1 You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. 3 Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier. 5 Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules. 6 The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops. 7 Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.2 Timothy 2:1-7
A good soldier, a prize-winning athlete and a hard-working farmer; these comparisons to the activity of a saint require the Lord's grant of understanding. I believe these three are really one, that what is being conveyed is how the ultimate prize is to receive the share of the crops first, won through a combination of hard work, playing by the rules and the singleness of purpose.
Do you understand what it means to receive the share of the crops first? The greatest prize in this season is to be found as a worthy Bride when the Bridegroom comes. In most simple terms, the Bridegroom Himself is the great prize. Yeah, a “trophy husband,” but in every good way! :) Beyond it comes every benefit that attends that most desirable prize. That's the prize of the first harvest in sequence, the barley harvest, what I refer to as the Bride Theft. Those who qualify for that harvest are the hard-working farmers who receive the share of the crops first. Other farmers will later receive their shares, but the insight into this cryptic word of encouragement pertains to being first to receive.
It's not enough just to work hard. A soldier might be the hardest working, but if he's in active service and entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, he's going to fail to please the one who enlisted him as a soldier. First, let's be clear that the important thing is to please the one who enlists the soldier into active service. He's the “commander-in-chief” (Revelation 19:11) and the Bridegroom, the one who will distribute the farmer's share of crops. Now, note well that He is displeased with soldiers in active service who are entangled with the affairs of everyday life. Such entanglement guarantees competing agendas and conflicts of interest that entirely compromise the soldier's value. There's no soldiering skills or effort that can compensate for that. Singleness of purpose is demanded. If you, personally, believe you have now been called into active service and find your efforts diluted, get focused on why you're here and who it is you're trying to please. If you're working and blah, blah, blah; trying to maintain a “normal” life, you're blowing it. That's for the reservists, or civilians. The bottom line on this is that failure to disengage from the affairs of everyday life will disqualify one for the prize. Take that to heart, if it applies to you.
It applies to me, which is why I've been on Sabbatical for 10 months, following a few years alternating between contracts with part-time and 3+ month long Sabbatical seasons. This is why I just dismissed a very lucrative employment opportunity, one that would have been tempting because my funding of this adventure is about dried up. Yet, I have an unction from the Lord, and I don't intend to forfeit what has been set before me. Whether my battle ends today or in 3 more years, it's not my call. You should know nothing I write in this blog comes without life experience; it's all real. I have no ivory tower, and I speak without reserve.
The allegory I feel is most pertinent today is the athletic competition, and not just because the flame for the XXX Olympiad in London will be lit in only 7 more days. An athlete does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules. There's no cheating. The prize will not be awarded to cheaters because they will be found out and disqualified. You can meet all the other criteria and still fail. You can be the good soldier and hard-working farmer, and still be disqualified.
So, what are the rules for this athletic competition? A simpler way to consider it is in terms of obedience. The rules for the competition are the commands of God that we are to obey.
3 By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. 4 The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; 5 but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: 6 the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.1 John 2:3-6
You and I have been raised to rebel against the rules. It's in our nature, and it's encouraged along the way. (What? 35 mph? Nobody goes 35 here.) When we get involved with the church, it doesn't take long before most folk learn to beat the system. We just follow the role models and straight away we're deluded into thinking we're going to win the big prize, while ignoring the rules. News flash! It's not going to happen. No prize for cheaters.
I'm not going to list a bunch of rules here but just one in particular, well two, actually, which I've known for some time now will be the cheat that's going to disqualify many in these last days who would otherwise win the prize. What's going to disqualify is already disqualifying; the gender rules. Ahh, that again, some of you will say. Yes, and I hope you're paying close attention here because, hey, this is probably you. There's more challenges that lie beyond, but they are moot for most because of cheating on the gender rules. There's more behind this that I'm not going to expand on yet. The deeper insight into the why of the rules won't really come until you have already gotten onboard with obedience just because He said so. What we need to get hold of is this: If we don't get with the rules of the “athletic competition,” we're going to be disqualified for the prize.
I'll make an illustration using Joyce Meyer as an example. There's a woman who teaches the Bible very publicly. ([video] Joyce Meyer "Humbling herself") Let's say, hypothetically, that she becomes the best Bible teacher the world has ever seen. Let's say she was a good soldier and hard working farmer. Then she stands before the Lord for an evaluation. He pulls out the rule book, reading out loud from its pages the highlighted text that appears.
34 The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. 35 If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church.1 Corinthians 14:34-35
9 Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, 10 but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness. 11 A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. 12 But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.1 Timothy 2:9-12
Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules.2 Timothy 2:5
Joyce opens her mouth to begin her best defense, but nothing comes out. Her attorney, long-faced, offers only a shrug. The prepared list of excuses clearly wasn't going to work on this judge.
See, Joyce is cheating by not competing as an athlete according to the rules. She is a woman, and the rules that apply to women apply to Joyce.
Joyce's husband had already been before the Judge. Having just appeared with Joyce at his side, as one flesh, he had seen the rule book opened and had been addressed first, as her head, accountable. It didn't go well for him, of course. You should have seen his face. He was stunned because he had been so proud of his wife and so confident that there was some bonus in the deal for his support of her “ministry.” But, yeah, OK, there was that whole rule thing, so what could he say. It had dawned on him that the whole "everybody else is doing it" excuse just wasn't going to fly, so he just hung his head and waited until the rest of his one flesh was judged. After Joyce's turn, the bailiff escorted them away, dejected, disqualified, sans the prize that would have been worth everything to get.
21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’Matthew 7:21-23
Lawlessness - anomia, in the Greek; not competing according to the rules.
This is of course not to say there will be no reward. Those who are disqualified for that prize will be considered in the next round for something of a consolation prize. That prize will be good (Revelation 7:9ff) but will pale in comparison to what will be won by those who “share in the crops first.”
OK. Joyce Meyer was an obvious case. Let's move the sliding scale towards some who are probably more personally relevant. How about we consider Ann Graham Lotz, Sharon Gilbert, Lyn Leahz, Lisa Haven, Priscilla Shirer, Beth Moore, Melissa Scott, Stephanie Jennings or Joy Pugh? (list updated in 2015) Fill in the blank with your most respected female Christian speaker or author. If the context or medium is home Bible study, print (books), blogs, blog comments, forums, chat rooms, email groups or any other context where “church” is happening, unless the content and audience are within the "rules" of the athletic contest, it's cause for disqualification. Women who profess to have a ministry where the contest rules are broken are liars and deceivers. Men who support that in any way with participation on some level or are directing others to participate in that are deceived into lawless behavior. You may want to convince yourself that if she's not actually talking and we can't hear her voice, that it might qualify as a loophole that could be exploited. Are you going to bet your potential grand prize on that? Most of us are, and just won't change our ways. If you're gambling on the Lord overlooking cheating, it's a sucker bet.
Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.Matthew 7:13
I'm not interested in qualifying for a consolation prize. I'm not interested in helping anyone else qualify for a consolation prize. The Lord assures that all who can be deceived will be, and rightly disqualified, filtered out. Only the worthy will be taken, and they are even now being qualified. The Lord is not seeking those who have acquired knowledge at the cost of obedience. He is looking for obedience.
Unless content and audience are within the "rules" of the athletic contest, participation in church activity is cause for disqualification. Men, be men. Women, be women. Engage according to the rules, and win!