Do your very best to present yourself before God as one who has passed the test — a workman who has no need to be ashamed, who can carve out a straight path for the word of truth.” – 2 Timothy 2:15 (NTE)
My mom is a skilled pianist. She’s the kind of musician who makes you regret quitting your piano lessons as a kid. She’s an amazing sight-reader, too, so just about everything she plays sounds good on the first try. Of course, she wasn’t born that way. She developed the skill over a lifetime. She’s told me what it was like to learn. She told me that a few years into learning, it stopped being fun before it started being fun again, and that took powering through. She told me how her dad (also a musician) said you only really know a piece when you can play it three times in a row without a mistake. My mom is a skilled pianist not by chance, but because she spent years fine-tuning her gift, working hard at it, making sacrifices for it, and dedicating time to it.
In today’s passage, Paul exhorts Timothy, a young church leader, to dedicate himself fully to the work God has called him to. Paul says “do your very best…[be] a workman who has no need to be ashamed.” Paul is inviting Timothy to develop skill and proficiency for what he’s called to do. Paul is challenging him to give his all in following Christ so he can share the gospel with confidence.
This is the kind of development we’re called to as Jesus’ disciples. Sometimes it’s fun; sometimes it stops being fun and we stick with it. Sometimes it comes easily; sometimes it takes massive perseverance. We do not become better disciples by chance, but because we spend years fine-tuning our gifts, working hard, making sacrifices, and dedicating our time to this pursuit of following Jesus wholeheartedly. We become better disciples because we rely more and more on God, who is always with us, challenging us, encouraging us, empowering us. The more we commit ourselves to living this way, the more confidently we will live this way.
My mom has been playing the piano for 64 years, and she still practices almost every day. I suspect this is for three reasons: first, even as a highly skilled musician, she knows she’s never finished growing. Second, because she’s gotten really good at this skill, using it brings her joy. Third, because she’s gotten really good at this skill, using it brings others joy. Those three things are true as we practice a life of discipleship, too. May you give your all in following Christ; may your growth beget confidence, and your confidence beget joy; and may you share the gift of Jesus’ love so as to bring joy to others, as well.