Explore the Bible

with Anne Maniscalco

Sunday,  July 21

Focused

2 Timothy 2:1-13

Sign language is such a fascinating language! Many signs are made in such a way that their meaning is partly clarified by the positioning of the hands in relationship to the body. The sign for “focus,” the theme of today’s lesson, is one such. It is made by holding the flat hands near the sides of the face, resembling blinders on a horse, and moving them slightly forward. Of course, we know the purpose of blinders placed on horses: they keep them from getting distracted by the surroundings that could take them off track.

Christians need spiritual “blinders” to keep them focused on the path God has laid out for them. The Apostle Paul exemplified this single-minded focus in Philippians 3:13-14 (NKJV): “…one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Jesus Christ.”

Yes, Paul was future-focused and wanted young Timothy to be the same. He exhorted him to cling to the “grace that is in Christ Jesus” (v. 1 NIV). Keeping his focus on the Lord could bring Timothy needed strength during times of adversity and difficulties, and the things he’d learned from his mentor, he was to pass along (“entrust”, v. 2) to dependable disciples, who would do the same. In the Great Commission passage (Matthew 28:19-20), Jesus laid out this same procedure for His kingdom’s expansion. He commanded His small band of followers to go and make disciples (evangelism), and then teach them to observe everything He’d taught (discipling). Faithful disciplers seek out and pour into others. Writing in Missions Mosaic magazine, Brenda Poinsett puts it this way: “Like runners passing a baton in a relay race, each generation of believers must embrace the responsibility to faithfully receive, preserve, and pass on the gospel message. That includes us! We need to pick up the baton and pass it forward. That calls for keeping the flame within us burning brightly.”

In addition to being future-focused, Paul was mission-focused and his life’s passion called for strict discipline. In 1 Corinthians 9:27 (ERV), he described this: “It is my own body I fight to make it do what I want….” He invited Timothy to join him “in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (v.3 NIV). We see the single-minded focus in verse four. The life of a good soldier can be grueling and demands intense self-control. Likewise, athletes must carefully adhere to the rules of their sport (v. 5), or they will be disqualified (as believers, the Bible is our rulebook for the “game” of life). Farmers reap bountiful crops only by expending many back-breaking months of labor before they reap a harvest, but for each there are rewards for their effort and the struggles they’ve endured. The soldier pleases his commanding officer, the athlete receives a victor’s medal, and the farmer enjoys the fruits of his labor (v. 6). God can give us insight to see the spiritual application of each of these examples (v. 7).

Timothy was called on to remember Jesus and His powerful resurrection (v. 8). Sometimes in sharing the Gospel message, we forget to emphasize His death-defeating resurrection, but it is a crucial part of the message (see 1 Corinthians 15:3-4). Although Paul was “chained like a criminal” due to his stand for this glorious message, he victoriously proclaimed that “God’s word is not chained” (v. 9). Just as the chains fell off Paul and Silas in the Macedonian jail, the spiritual chains of their jailer were broken as he and his family heard and accepted God’s message (Acts 16:16-33). Indeed, Paul was willing to “endure everything” for the sake of those who’d not yet embraced the Savior (see 2 Corinthians 5:20).

Paul ends this section with four examples of faith (or lack of it). “Died with him” (v. 11) could refer to our death to sin (Romans 6:1-4; Galatians 2:20), or to dying because of our beliefs. Those who endure much for Christ’s sake can look forward to reigning with Him in glory (v. 12). Sadly, there will be some who, although seeming to be Christ-followers, actually “disown him” (v. 13) and, ultimately, He will disown them (Matthew 10:33). However, even as true believers, we sometimes stray; thankfully, Jesus “remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself” (v. 13).

Remember the lesson theme: Focus. We must keep our “blinders” on so we can lead the spiritually-blind to the cross.

Maniscalco is a member of Emmanuel Church, Ocean Springs.