3 Ways to Grow in God’s Grace
The apostle Paul’s final letter emphasizes God’s grace during pain. Despite imprisonment and intense persecution for his faith, Paul wrote to encourage Timothy in God’s grace.
In 2 Timothy 2, we discover three vocations Paul used to illustrate ways to grow in God’s grace. These areas continue to offer insight for our lives today.
A Good Soldier
Paul’s first illustration involves a military theme: “Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer” (2 Timothy 2:3-4).
The lessons of a good soldier include:
- A willingness to suffer
- A focus on his mission
- An emphasis on pleasing his commander
Likewise, our faith in Jesus Christ should cause us to be willing to suffer, when necessary, for Him. Though we receive relatively mild persecution for our faith as American Christians, missionary activity is prohibited or restricted in 53 nations. That’s more than one-fourth of the world’s countries!
Even in our own nation, we will often face ridicule or other forms of backlash for standing strong for our biblical values. Rather than backing down or remaining silent, we are called to be willing to suffer, focus on our mission, and remain loyal to our Lord.
Paul’s second illustration involves athletes: “Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules” (2 Timothy 2:5). Notice the athlete’s focus:
- A desire to win a crown
- A requirement to compete according to the rules
As followers of Christ, our goal is to pursue God’s crowns for our lives. The Bible describes five distinct crowns believers can earn:
- A crown of glory: “And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away” (1 Peter 5:4).
- An eternal crown: “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever” (1 Corinthians 9:25).
- A crown of righteousness: “Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8).
- A crown of joy: “For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you?” (1 Thessalonians 2:19).
- A victor’s crown: “Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown” (Revelation 2:10).
A Hardworking Farmer
Paul’s third illustration involves a hardworking farmer: “The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops” (2 Timothy 2:6). He notes it is only fitting for the farmer who plants and harvests the crop to also receive the benefit of the crops.
Most of Paul’s readers in the first century served as farmers or were at least closely connected with others who did farm. As the most common vocation of his time, readers and listeners clearly understood the relationship between working in the fields and receiving food when the crops grew.
In a similar way, a believer’s life is dedicated to service. Those who serve receive the blessings of service, as Paul notes in Acts 20:35: “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
Growing in God’s grace requires action. Though grace is a gift, we grow in grace through the dedication of a soldier, athlete, and farmer.
Dedication despite suffering leads to growth and spiritual victories through the Lord’s power. Whether in imprisonment like Paul, or in another difficult situation, our focus on serving Christ can continue to impact lives now and for eternity.