The only way to stop foolish arguments, ignorant speculations, worldly chatter, fighting over words, and leaving the path of truth is to be diligent ("zealous, hasten," 2 Timothy 4:9, 21 and Titus 3:12) to present oneself to God as a good workman who handles the truth accurately (literally, "cutting straight").
Paul wanted Timothy to be deep in God's Word, and he wanted him to faithfully pass that on (2 Timothy 2:2)! This would result in a young pastor and his flock who would flee youthful lusts, be able to discern the lies of the false teachers (1:20; 2:17), and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace with pure hearts! He wants that of us also.
The word "lusts" does not carry the same meaning we do in the English language:
There are many lusts from which our greatest safety is in flight (Ge 39:12). Avoid occasions of sin. From the abstemious character of Timothy (1Ti 5:23) it is likely that not animal indulgences, but the impetuosity, rash self-confidence, hastiness, strife, and vainglory of young men (1Jn 2:14–16), are what he is here warned against: though the Spirit probably intended the warning to include both in its application to the Church in general.REFLECTION
In my early 20's, I was eager to attend my first official church Bible Study. I had just left my staff position with a para-church organization. During the four and a half years with this organization, I learned the basics of inductive Bible Study (The Navigator Bible Studies Handbook) and learned how doing this with other like-hearted "approved workman" could be life-transforming. I assumed this church Bible study would be the same, especially since it was comprised of older men and women of God.
I did my homework in eager anticipation of a great discussion over what we had all learned in our study time, but I was greatly disappointed when several in the group got into a two hour debate about the passage. It turned out that none of the others had done any study preparation. The leader hadn't even prepared. I can relate with Warren Wiersbe who said, "I fear that some "sharing times" do more harm than good as well-meaning people exchange their 'spiritual ignorance'" (The Bible Exposition Commentary: Volume 2, p.247).
Needless to say, I lasted about three sessions with this group and called it quits. The Lord graciously led me to women who wanted to dig more deeply, and we spent the next seven years engaged in dynamic, life-changing study! All the girls in that study have moved out of town, but many of them lament that they have not found a study quite like it since. It is hard to find "diligent workmen in the Word" in the Body of Christ these days!
After I got married, one of our pastors decided to separate the Bible studies into levels. We went straight to the level called "Deeper Digger" hoping to find like-hearted people. Sadly, the situation with that first church Bible study repeated itself, but this time all the people in our study were key ministry leaders in the church! The up side of it was that the leader came prepared because he was my husband! In his gentle way, he challenged these leaders to come prepared for study. The dynamics of the study radically changed when people started coming prepared in heart and mind to discuss what they had learned. We spent a happy two years together!
Fast forward another ten years, I was asked to come to a meeting at my church about possible changes in how the women's ministry did things. It was noted that some women in our congregation were going out of town to study the Bible because they couldn't find a deeper study at our church or even in our town. I recommended starting a Precept Bible Study so the women didn't have to travel so far! It was hard to have the "powers that be" make a paradigm shift, but God moved their hearts (after some suffering, but that is another story), and I am happy to say that inductive studies have been an option for the last ten years. The group is small but faithful!
You may note I mentioned in these previous instances that these were older men and women of God and even ministry leaders. These were all committed, responsible, and diligent workers in ministry, but not necessarily diligent workers in God's Word. I distinctly remember being in a hotel room with a group of ministry leaders who "ran the show" at a women's conference. Not ONE of them spent any time alone in God's Word the whole weekend (sadly, the speaker at the conference didn't share anything from God's Word either)! These leaders were very busy all weekend, but only God knows what was fueling them in their ministry.
One of my wise mentors, Fred Wevodau, used to say:
"If your output exceeds your input,
your upkeep will be your downfall."
Ministry has to be overflow or eventually you run out of fuel!
Transformation can only occur in an environment where we are feeding on God's Word in a context of transparent and accountable intimacy with God and other believers. We will discuss this more when we get to 2 Timothy 3, but here is a book on this concept: Transforming Discipleship: Making Disciples a Few at a Time.
Are you an approved or ashamed workman?
Are you diligently seeking to be established in God's Word? Are you seeking to establish others in God's Word also?
Lord, draw us close to You through Your Word. Lead us to other like-hearted believers who want to be workman approved by You. Help us to be people who pass on what we learn to faithful men and women who will be able to teach others also. Amen.