The 3 Guises of an Evangelist 2 Timothy 2:1-7 San Dol Church, August 7, 2010 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 men who will also be qualified to teach others. Endure hardship with us like a good solder of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs—he wants to please his commanding officer. Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes 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. One day, while in a deep contemplation of the Lord, while sharing a deep fellowship with Him and praying to Him, John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church, while in this deep reverie, had a dream of being in front of the heavenly gates. Apostle Peter, the keeper of the gates, met him. John Wesley did not go into heaven, but instead asked Peter some important questions. This was because he had given his whole heart to and used all his might for the Methodist Church, and among the people to whom he evangelized and who worked with him, there were many who had already died. He was very curious as to what had happened to them, and so he asked Peter this question. “I am somewhat curious as to how many of the friends who had championed the glorious Methodist movement with me have come into heaven.” After a long while of flipping through a long list of names, Apostle Peter said that there were none. John Wesley was shocked. “Oh, good heavens! Was there something wrong with my message… Let me ask you another question. How many Presbyterians, who stressed the 5-point doctrine of glorious Calvin, have come into heaven?” Again, Peter looked at his list for a long time and then said there were none. “Then…” he started to think, more humbly, this time. “I suppose our religious reformation movement was a big mistake. Let me ask you still another question. Then, how many Catholics have come into heaven?” After a long time, Peter replied that there were none. John Wesley was thunder-struck, “Then, who on earth can get into this heaven?” Apostle Peter put on a wide grin and said this to John Wesley. “This place is where people who have truly accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior and Christians who are full of the Holy Spirit can come in. In other words, it doesn’t matter whether you are a Methodist, Presbyterian, or Catholic. Anyone who believes in Jesus and is full of the Holy Spirit can come into this heaven.” Because Peter had told him this, John Wesley had a deep revelation. “The command that I had received from the Lord was calling Christians who confess that only Jesus Christ is the Savior. It’s not a matter of being a Methodist, Presbyterian, or Catholic. It is a matter of evangelizing in the name of the Lord.” This was his epiphany. In today’s passage, Apostle Paul urges Timothy to entreat and to teach people who are “reliable” in the Gospel to live as witnesses of the Lord. While celebrating the anniversary of the founding of our church, we recalled the image of the Early Church found in Acts. That church was full of the Holy Spirit, and that is why that church was able to boldly preach the Word. They delivered the Gospel. Into this work, they poured all their strength, and they were brave about it too. But churches today don’t have courage when it comes to delivering the Gospel. We have money and we have knowledge. Still, we do not have courage. I think that perhaps Apostle Paul too felt that as time passed by that churches of his day also were losing their courage in delivering the Gospel. Thus, he specially introduced to Timothy, who is like a son to him, 3 different guises of us Christians as the spreaders of the Gospel in today’s passage. Through this Word, once again, we must recover the courage of the evangelists preaching Christ. The first guise is the soldier of Christ. The Roman philosopher Seneca said that to live is to be a soldier. And Epictetus said that the life of each person is like a fight, and that fight is long and mercurial. Paul was well aware of these expressions, and he applied them to all Christians. He encouraged Timothy to “fight the good fight” (1 Timothy 1:18), and called Epaphroditus his “brother, fellow worker and fellow soldier” (Philippians 2:25). We believers are soldiers who must fight the good fight. We are Christian soldiers who must fight the great enemy the devil in a spiritual war. However, the expression “soldier” does not mean that a Christian must become an aggressive and offensive person. The meaning is that we Christians must have the special qualities that a good soldier has. When we say that we are soldiers of Christ, we must look closely at the special qualities of soldiers and apply them to ourselves. Soldiers are recruited in preparation for war. You do not go into the army to become a scholar, nor do you enlist to become a popular movie star. Rather, even students and movie stars, if they join, they train as soldiers. That is to say, no matter who you are, if you were recruited as a soldier you were recruited for just one thing: to fight when there is a war to guard your country. A soldier is a soldier and nothing else. All of us are called as soldiers of Christ to confront the dark influences and evil spirits who have grasped the power of the public and hinder the kingdom of the Lord. We are the soldiers who have been called to fight the good fight and crush and win over the evil enemy. A soldier must always obey the commands of his commanding officer. The very first training that soldiers go through is to obey their commanding officers no matter what. Obedience to commands is at the center of the soldier mentality, and it is like life itself. A soldier never asks, “why?” During war times, you can be shot to death for disobeying orders; and even during normal times, you will be punished severely. One of the greatest duties that we Christians have is to obey God. We must obey, even in matters where by our own thinking we cannot understand the reasons behind the commands. A soldier brings joy to the recruited and is not entangled in his own private life. A soldier does not think about his own benefit or fame. A soldier has no side jobs. He exists only for the benefit and fame of his country. Thus, self-sacrifice is a stipulation in becoming a soldier. And loyalty becomes the biggest stipulation for a soldier. When Roman soldiers entered the army, they all swore an oath of loyalty to the emperor. As a soldier, the greatest virtue you can demonstrate is loyalty to the point of death. For us believers, the foremost virtue must be to give all our loyalties to Jesus Christ. But, in order to walk this road