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Summary: Delayed gratification is the norm for God's choice servants. Ponder how He works leads to a precious gift of understanding.

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“Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.” [1]

Anticipate opposition and hostility if you are a Christian. Don’t seek conflict; but don’t be surprised when opposition arises. We Christians seek peace with all people and we will do all possible to make peace. Nevertheless, the successful Christian will experience opposition and hostility because he is a Christian. It is not merely that the believer will experience opposition—the believer will reveal his or her relationship to the Master through standing firm in the face of hostility and opposition. I am not counselling stoic resolution in the face of torment; I am counselling a steadfast faith despite opposition.

In a similar vein, the successful Christian will be compelled to avoid certain actions and attitudes if he will be successful in the Christian life. Many tasks assigned to believers will seem mundane, pedestrian, ordinary; and the believer will be tempted to ignore such seemingly banal, prosaic tasks. He must faithfully fulfil all that Christ assigns because the One assigning the believer’s tasks is Master of life. In the same manner, there will be victories that the spiritual Christian will enjoy as God directs his path through this fallen world.

Paul has been advising the young minister to whom the Apostle had entrusted so much responsibility. Timothy had been mentored by the Apostle to the Gentiles, had no doubt been corrected on occasion and frequently admonished as he observed and learned of the work of service to the churches. One lesson he had no doubt heard was repeated in various ways in what was likely the final letter that Paul would pen to the young pastor. The Apostle had no doubt taught, and now was stressing, the necessity of delayed gratification in Christian service.

As we have seen through our studies, Paul penned three metaphors Timothy was to ponder as he pursued his role as a teacher. Pastors are to be teachers of the Word. As such, they are to be always sensitive to those who will in turn be appointed by God to the task of declaring the Word of God. Be cautious in imagining that a church seeks out a teacher. God appoints whom He wills and the church is responsible to receive God’s appointment. One of the grave responsibilities for any teacher of the Word is to ensure that a teacher is raised up to follow him.

The Apostle spoke of the labours of a teacher with a student when he wrote, “What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” [2 TIMOTHY 2:2]. If done properly, teaching is demanding work. The wise teacher understands she is moulding young minds, stimulating them to acquire knowledge and enabling them to build on that knowledge. The finished product will not be seen for many years.build spaceships that will transport mankind to the planets. Likewise, the man who teaches others in righteousness is not merely laying down rules by which listeners are to live; he is equipping parishioners to excel in godliness. Perhaps among those who listen and absorb what is taught is one who will one day speak for God to great numbers of people, building them in this most holy Faith. Perhaps a family will be restored or someone in the grip of sin will be victorious because of what is taught.

Among the students I taught while in Dallas are men who are today pastoring large congregations, building multiplied numbers of believers in the Faith. I know of other former students who have established churches where there were none. Other students are themselves teaching university students and equipping preachers to stand firm on the front lines of the Faith. I’m always humbled when I see the name of a former student who today serves as President of one of the great seminaries of the world. I shared in shaping his life to the glory of God.

The Apostle also spoke, as he often did, of a soldier. [2] He urged Timothy, “Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him” [2 TIMOTHY 2:3, 4]. Soldiers are required to be single-minded in pursuit of fulfilling the mission. The soldier must adapt, innovate and persevere to accomplish the labour assigned. Combat is not glorious; whatever glory there is comes only after the mission is completed.

Then Paul wrote of an athlete. This was another theme often found in the Apostle’s missives. [3] You will recall from previous messages that we explored what Paul meant when he wrote, “An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules” [2 TIMOTHY 2:5]. Champions are not automatically awarded ribbons or medals; these are awards for those who excel in a given sport because they disciplined their bodies both to compete and to win. Super bowl rings are only awarded to the team that plays with the greatest discipline and which exhibits the greatest teamwork. That well-ordered team is the result of days and nights of hard work to move together in order to win the most games.

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