The following is excerpted from the Way of Life Commentary Series, Pastoral Epistles, www.wayoflife.org:
“Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier” (2 Timothy 2:3-4).
The SOLDIER (2 Ti. 2:3-4)
The preacher, and every believer, is a soldier of Jesus Christ.
“God does not hand out brochures offering all kinds of fringe benefits to those who become Christians. On the contrary, He enlists them as soldiers and calls upon them to engage in a battle that will not end until their death or until the Lord returns. Even as Paul wrote, he was an embattled warrior, a prisoner of war who was sentenced to death. He would remain faithful to the end, and he wanted Timothy to have as much endurance as he did” (John Phillips).
A soldier of Jesus Christ: what a marvelous privilege! what a high calling! Christ, the eternal Son of God, is my Captain. His army is engaged in the age-old battle for truth and righteousness. The ultimate victory is assured, as sure as if the war was already won. Christ said that He would build His church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Mt. 16:18). In the last days, the armies of Christ will ride with Him out of heaven and defeat the armies of the enemy (Re. 19:11-21). The stone cut out without hands will break in pieces and consume the kingdoms of this present rebellious world, and then “shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed” (Da. 2:44). The soldier of Jesus Christ is on the winning side! Onward, Christian soldiers! Sound the battle cry! Rise up, ye saints of God!
In writing about soldiers, Paul had in mind the famed Roman legionnaires. He knew them well. Even as he was writing to Timothy, he was chained to a Roman soldier. The training was severe and constant. This gave them discipline and endurance in battle. Josephus described their training as follows: “[F]or their military exercises differ not at all from the real use of their arms, but every soldier is every day exercised, and that with great diligence, as if it were in time of war, which is the reason why they bear the fatigue of battles so easily; for neither can any disorder remove them from their usual regularity, nor can fear affright them out of it, nor can labor tire them; which firmness of conduct makes them always to overcome those that have not the same firmness; nor would he be mistaken that should call those their exercises unbloody battles, and their battles bloody exercises” (The Jewish Wars).
The Christian soldier is a “good soldier.”
- A good soldier does his very best. If ever there were a strong motive to be a good soldier, it should be the motive to please Jesus Christ and to do one’s very best. History is filled with accounts of good soldiers. We think of the Spartan hoplite, the Roman legionnaire, the Chinese samurai, the British SAS, the U.S. Special Forces. They train, plan, and fight with fanatical zeal. They give 100%. Being a good soldier is what they live for. They have mottos like “failure is not an option,” “never quit,” “always faithful.” The child of God should live and train by an even higher creed. He should give of his best to the Master. The Christian soldier should aim to be everything he can be for the glory of His Captain.
- A good soldier accepts his position. He doesn’t choose his position. Every soldier starts out as a private. The believer doesn’t choose his gift and calling (1 Co. 12:4, 11).
- A good soldier follows the military rulebook; he doesn’t follow his own thinking. The Christian soldier’s rulebook is the Bible. He studies it and obeys it.
- A good soldier submits to authority and obeys orders. He has a Captain and he has other leaders appointed by the Captain. All members of the church are equal as children of God, but they are not equal in position and authority (Heb. 13:17). All are priests, but not all are rulers. No army can win wars with disobedient, self-willed soldiers who don’t submit to authority.
- A good soldier submits to military discipline. This is a true disciple of Jesus Christ. George Washington, America’s Commander-in-Chief during the War of Independence from Great Britain, credited God and discipline for the victory over England. As an officer during the French and Indian War he wrote, “Discipline is the soul of an army. It makes small numbers formidable; procures success to the weak and esteem to all.” When Washington took control of the American “army” in July 1775, it was “a mixed multitude of people under very little discipline, order or government.” Two years later, the ragtag American army was still pathetic, and it was a German named Friedrich von Steuben who whipped it into shape. Steuben had served as adjutant general on the staff of Frederick the Great and had been made a baron. After meeting Benjamin Franklin in Paris, Steuben volunteered his services to Washington in exchange only for his expenses. Like many other Europeans who joined the America effort, Steuben wanted to “fight for liberty.” He had a major role in the war effort and was awarded American citizenship and 16,000 acres of land in New York after the victory. “The Continental army was in shambles when Steuben joined Washington at Valley Forge in late February 1778. In addition to lacking arms, ammunition, food, shelter, and morale, the army had no orderly military structure, no formal training system, and no organized administration procedures. The troops didn’t even know how to march in formation. Steuben immediately began imposing the lessons he had learned in the Prussian military on the encampment, attempting to transform a willing but untrained assembly of militias into an army in a matter of months. The fact that he didn’t speak English only made the already seemingly impossible task just a little more difficult. Steuben attacked the problem by creating a model company of slightly more than a hundred men, then began drilling them in the full range of military skills from marching to fighting with a bayonet. Creating the prototype of the tough drill sergeant, he made his men relentlessly practice reloading and firing, reloading and firing, until the process became natural and efficient. He taught them basic tactics and simple maneuvers. As a veteran officer described Steuben’s impact, ‘Discipline flourishes and daily improves under the indefatigable efforts of Baron Steuben--who is much esteemed by us.’ In addition to personally demonstrating these techniques, he spoke to Alexander Hamilton and General Nathanael Greene in French and they translated his comments into English. ... Once these men were sufficiently trained, they began passing along their knowledge to other groups, and the effect rippled through the entire army. This training regimen eventually was turned into the classic manual Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States ... [it] remains the foundation for the professional army. ... In subsequent battles the colonists stunned the British with their rapid and orderly response to commands, their newfound ability to maneuver, and their deadly use of the bayonet” (Bill O’Reilly’s Legends and Lies: The Patriots, 2016).
