In pastoral ministry there is no substitute for… hard work. The mandate for the minister of Christ Jesus is very simple and very clear: make every effort to work hard. John Stott, in his commentary on 2 Timothy, observes this as a singular lesson in the Christian life; blessing comes through pain, fruit through toil, glory through suffering. Nothing comes to us easily. This is true in the secular realm and in Scripture. Working hard however is just not for its own sake. There is a motive. There is, as well, a manner by which we are called to work hard. Paul reveals this so concisely when he charges Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:15 to Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth (2 Tim 2:15). This exhortation precisely presents the duty of the man of God, every man of God. He is to be diligent. He is to work hard. This is to be the main mark of his ministry. This is one of the ways Timothy will fulfill the call to being strong that opens up chapter 2 of the letter, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus (2:1). Timothy will also be able to hand off the truth to faithful men and suffer, endure hardship, by his diligent persistence and tenacity to hard work (2:2-3). Hard workmen are the very models Timothy is to look to… the soldier, the athlete, the farmer, Paul’s own life example, his chains, and of course, the Lord Jesus Christ’s ultimate example lived out through his incarnation, death on the cross and resurrection, from suffering to glory. It is about enduring and being faithful just like our Lord Himself (2:4-13). Hard work is also key to avoiding ungodliness and wickedness. Diligence, in other words, protects the man of God from being disqualified in his ministry and being used, held captive, as an instrument of the devil (2:16-26).
This is then the overall command and character by which the Lord’s bond-servant is to go about his pastoral labors. The picture however has nothing to do with clenching one’s teeth. Rather, it consists of working diligently, doing one’s best, with a particular motivation in mind. There is here anticipation, intentional expectation. The hard work is aimed at presenting oneself, standing, tried and true before God. In Calvin’s words, Timothy is to keep his eyes fixed on God instead of the applause of the crowded assembly. He is to be in this sense an unashamed workman. That is the why of the hard work now comes the how. Timothy is to be diligent by accurately handling the word of truth. The manner through which he will accomplish the motive is by cutting straight the truth. Teaching, preaching and teaching, is where Timothy will need to invest most of his diligence. Hard work in other words means working hard at the preaching and teaching of the Word. It is to be cut straight. The minister will do his best at interpreting the truth correctly and teaching the truth accurately. Precision and profundity are demanded of him in exposition. He must in the final analysis work hard at consistently feeding his flock the exact Word of God.
At ITA we train men to be hard workers in the study and in the pulpit first and foremost. There are no shortcuts if one is to be an unashamed workman.