The smell and feel of a sunny spring afternoon always reminds me of baseball. I fell out of love with baseball during the younger years of my adulthood because it didn’t have the excitement of college football or the NBA. As I have aged, however, I have come to appreciate baseball again, probably because baseball is more like real life than any other sport. You can be considered a legend in baseball while failing seven out of ten trips to the plate. Baseball season lasts for most of the year, yet division titles may be won by only one or two games, so a baseball player has to do little things well for the long haul.
Paul’s vision of the Christian life in 2 Timothy 2:1–13 breathes this same ethos. He portrays the Christian as one who lives faithfully day in and day out, doing little things that no one notices. This is the thrust of every image he uses in verses 2–7. A teacher entrusts what he has heard to others not in a moment, but in a lifetime of faithful modeling and teaching. The soldier does not stand out in the crowd, but pleases the one who enlisted him and suffers for his service. The farmer toils in obscurity, but gets his reward in harvest time. The athlete who competes according to the rules works long hours to be prepared for his one shining moment.
This kind of slow faithfulness is difficult for those of us nurtured in youth groups where we were transported from one spiritual high to another, showing a burst of zeal for Jesus before going back to where we were. We find encouragement, though, when Paul says, “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2Timothy 2:1). Nothing is more difficult than enduring faithfulness, but this burden causes us to despair of our own efforts and lay hold of the strength that only Christ can give. To live faithfully as a man each day requires a strength we do not possess. But God overflows with all the power we need and He gives it freely to those who call out for it.
Paul closes by pointing us to Jesus Christ, who endured the pain of the cross for the joy set before Him and received the prize of His endurance. In the same way, we endure the difficulty of faithful Christian living but receive the joy of knowing Christ and enjoying His gifts, ultimately receiving our final reward: reigning as joint heirs with Christ. And so, we labor on, pleading for His strength to fill us and looking to our blessed hope.