Jeremiah 44:12: And I will take away the remnant of Judah who are determined to come to the land of Egypt to dwell as aliens there, and everyone will perish. They will fall in the land of Egypt by the sword; they will perish by the famine, from the smallest to the greatest. By the sword and by the famine they will die and become as a curse, as a horror, and as a curse, and as a disgrace. (LEB)
The people of Judah were moving in the wrong direction, in a direction they thought was going to give them succour, but it actually was going to lead to bad things happening to them. Jesus taught us to pray to God with these words: led us not into temptation but deliver us from evil (Luke 11:4).
At a time in Israel Prophet Elisha gave guidance to the king to avoid the traps that the enemy has set for him, as they planned to crush their military (2Kings 6:8-12). Supernaturally, Elisha knew the plans of the enemy and told the king who then takes appropriate adjustment to stay one step ahead of the enemy. With special insight, his movement was guided aright into success and away from failure. Jesus is the one called to guide our feet into the way of peace (Luke 1:79).
The bible speaks of the men of Issachar who knows what Israel should do because they have the understanding of the times. Issachar means reward, i.e. as someone who represents benefit (1Chronicles 12:32). There is no greater benefit than being helped to move in the right direction. It can be the difference between life and death, between a trap and great freedom, between empowerment and defeat.
When Judas moved in the direction of betraying Jesus, he was moved by greed (Matthew 26:15, John 18:5). Stirred in the wrong direction, he landed into perdition.
But, we are meant to pursue righteousness. That was the charge that Paul gave Timothy, telling him to be an example to the believers (1Timothy 4:12). Paul said his own movement, his pursuit, is in the direction of knowing Christ and also to move in the direction the crown that he will get at the end of his life (2Timothy 4:7-8).
He described the direction of the “farmer,” the “athlete” and the “soldier,” when writing to Timothy, while hinting at the things that guide the direction he goes (2Timothy 2:1-7). And there are things we can learn from what he wrote.
Paul said the farmer, the husbandman, who labours in the vineyard is the first to partake of the fruit. The operative word is labour. The husbandman has a focus, which is for the vine to do well. He pours his energy in that direction. Every day and night, the thoughts of his vineyard fill him up.
He is there in the field, tending to the vines, noticing different signs, pruning, preventing any kind of animal invasion. He sees that the vines are protected. He has his eyes on the harvest, on the vineyard, doing well on the long run. He will not allow anything to distract him from his labour.
And Paul talked about labouring more than other apostles (1Corinthians 15:9-10) and that the people of God are the field in which he works (1Corinthians 3:9). In another place, he said that he labour so that Christ be formed in the people (Galatians 4:19). The mission was to cultivate Christ in the people, cause him to flourish in them and achieve spiritual fruits for the benefit of the kingdom of God.
What Paul highlighted in the athlete is not just the effort put into winning against the commission, but the observance of the rules. It is not enough to have brute force, long legs, be physically capable, to have practised for a long time, or otherwise been prepared. We must learn the rule of the game and abide by it. That will either make our efforts or mar them.
Spiritual service without compliance with the word of God should be avoided at all cost. The word of God helps us to keep our priority right, keep our focus on him, to keep on the straight and narrow road which leads to life (Matthew 7:14).
The bible says there is need to drop every weight and the sin that easily besets us (Hebrews 12:1-3). Ability without obedience is nothing. Every athlete has to submit himself to the rule of the game. No matter how great you are or how much you have achieved in the sport. It does not matter if you obeyed the rules yesterday, you still have to line up with them today and also tomorrow. There is no doing away with them.
That is why the bible says that we should follow those who through faith and patience obtained the promised (Hebrews 6:12). If we do what they did yesterday to get the right result, we will get the same. The bible says that the things that were written were for our learning, so that we might gain a heart of wisdom (1Corinthians 10:11). God has not changed. What was written hundreds of years ago, is still relevant today. And we do not have to repeat the mistake those before us made. If we do not learn well we will not do well. That is the fact of the matter.
What Paul wants us to learn from the soldier is the commitment to a person. The farmer is shown to be committed to the work, the athlete is committed to the rule, knowing it like the back of his hands, but for the soldier, it is about the hierarchy, the leadership.
Paul impresses it on us that the soldier endures hardness if he is to be regarded as a good one. He goes through pain, not for himself but for the one who chose him to be a soldier and in the case of Christian that person is Jesus, to whom we should give our loyalty, to whom we are intimately identified with. Because of the commitment to the person of Jesus, we should avoid being entangled with worldly affair in order to please the one who calls us to be soldiers. He went through hell for us, and we need to “pay him back” (Isaiah 53:11, Hebrews 12:1-4, 1Peter 2:21, 4:1).
Everyone has an end in the direction of which we should move. The farmer has the harvest, and the soldier has to contribute his part to win the war while the athlete needs to win the race.
Movement has three components, they are “decision, desire and determination.” Everything starts with a decision to make the journey; that you chose to go in a particular direction means you have rejected others. Desire starts you on the path of decision, and determination helps you overcome the difficulties on the way.
Our determination can be strengthened when we associate with people going in the same direction people we can learn from, who will be our model, who will challenge us. It is not enough to want to go somewhere, we need to have the depth of determination to see through the process, to get to the desired haven.
- Sermon Redux – Part 12 of The Road to the Resurrection – ‘The Death of Jesus’ – Matthew 27-45-54 (edraby.wordpress.com)
- Salvation Is By Faith Alone In Jesus – That’s It!!! (gospelbondservant.com)
- Fightin’ Words (newevangelizers.com)