As a leader, how often do you think about resigning your current job and moving onto something more exciting and engaging? Usually, the response I get to that question is, “Most Monday mornings!” Let’s face it, there are some things about our jobs that serve to send adrenaline rushing through our veins. After that rush, though, we’re often left with what makes up the vast majority of our days: The monotonous and mundane.
Long ago, another leader must’ve thought about quitting as well. Perhaps it was a Monday morning. Regardless, the words from his mentor, Paul, we’re very timely: You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others. Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs–he wants to please his commanding officer. Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules. The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops (2 Timothy 2:1-6, NIV).
There’s a lot about this passage I like, beginning with the emphasis on trusting others and giving them responsibility to keep the mission moving forward. Further, I’m reminded that leadership, ministry and life in general are not always easy. Like good soldiers, however, we’re to engage in what’s often like a war zone. While we should seek to take breaks, we can’t go AWOL. We must return to the front lines. I also love the analogy of the athlete. Prior to competing in the games, the athletes of long ago would have to swear they had trained diligently for at least ten months. Certainly, this has application for our lives as well. We can’t simply go through the motions and hope to be effective and successful in our leadership and life.
The images of the soldier and athlete excite me and cause me to reflect on all that I like about leading others: teaching, teamwork, training, risk, adventure and engaging in energizing initiatives. In my heart of hearts, I’ve often wished Paul would’ve stopped with the analogies of the soldier and athlete. But he didn’t. He goes on to casually toss in, or so it seems, the idea of a farmer. A farmer of all vocations! Why not an architect, a builder or even a gatekeeper? Anything but a farmer. God knows best, though, and somewhere in this he wants us to learn that progress, change and impact in ministry and leadership rarely take place overnight. It’s often a painfully slow process. As a result, we’ll be tempted to quit. Think about it. Day after day, the farmer gets up early to look for any encouraging signs of growth from the seeds he recently planted, and day after day, there’s tremendous potential for disappointment.
The analogy of the farmer serves to remind us of what our jobs are like most often. Sure, there are moments of exhilaration where it feels like you’re storming across the battlefield with guns blazing or running the anchor leg for the 3,200 meter relay as the theme song to Chariots of Fire or Rocky blares in the background. But who of us gets to experience that every moment of every day? If we’re honest, most of what we do is plod along daily while faithfully putting one foot in front of the other. That’s why we should be grateful for the visual of the hardworking farmer. After all, our lives are much like his. Further, God knows, and this passage implies there’ll be some type of reward for your faithful plodding.