“You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. 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. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.” (2 Timothy 2:1–7, ESV)
Paul reminds Timothy that strength is found in grace. He has prompted Timothy to be steadfast and persevere through any opposition he might face at Ephesus. Now, Paul urges him to pass on the truth of the gospel to the next generation. Paul is well aware that his end is drawing near, and he is considering the future as he writes to Timothy. He directs Timothy to the heart of discipleship and the training of future leaders. Timothy is to train faithful men from among his people at Ephesus who are qualified to carry on gospel proclamation and teaching others as well.
The faithful preaching of the Word of God without fear or favor can be a difficult task at times, so Paul uses three metaphors: the soldier, the athlete, and the farmer. The soldier faces many battles, seeks to please his commander, and should not be entailed by civilian pursuits. The minister is in daily spiritual battles, aims to please Jesus, and must not be given to only secular pursuits. The athlete must follow the rules to be crowned, and the minister must also seek to live a holy life. The farmer labors without the recognition of the soldier or the athlete, yet he enjoys the fruits of his labor. The minister must be content to serve with great effort and consistency but will enjoy a fruitful spiritual life. We are to think deeply about these things.