of the soldier, we must have sufficient training. Becoming a soldier begins with training and ends with training. As there is the saying, “If you sweat a lot during training, you will bleed less during war,” a soldier who is hardened by training is a soldier who will win. We believers must have a thorough training in spiritual armament and spiritual war in order to become invincible soldiers of the Lord. The second guise, or the second symbol, of a Christian that the Bible shows us is an athlete. We people of Christ are athletes running toward the ultimate victory. Runners preparing for a meet must practice without end. Paul stressed training in saying this to Timothy. “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” If an athlete does not practice, he will gain weight and lose both flexibility and agility. In our life of faith too, if there is no practice to achieve piety, we will become incompetent believers, and we will become Christians mired in fleshly things. The Word is the bread of life; and we eat a lot of it, it’s true. We read the Bible, we hear sermons, we even hear tapes of sermons…But, because we eat but do not practice, only our ears get finely tuned and our spirits become fat. We must be thoroughly trained in going to church every Sunday, devoting ourselves and doing service, and giving the tithe and delivering the Gospel, and we must practice what we have learned. An athlete must compete according to the rules of the game. No matter how fast you run, if you do not run according to the rules, you do not get the prize. In any competition, following the rules is important. An athlete must have an exact and thorough knowledge of the rules of the game. In our life of faith and service to the church, there are fixed and definite rules. We cannot just do whatever we want. The rules, some of which are church rules, all come from the Word of the Bible. We must not deviate from this. It is dangerous to have “great faith” according to our own wills and minds. We are all too easily derailed. We must run according to the rules that the Lord has given us. There are rules for prayer; there are rules for delivering the Gospel; and there are rules for doing service. To compete lawfully is “nomimos athlese” in Greek; it has a connotation of putting everything into the competition. It does not mean that you do a half-hearted job. It means that you participate to the point of putting your life on the line. More than anything else, an athlete must win the fight with herself. A person with a so-so talent may win the fight with enemies on the outside, but cannot win one with the enemy within. If you cannot win the fight with yourself, you cannot exhibit more than a so-so talent. In order to win the fight with yourself, you must deny yourself. You must fight with your carnal desires and ambitions. You must fight with your endless greed. You must fight with your own heart that runs after worldly pleasures. Thus, there must be moderation. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:26, “I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not run like a man beating the air.” If you fight the fight with your eyes on the Lord of glory, you are running fast toward the crown. And the Bible says that each person who fights his own ego will have moderation in everything. Moderation means self-control. The most foolish person is one who, in order to win, exposes someone else’s fault and slanders him. Politicians do this a lot, and that’s why politicians are rarely respected. Only by slander, by speaking of other peoples’ faults, do they think they win. But, this is a great foolishness. We believers who have stepped onto the spiritual racetrack can only receive our crowns through self-control and self-sacrifice. The subject with whom I compete is myself. If you can win the fight with yourself, you can win everything; but, if you lose the fight with yourself, you lose everything. The third symbol is the farmer of Christ. The biggest joy that a farmer can have is when he is gathering his fruit. A farmer who enjoys the joy of harvest is a farmer who doesn’t remember his hard work. But the most important thing for a farmer is not losing his chances when they come around. He must plant his seeds when it is time to plant; he must fertilize his plants when it is time to fertilize; and he must harvest when it is time to harvest. If he loses his chances, all his hard work would have been for nothing. A farmer who gets a hold of the timing right and who makes good use of his chances will gather abundant fruit. We too must not lose our chances. We must know the timing of God. There is a time for salvation and there is a time for blessings. There is a time for receiving blessings and there is a time to work. In Ecclesiastes 3:1-2, it says, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot…” By using our spiritual discernment that the Lord has given us to differentiate the times, we must not lose our chances and make good use of them. A farmer must have a patient heart. Apostle James said, “Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near,” in James 5:7-8. We must deliver the Gospel, then wait, and pray, then wait. Even if our children are driving us crazy and hurting us, we must pray and wait. We do not know when the spring rains will come, and we do not know when the autumn rains will come, but we must be patient and wait. To the one who waits, the Lord gives her the experience of His grace. Another special thing about farming is that a farmer must always be ready to work. Those believers who are ready to work can stand up proudly when there is work to be done. Heaven is wrested by its invaders. In other words, heaven is not given to those that rest; it is given to those who work. It is the working farmer that will take the abundant fruit home. In short, what do the 3 symbols signify? Let’s see. The first, being the soldier, means a prepared person. The second, being the athlete, means a person who does her utmost. The third, being the farmer, means a faithful person. We have been called as soldiers of Christ, athletes of Christ, and farmers of Christ. I have thought about what we must do and what command we must carry out. I hope that we will become believers who make good use of the chances that we are given as soldiers of Christ with the Lord who always allows us to win, as athletes of faith who strive to win until we receive the crowns of glory, and farmers of the Lord’s farm who give up all their fruits and place them in the Lord’s storage barn.
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