There are two positive ways to look at running a race. One is to run to win. The other is to better your previous best time. If you keep bettering your time you will likely win races.
Paul continues in 2nd Timothy 2:20-21 to explain to Timothy how to stay focused while running a race so that you will do your best for God. Too many are satisfied with just being on the team rather than excelling.
He writes, “In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepare to do any good work.”
He is essentially asking, “Do you just want to be used or do you want to be used for noble purposes?” Paul encourages us to pursue holiness so God will use us for noble purposes. The implication is clear: an unholy vessel will not be chosen to be a useful instrument. You would not be prepared to do any good work. God will cleanse the one who wants to be a holy vessel. And if you’re a holy vessel or instrument you’ll be useful to the Master and prepared to do good works.
This picture of vessels in a household sets the stage for what follows in this letter. I’d suggest we use the 4S approach to study the remaining verses in this chapter, verses 22-26. The 4S’s stand for spread, sort, structure and summarize. To prepare for doing this study let me encourage you to read these verses a few times and spread out what you find on a sheet of paper.