From the President

“Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this.”

— The apostle Paul in his second letter to Timothy (2 Timothy 2:7, NIV)

Most of us have been fortunate to have older men and women in our lives who have served as coaches or mentors. Perhaps it’s been our parents or grandparents; maybe a teacher or athletic coach; a pastor or Young Life leader; a neighbor, friend or someone who actually was assigned to us in our organization to mentor us on a formal basis.

A couple thousand years ago, the apostle Paul mentored Timothy, a younger man whom Paul believed could be a key leader in the developing church. In his two letters to Timothy, Paul’s confidence and hope in his protégé are clearly evident and he pours into Timothy encouragement and exhortation on how his young follower should live and lead.

Paul gives Timothy three examples of what he wants for him and tells him to reflect on these: a soldier, an athlete and a farmer. What was good for Timothy seems good for us. As we reflect, what can we learn from these three as we live and lead where God has planted us?

1. To succeed, all three face suffering. Both soldiers and athletes face suffering in training and in battle and competition. The farmer works hard morning to night and at times suffers the devastation of weather, crop failure, falling prices, etc. Not one of these three examples lives an easy life. Neither will we! “Life is hard but God is good” has been a truth I have tightly held. If we expect life to be easy and free from stress and suffering, we will not be prepared for what’s ahead and we will live a life filled with disappointments. But to know that God is good and He knows us, cares for us, and empowers us is a comfort that enables us to face suffering and hardship.

2. A clear focus is a must. The soldier does not get entangled in civilian affairs. He or she serves at the pleasure of the commanding officer. An athlete focuses on the prize. A farmer takes care of business. We must focus first and foremost on Jesus and His call in our lives. He is Lord! We can’t be overcome by distractions any more than can a soldier on active duty, an athlete preparing for the Olympics or a farmer taking care of his or her crops or herds.

​3. No one can cut corners. If you are a soldier or athlete, you either put the hours into training or you don’t. You can lose the battle or the athletic contest on the training grounds or in the weight room before you even enter the stadium. A farmer has to follow the plan: preparing the soil in a precise manner and caring for the crop over time before he or she can enjoy the results. In his first letter to Timothy, Paul tells him, “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things ... “ (1 Timothy 4:8). Just as we know that if we want to be healthy we will have to exert discipline to say yes to the right foods and no to the wrong ones and have the courage to exercise even when we don’t feel like it, so we must bring that courage and discipline in following Christ.

I’m certainly not implying that following Jesus comes down to our own efforts alone. Our growth comes about by Christ’s work in our lives. But our desire to learn from the soldier, the athlete and the farmer is of great importance to Paul as he mentors Timothy and us.

“Reflect on what I am saying,” writes Paul, “for the Lord will give you insight into all this.”  
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