Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything (2 Timothy 2.7)
In the second chapter of 2 Timothy, Paul gives to the believer three illustrations (soldier, athlete, farmer) of the endurance demanded of a man strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus (2.1). Strength of grace is prerequisite for a Christian leader who is striving to communicate to another generation the truths of Christ (2.2). Truth's communication will bring the communicator to join with others into the arena of Christian hardship. The interesting aspect of these illustrations is that the Lord does not give the explicit connection between the illustration and the exhortation to endure hardness. Paul leaves this to the reader. My concern is not to give the understanding of the illustrations but to encourage every believer unto the means of obtaining such comprehension.
In every area (in everything) of understanding the Lord must gift comprehension. In other words, understanding is the gift of God. The scripture calls this illumination, enlightenment, and unction/anointing (Ephesians 1.18; Hebrews 10.32; 1 John 2.20, 27). Understanding is not simply a matter of education. We cannot within our own natural ability understand the things of the Lord. The Bible becomes an arena of distortion and an erroneous playground without God’s gift of comprehension (2 Peter 3.16). This means that our approach to the Word of God must be one of a child coming to his father for instruction, understanding, and the wisdom of application. We sit at the feet of Christ Jesus, childlike in humility rather than lording over Him – judging whether I like what is written or not. The beautiful aspect of this truth is that the Lord is more than willing to give the wisdom of knowledge and understanding to all who ask (James 1.5-6). Ask. Spiritual clarity and understanding will be gifted in His time.
Now, do we just sit - waiting for some mystical light or feeling to enter into our souls? Or are there means to the comprehension of biblical truth? The answer may be surprising. After we pray for spiritual understanding then we must exert our minds – consider what I say. Christ Jesus commands us to consider, engaging our minds in precise and careful thought for the purpose of arriving at proper understanding. Contemplation and scriptural meditation of His Word are necessary means. It is precisely at this point that believers are lazy. The cultural climate in which we live molds us into mental laxity and empty thoughts. The culture trains our minds not to engage serious thought and to avoid asking the hard questions about scriptural truth. In fact, there is much preaching proclaiming the disengagement of the mind as the more spiritual pathway to travel. We have nothing to fear from sanctified thoughts. We shut off spiritual illumination when we take the route of mental disengagement. We are left with only the darkness of our own understanding (Ephesians 4.17-18).
Do not avoid the demand of consider what I say. There will be no illumination without the engagement of rigorous mental activity. This engagement takes the form of exhaustive scriptural ransacking, searching out the mental engagements of men of old (2 Timothy 2.2), and the listening/reading of sermonic material and commentary. The local New Testament church is supposed to be the classroom of the glorious activity of comprehension and transformation (2 Corinthians 3.18; Ephesians 1.17-18; 3.18, 21). Thinking is exhaustive labor. Thinking is the channel by which the Lord gives enlightened understanding of what He has said.
Take up your Bible. Pray for spiritual understanding. Engage your mind for fifteen minutes every day for uninterrupted sanctified thinking and prayer. Let the scriptures wrestle with you. Let yourselves wrestle with the scripture. This will not be easy but the treasure of the knowledge of Christ is our reward (Proverbs 2.1-5; Philippians 3.8). The Lord Jesus will feed your soul and enlighten your path.