Follow the Lord’s rules for doing his work, just as an athlete either follows the rules or is disqualified and wins no prize.
~2 Timothy 2:5 TLB
As teachers of this great Gospel, we must be spiritually mature, knowing the difference between right and wrong. Thus, a good minister trains himself in godliness. He disciplines himself to be reverent, respectful, and pious toward God. He exercises himself to be devout, godly, and dutiful with behavior based on higher standards or more noble beliefs than the norm.
A good minister understands that spiritual training in godliness is valuable in everything he does because it helps him now in this life and in the life to come. Thus, he fuels himself with solid spiritual food, knowing it takes preparedness and perseverance to receive the prize.
PREPAREDNESS requires making oneself fit for service or duty or ready for test or tribulation. Therefore, like a runner on the racetrack, he prepares himself to win his race. So, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (TPT):
Isn’t it obvious that all runners on the racetrack keep on running to win, but only one receives the victor’s prize? Yet each one of you must run the race to be victorious. A true athlete will be disciplined in every respect, practicing constant self-control in order to win a laurel wreath that quickly withers. But we run our race to win a victor’s crown that will last forever. For that reason, I don’t run just for exercise or box like one throwing aimless punches, but I train like a champion athlete. I subdue my body and get it under my control, so that after preaching the good news to others I myself won’t be disqualified.
PERSEVERANCE characterizes one not swerved from his deliberate purpose and loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings. Therefore, he persists in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success. Thus, Paul says in James 1:2-4,12 (TPT):
My fellow believers, when it seems as though you are facing nothing but difficulties see it as an invaluable opportunity to experience the greatest joy that you can! For you know that when your faith is tested it stirs up power within you to endure all things. And then as your endurance grows even stronger it will release perfection into every part of your being until there is nothing missing and nothing lacking.
If your faith remains strong, even while surrounded by life’s difficulties, you will continue to experience the untold blessings of God! True happiness comes as you pass the test with faith, and receive the victorious crown of life promised to every lover of God!
Those who are prepared and persevere receive the PRIZE—the victor’s crown of life—reserved for those who hold fast to their faith. Thus, Paul says to pastors and spiritual leaders of the church in 1 Peter 5:1c-4 (TPT):
I urge my fellow elders among you to be compassionate shepherds who tenderly care for God’s flock and who feed them well, for you have the responsibility to guide, protect, and oversee. Consider it a joyous pleasure and not merely a religious duty. Lead from the heart under God’s leadership—not as a way to gain finances dishonestly but as a way to eagerly and cheerfully serve. Don’t be controlling tyrants but lead others by your beautiful examples to the flock. And when the Shepherd-King appears, you will win the victor’s crown of glory that never fades away.
As you live what you preach and teach, you release even more abundant life inside you and to all those who listen to you. So, examine yourself to see if your faith is genuine and not counterfeit. For if you pass the test, you will be able to declare as Paul declared in 2 Timothy 4:6-8 (TPT):
And now the time is fast approaching for my release from this life and I am ready to be offered as a sacrifice. I have fought an excellent fight. I have finished my full course and I’ve kept my heart full of faith. There’s a crown of righteousness waiting in heaven for me, and I know that my Lord will reward me on his day of righteous judgment. And this crown is not only waiting for me, but for all who love and long for his unveiling.
Hebrews 5:12-14, 1 Timothy 4:7b-8, 16, Revelations 2:10, 3:7-13, 2 Corinthians 13:5-6 CSB/TLB/AMP/AMPC/TPT/NLT