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"there has only ever been one perfect man, the Lord Jesus, and we killed him. I only missed a putt."

Berhard Langer on the 1991 Ryder Cup

According to the rules

Compete according to the rules

In the 1976 Olympics the Russian Modern Pentathlon, Boris Onischenko, came up with an ingenious plan. He wired up his sword so that it sound a hit even when he did not make contact with his opponent. He was found out, disqualified and sent home. Diego Maradona – in the 1986 Football World Cup - and many others, on the other hand, got away with it.

Anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor's crown unless he competes according to the rules. 2 Timothy 2:5

As sportspeople we compete to win but Paul’s concern is for Timothy to compete according to the rules. The race of gospel ministry is a long and demanding race, and Paul is worried he will cheat. So what are the rules?

The rules for gospel ministry are to proclaim the message that a suffering saviour brings unavoidable suffering and shame. Guarding that message brings the same kind of shame and suffering. Paul is concerned that Timothy will want to do gospel ministry without the shame and suffering that follows, a much easier race to run with less wear and tear. But Paul says don’t cheat. If you avoid the shame now you won’t get the crown later. Timothy is to be, and to appoint leaders who will not cut corners, bend or break the rules in order to win. That is not the Christian way.

What the athlete, the soldier and the farmer have in common is the promise of a reward that is worth it.

If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him (2 Timothy 2:11, 12)

But prize and harvest day come at the end. Timothy is in the thick of battle, the middle of the marathon and the hard part of the growing season. Medals and celebrations will come later. It is an unglamorous and painful call, one no one must accept without careful thought and genuine prayer.

Will you accept that unglamorous and painful call to represent Christ today for the promise of future reward?

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