Part 1: 10 Practical Ways to Obey 2 Timothy 2:7.
When I was undergoing some pastoral training at my local church in Louisville, KY during my seminary days, a good friend of mine raised his hand during a brief time for Q&A.
“If there’s one thing I could read to help me understand leadership better, what would it be?” Rob asked.
Our lead pastor did not hesitate. He told us about a gargantuan book that he had recently worked through. He told us about a book that every man was given at West Point in order to prepare for a life of service. He told us about Anton Myrer’s Once an Eagle. And then after the session was over, he gave his copy to Rob.
Now, I wasn’t the one bright enough to ask such a helpful question. But after I had heard such praiseworthy comments about the novel and had seen its Large-Print Family Room KJV Bible size, I went home and immediately ordered a copy on Amazon.
During that time, I was working on a term paper on the significance of the apostle Paul’s usage of the soldier metaphor. My friend Rob and I had also been watching the HBO miniseries, Band of Brothers, together and discussing leadership principles we had ascertained from each episode. So to be introduced to a military classic with this kind of reputation was something I could not pass up.
Recently, my wife and I have begun to listen to this masterpiece on audiobook. The narration is a little too speedy at times for my taste but the book still manages to take over 41 hours of listening to complete. During the course of these long hours of taking in a tale of leadership, discipline, and loyalty, I have had plenty of time to meditate on some of Paul’s last written words to his disciple Timothy.
“Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus,” (2 Tim 2:3).
Being a pastor, a ministry leader, or just a Christian who is doing the normal Christian duty of making disciples is like the life and work of a good soldier. This was one of Paul’s go-to metaphors in his letters. Over and over again, he pointed to the Roman soldiers of his day to teach truths about the Christian life.
At the end of this passage, Paul tells Timothy to do something with this favorite metaphor.
“Think over what I say,
for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.”
2 Timothy 2:7
There’s a command, and there’s a promise. Paul did not just talk about soldiers for fun. It wasn’t because he particularly enjoyed military history. He didn’t just happen to be a Stephen Ambrose type of guy.
The reason Paul went to this metaphor over and over, and the reason he commanded Timothy to meditate on it, is that the Lord has ordained the soldier (along with the athlete and farmer) to be inspired examples for pastoral ministry and the everyday Christian life.
God has chosen the soldier, the athlete, and the farmer to uniquely teach Christians what their life is supposed to look like. This, Paul says, deserves our attention.
This passage calls for a response. It demands some action. On a practical level, 2 Timothy 2:7 basically tells New Testament believers that if they want to understand their lives and callings as Christians who make disciples, they should buy some old military books, spend some nights watching sports, and get a little dirty planting something in the ground.
Here are 10 ways that you can follow Paul’s instruction on meditating on how the soldier, athlete, and farmer teach us about the Christian life and discipleship:
10 Practical Ways We Can Obey 2 Timothy 2:7
- Read military history, biographies, novels, and memoirs that give insight into the life of the soldier.
- Watch a military film like Saving Private Ryan, Band of Brothers, or anything else besides Pearl Harbor.
- Talk to a military vet about their time in the service.
- Play in a sports league.
- Train to run a marathon.
- Grab some buddies and have a regular night where you watch the big game (Paul said to meditate on the athlete. No “I don’t like sports” answers allowed).
- Watch great documentaries like many in the 30 for 30 series to gain insight into the life of an athlete.
- Plant and maintain a garden.
- Visit a local farm and see first hand the work that goes into producing a harvest.
- Read some John Steinbeck or Wendell Berry that gives insight the life and work of a farmer.
While doing one of these simple tasks, follow Paul’s command. Meditate on what you are hearing, seeing, feeling, learning, experiencing. What about these tasks lines up with what you are called to be and do as a believer? What insight can you gain from these areas of life and culture that speak into our worldview as a disciplemaking follower of Jesus.
Don’t just do one of these tasks. Watching a war movie or playing a pickup game at the gym in and of itself will not help you reach Paul’s goal of understanding the Christian life. We need to do these things while seeking the Lord in prayer asking him to give us wisdom and insight into why he has chosen these unique metaphors to teach us about our lives.
In this new blog series, I am trying to do my own part in obeying Paul’s command in verse 7. What exactly is it supposed to look like for me to live my Christian life, to serve in my ministry, like a soldier? While working my way through Myrer’s military classic, I am trying to pull away principles from Once An Eagle and examine them in light of Scripture and Paul’s revelation that the story of the soldier is a parable for the Christian’s own sojourn through life.
I pray that as we give thought to the life of the soldier, we would see the fruit of the Lord being faithful to his promise — that we might be given “understanding in everything.”
I’d like to hear from you. Do you have a favorite military movie or biography? Favorite sports documentary? Have you ever read a single book about farming? Leave a comment below. I am always looking for new resources to help me in my own quest to think over what Paul has to say to us.