- A good soldier is dependable. No army can win battles with unfaithful soldiers. God requires faithfulness of His soldiers (1 Co. 4:2). An unfaithful person causes pain and harm. “Confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble is like a broken tooth, and a foot out of joint” (Pr. 25:19). The Christian soldier should be trusted to do what he is assigned to do and to do it to his best ability. He must be punctual and timely. He must be a man of his word. He must do his best regardless of whether someone is watching.
- A good soldier is a hard worker. No military can win battles if the soldiers are lazy. They must prepare and train continually. It is said that the Spartans trained so hard that battle was rest. The Roman legions trained as they fought and fought as they trained. Don’t be a sluggard. Study Proverbs (reading a chapter a day) and pray for wisdom. Look for things to do in the church, in the Lord’s work. Don’t watch others work. Don’t care only about your personal business. The harvest is great and the workers are so few. In the typical church, a few people work like slaves, while a few more work a little, and the rest do nothing. This is a disgrace.
- A good soldier trains. The best armies constantly train and are continually being educated. They are never satisfied, always progressing The U.S. Marines have 25 colleges and hundreds of training programs. The American Military University, an internet school used by 6,000 Marines all over the world, has 300 teachers providing degrees in 100 fields. They constantly seek to improve. Soldiers are tested and evaluated. Likewise, God requires excellence, as we see in the Old Testament temple service (1 Ch. 15:22 “he was skilful”; 28:21 “every willing skilful man”). Those who are trying to get into an elite military program or pass classes at a top school, work very hard. God deserves even better. The church should be God’s military university where His soldiers are trained and prepared for His great service. God’s people should be eager to learn and zealous to train. No Christian soldier should be content with mediocrity, whether it is the preacher, the teacher, the song leader, the special singer, the choir member, the evangelist. There should be zeal to learn and improve and progress in every area of the Lord’s work.
- A good soldier fights (Eph. 6:10-19). A good soldier puts on his armor and takes up his arms and fights the enemy. He doesn’t hide. He doesn’t run. He doesn’t shirk his duty. The Christian soldier’s warfare is against the world, the flesh, and the devil. The preacher must “fight the good fight of faith” (1 Ti. 6:12). He must fight against sin and error. He must reprove and rebuke (2 Ti. 4:2). He must earnestly contend for the faith (Jude 1:3). He must lead the church in necessary discipline (1 Co. 5). He must fight his own lusts and bodily affections (1 Co. 9:25-27). He must cast down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ (2 Co. 10:5).
The Christian soldier “endures hardness.”
- Enduring hardness and severe discipline are an essential part of soldiering. No army can be successful unless the soldiers endure hardness. They must train and fight in every condition: night, day, cold, heat, rain, snow, desert, mountain. “When I was eighteen, I was drafted into the British army. In boot camp, we raw recruits were turned into soldiers by being taught to ‘endure hardness.’ The officers instilled into us the army’s concepts of discipline and obedience. We endured hours of drilling, endless parades, long-route marches, constant pressure, tasteless food, guard duty, bullying sergeants, lectures, and exposure to inclement weather. The whole procedure was designed to toughen us up” (John Phillips).
- The preacher must prepare himself mentally with the fact that he is a soldier in a spiritual war and as such he must endure whatever difficulties are necessary to win the war. He is not a quitter. He is persistent in the face of difficulties. He doesn’t let small things stop him, like a cold or a headache or aches and pains. We think of Adoniram Judson, the first foreign missionary from America. He endured great hardships in Burma. He was imprisoned for 17 months under terrible conditions. He was kept in iron fetters and half starved. Sometimes he was suspended by his feet with only his head and shoulders touching the ground. Of the British who were imprisoned with Judson, all but one died. Judson’s wife, Ann, remained free and helped him or he probably would have died, too, but her health was destroyed by her unrelenting efforts to help her husband in spite of her own raging fever, lack of food, and care for a nursing baby that was born after Adoniram’s imprisonment. Soon after his release from prison, Judson lost his faithful wife. Six months later, their two-year-old daughter, Maria, also died. Judson sank into a deep depression, but God brought him back into the light and gave him great spiritual fruit from his labors.
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