What does a bad workman do, spiritually speaking? Paul mentions two men who have wandered away from the truth. When we think of wandering away, it sounds similar to what he talked about in verse 15 with handling the truth in a correct and straight way. Certainly, that is a very valid idea, but Paul uses another image that carries with it an interesting element of meaning. The strength of the image is seen in the Greek word he uses here. It’s a word that has the idea of missing a target, which makes us think of archery. 

Paul wants Timothy to preach the Word the way a skilled workman does his job. When he is building a house, he makes sure that the walls are at right angles and that they are perpendicular to the ground. The doors are all hung at right angles and don’t stick when they open and close. A workman like that wants everything to be done well and exactly as it should be. That’s how Paul wants Timothy to carry out his ministry.

Now in this section he gives us three more images. First, he talks about a workman in verses 14-19, somebody who has a special skill. Then secondly, in verses 20 and 21 he makes a point about a vessel or utensil in the household of a great man. Lastly, in verses 24 through the end of the chapter, he describes believers as servants of the Lord. 

In the midst of whatever hardship you are facing, don’t have the attitude that says, “Oh, I have years and years to go, how will I ever endure to the end?” Instead, consider your situation and conclude, “Things might be hard now, but it will not last forever. Indeed, these difficulties are going to last a short time compared with eternity. How can I endure and therefore make these hard days count?” Look ahead to the end of all these things and to the return of Jesus Christ.

Not only is there a need to work hard in general areas of life, but it is true in Christian ministry and service, and it is also true in the Christian life. There is no easy way to holiness. It is hard work. We have to discipline ourselves and work at regularly reading, studying, and applying the Bible. We have to work at maintaining a consistent and thoughtful prayer life. There is no easy way of doing the Lord’s work in leading other people to the Lord and discipling new believers. It requires hard work to listen to other people’s problems and share in their troubles. Christians do this kind of hard work week after week, and sometimes year after year with another person. And it can sometimes take a long time to see the fruit of those efforts. We must toil faithfully if we would experience the blessings of a spiritual crop. That is what Paul is passing on to Timothy, and we need to learn this, too.