Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2Ti 2:15)
While the advice given to Timothy may, in the context, be directed to an evangelist and the work of ministers, much of what Paul says to Timothy can be applied to every Christian. Put another way, there is no character that Paul asks Timothy to develop or exemplify in his life that every Christian should not strive to do as well. We may not all be preachers but we are all servants of God and in our work we need to be “not ashamed” as we present ourselves to God.
To be diligent about something is to make an effort. The ESV says “Do your best”. When my mom told me to clean my room, she was not asking me to make a half hearted effort, she wanted some diligence (which, in my case was needed because it was a messy room). Sometimes, in school, you face a challenging course and you need to be ‘diligent’ in studying for that class to pass the test. Timothy is being told here to be diligent in his work and not be half heared about it.
Paul had told him in the first epistle that he was in Ephesus so that he could instruct certain men not to teach a different doctrine. In this epistle, Paul has told him to teach others who are faithful so that they could teach others. Paul is urging in this context two things. Be an example and be able to come to God without shame.
As your boss walks by your cubicle and finds you facebooking, twittering or surfing the net, rather than working on your job, you may have reason to be ashamed. However, if you are doing your job, you have no reason to be ashamed. As Timothy does his job, he can present himself to God as a servant that can be approved, not ashamed. To do this, he needs to be able to divide the word of truth correctly.
In the context, there are those who are arguing over words and teachings that are upseting the faith of some. Timothy is to do the opposite. His use of the word of God, the sword of God (Eph 6:17), as a skilled soldier not one who is inept in its use. A scapel in the hands of a surgeon can do great things, in the hands of a plumber, not so much. (Kinda like those commercials: Would you want your doctor to do your job? don’t do his). Timothy needs to be able to wield the sword of God in an effective and beneficial way for those who will hear him.
We can all learn a lesson by these words to Timothy. We, individually, need to learn the word of God. We understand this principle in other areas but I fear are lax in the spiritual areas. In driving a car, we know that everyone should know the basics, how to turn on the car, how to put gas in, etc but there is much more we should know. checking oil, tire pressure and the radiator water level. Even if we lack the ability to change a tire, knowing where the jack is, being sure we HAVE a spare, and a set of jumper cables is just plain smart. Then for those who are mechanics, they have a specialized knowledge on how the engine operation in a car and a police officer would have special knowledge to operate the car safely at high speeds.
We may not wish to excel to the level of a PHd in regards to bible knowledge but we can all grow in what we know and should be able to give an answer for the hope that is in us (1 pet 3:15). Over time, of course.
Be diligent. Do the best you can. Grow so that God can use you. Read, study, learn, be hearers of the word and then we can be doers.