest of the Bible. And we need to help our Bible students to master the entire Bible, remembering that each book of Bible leads man to desiring and meeting Jesus personally. One way to do this is to help each person do the daily bread. We publish daily bread booklets four times a year, and this daily bread booklet is designed to cover the entire Bible in four years. So in addition to helping our Bible students with systematic studies like Genesis or John, let us also help them get into the word of God by doing the daily bread for themselves. 


(2) Reliable men 

The next question is who should be entrusted? In other words, who are suitable “disciple candidates”? When you think about it, this is a very important question for any ventures. Have you heard about the electronics company named Samsung? Many products produced by Samsung rank as the best in the world, better than even other great companies like Sony or GE. Do you know why this company has been so prosperous? Surprisingly, it is thanks to Byung. C. Lee’s (the founder of Samsung) adherence to the policy to recruit only "reliable men" as employees. Although he was the chairman, he himself always gave personal interviews to applicants desiring to find employment with his company. And he did this even to those looking for entry level jobs. 

One thing for us to remember here is that when anyone does not seem reliable, all we need to do is to be kind to that person, share the gospel with him, and leave him alone. Do not devote yourself fully to that person. Why? The answer is so obvious: it is not only you but also the Lord God who sees no fruit, even after using up so much energy! 

(3) Who will also be qualified to teach others.

The third question we must think about is, why entrust? Why should we entrust the gospel to reliable men? What is the point? Ultimately, what do we get out of it? Look at v. 2 again. "And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others." It is to apply the principal of multiplication. The idea is to have a disciple making more disciples who in turn make even more disciples, and so on. At first glance this sounds too slow. But it is not. When one disciple makes 12 disciples, each of them in turn can make another 12. Then soon 12 by 12 becomes 144. And 144 by 12 becomes what? In this way the process of multiplication will continue until we get an infinitely great number, still not losing the quality of each disciple.

When Jesus came, he first made 12, and then 72 disciples. By the time Jesus left this world, about 120 disciples came into being, and they became the spiritual epicenter in God's redemptive work. 

October 9, 2003 was Dr. Samuel Lee's first birthday since his departure. Before he left this world, he kept saying to each of the staff members to make 120 disciples. Let us cherish this prayer topic, so that all of us would first make one, then three, then 12, then 72, and then even 120 disciples. 

III. Endure hardship with us.

In Part I, we saw Paul's admonitions for Timothy. In Part II, we saw Paul's teachings about disciple-making. But in order to live as a shepherd who bears fruit, there is one more important aspect we need to take care of, that is, working together with fellow-workers in the Lord. In vs. 3-13, Paul addresses the need for us to work together with fellow soldiers in Christ. With this in mind, let us read the passage responsively. 

In this passage Paul talks about four paradigms: a good soldier, an athlete, a hardworking farmer, and then Jesus Christ. In sharing these examples, Paul has several points to share, like a good soldier knowing how to please Jesus the supreme commander, an athlete knowing how to fight the Lord's battle according to the rules, a hardworking farmer knowing how hard and how diligently he should work, and how Jesus Christ came to fulfill the gospel. 

But there is one common point Paul wanted to share. That is, the need to endure hardship! Simply stated, Paul wants Timothy to participate in the sufferings together with fellow soldiers such as the Apostle Paul. 

With this in mind, let us all say together, "Endure hardship with us." Here, the expression "with us" is the key. In fighting any battle, be it spiritual or physical, perhaps enduring hardships "together" with fellow soldiers is the most important lesson. After World War II, many military strategists studied the reason why the German soldiers under the Nazi government were so effective in winning so many battles. Their study revealed one astounding truth: it was not due to the Adolph Hitler's leadership, nor any single German leader’s credit, but simply to the spirit of camaraderie that was built into each military unit of German soldiers. 

Spiritually this is not any different. Of course, not everyone can go out to college campuses to fish students, just as not everyone can go to jail for Jesus' name's sake, in the same way the Paul did. But the important thing to remember is that all are nevertheless soldiers, and all soldiers must suffer together with their fellow soldiers. I have a book called "The First War We [the U.S.] Lost," subtitled, "The Korean War." The author analyzed why the joint US-led international army lost the Korean War to the North Korean army. I have yet to finish the book. But I know where the author is coming from and where he is going. And I see that he has still missed the whole point. Why did they lose the Korean War? The answer is obvious. The North Korean army was strong not because they had more tanks than the joint army of the South, but because the North Koreans all fought together; there was no difference between the civilians and the soldiers – all the North Koreans participated in the war together. Young and old, women and men (especially women), and soldiers and non-soldiers. Once upon a time I visited North Korea. Then I purchased a documentary on the Korean War, as produced by North Korea. There I could see how civilians, particularly house wives, wearing traditional Korean costumes, manufactured tanks, hand grenades, and machine guns, how they carried supplies like bags of rice and baskets of bread. Some worked as paramedics, some as sowing machine operators to make military suits; some worked as baby sitters at an orphanage where they placed all the children who lost their parents during the war. Because every North Korean participated in the war, like a single person, they were able to win the war. Hence, they did not necessarily win because of their geographical or military size, but because of their united "spirit"! The Apostle Paul knew this very well. And in a spiritual war, it is very important for all "Christians" to participate, some by working hard as a lay people and making offerings sacrificially, some by baby-sitting, some by folding chairs at the center, some by keeping the center clean and orderly, by going out to fishing, some by cooking delicious meals in the kitchen, some by simply attending meetings like the Friday evening meetings, some by praying day in and day out, etc. and so forth. The functions may vary, but the spirit must be same. Endure hardship together with us. Say "together!" Say "endure hardship together with us."  For what? All for Jesus' name's sake. 

And when we suffer like this, what will happen? Two things are certain: souls will be saved, and this comes with eternal glory (10), and there will be a reward for each solider, which will be awarded to him when Jesus comes again! 

In conclusion, let us read v. 6. "The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops..." Here, Paul used the word "share" in saying, "a share of crops." Why did he use the word “share”? The answer is obvious. If one shepherd saves one soul or makes a disciple or two, it is not solely because of his own work, but because of the work of “the invisible many” supporting him in the background. The point then is to team-work. And Jesus expressed this point clearly when he said to his disciples in John 4:38, "I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor." Let us then pray together that the Lord would help us to love one another and endure hardship together with the fellow soldiers the Lord God has put in this ministry. 

One word: Together.