do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. [2 timothy 2:15]

“hurry up and wait.” “strive hard to rest.” these are examples of biblical oxymorons. on oxymoron is a figure of speech where two opposite ideas are joined to create an effect. “do you best to present yourself to God as one approved” is another such play on words. but more than a play on words, it is a command with a valuable and God honoring promise. let’s break it down.

“do your best to present yourself,” means: strive with all your energy – to submit yourself to God. here are two seemingly opposite ideas. work really hard, to submit. do everything you can to come before God – and submit your life to his work. submission is a hard thing. it is even a harder idea in our culture. in the presence of God – submission always bring glory to God and his sanctifying work into our lives. as we come submitted to his hand, the clay to the potter, as we work hard at laying ourselves before holy God, he will work in us for his glory and our good. what does he do? “approves”.

“approves,” means to be tested and approved. it carries the idea of a test used in ancient times to prove and improve a fine metal like gold. an extreme heat was used to melt the gold to a liquid state. when this happened, you were “proving” the value of the gold. for in the heat of the test, the impurities would separate from the gold. the true value of the gold was revealed. but this was not the end of the test. if you wished to improve the gold, you would scrape the impurities off the top of the liquid gold. this test proved and improved the gold. at the end of the test, the gold was “approved” by tester and stamped as a particular quality of gold.

when we submit ourselves to God, he approves us. he puts us to the testing fires of his word. as Hebrews 12:4 says,

“for the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

when we submit ourselves to God’s word, he changes us. this is one of the reasons we must long to be in his presence. for as we come into the presence of God, the holy fire of his presence will do the work of transforming us into his holy image. this is God’s promise to us from all over his holy word.

and we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. [2 cor 4:18]

do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. [rom 12:2]

and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. [col 3:10]

be renewed in the spirit of your minds, … put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. [eph 4:23-24]

as the prophet isaiah said, we are the clay and our holy God is the potter. as his loved sons and daughters, we are constantly being sculpted into his image by his loving hands. our part, run to the Father’s presence – and submit. come, and lay ourselves open to him.

today, the question does not need to be, what do you want to do God? rather, what if the question was simply: come Lord Jesus, have your way! do your best today, to run into the presence of God and submit. may our prayer be today … come Lord Jesus, have your way!

~ john ryan