Intro: There are some in our assembly today who might get a free meal after we leave here. Today is Veteran’s Day, and there are many eating establishments in the area that honor veterans today by offering them a free meal. The major hostilities of World War I were formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, when an Armistice with Germany went into effect. In 1938, Nov. 11th became an annual holiday in the U.S., known as Armistice Day. At the urging of major veteran organizations, Armistice Day was renamed Veterans Day in 1954; a day dedicated to honoring veterans – those have served, and who continue to serve in the military forces of the United States. I am not a veteran, but I know many Christians who are. And I also know that there are devout, sincere Christians who could not serve in the military because of conscientious objections. I respect both of these folks. I want to consider the lifestyle of a soldier today, and I am hopeful that my focus does not offend anyone. One thing I do know, the N.T. scriptures typify the life of the Christian as the life of a soldier on more than one occasion. So I take my lead, not from social, political, or cultural trends, but from the apostle Paul.
- 2 Timothy 2:3-4 – You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.
Recruited to Suffering: Can you imagine the dilemma of the Army recruiter? His job is to convince young men and women to become soldiers. So what do you tell them about? How can you sell the job?
- “Come travel the world and meet new people”; “embark on the adventure of a lifetime”; “learn new skills”; “be all that you can be” – Should you mention the pain, danger, difficulties and hardships?
- Jesus has always been upfront with His disciples. If you follow Me you will (not might) suffer. Jesus sending out the twelve on the limited commission to the lost of Israel: Matthew 10:16-22 – 16 “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves…. Beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues. 18 You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles….”Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. 22 And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.
- Endure the Hardship: So Paul’s admonition to Timothy to follow in his example as a soldier of the cross, implied the hardships associated with the choice. Paul’s life in service to Christ had been filled with hardships. As he writes from a Roman prison, he calls on Timothy to endure with him.
- Hardship” – the word for hardship here is kakopatheo (kak-op-ath-eh’-o) “to suffer evil”. Paul uses the word twice more in this letter; 2:9 – “suffer trouble as an evildoer”; 4:5 – “endure afflictions”. The “hardship” that Paul calls on Timothy to endure is not simply misfortune or bad circumstances. It has a cause, and it is for a cause. It is the hardship or suffering endured because one chooses to serve as a soldier of Christ. The soldier pledges allegiance to the cause, and joins others who have pledged to the cause.
- Share with me… The verb (endure, suffer) here is a compound word that includes the preposition sun, which means with. Timothy is called to suffer with someone else. (NIV – with us; ESV – share; ASV – with me) It is implied that Paul is speaking of his own suffering. The soldier of Christ does not join to fight alone, but to join others for the cause. 2 Tim 1:8 – 8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God… The bad news was that Timothy was going to suffer persecution for the cause. The good news was that he would not be alone in that suffering. There were others who had endured before him. To be a Christian means to share in the sufferings of other Christians. Paul wanted Timothy to share it with him! What did that mean? How could Timothy share in Paul’s sufferings for Christ? He was not expected to check himself into the prison.
- The admonition was for Timothy to endure. If he did not give in, then he was sharing in the sufferings of those who had endured before him. He calls on Timothy to not be afraid (1:7) but to trust in the power of God and make deliberate choices to endure. It would be easy for Timothy to shy away from such mistreatment, and disassociate himself from the apostle. Paul warns – “do not be ashamed of the testimony or of me, the prisoner.”
- Our willingness to endure suffering points us back to Christ’s hardship and provides a real solidarity with His cause. 1 Peter 4:12-13 12 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings
- “Hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ…” What type of hardships does the good spiritual soldier encounter? What can we expect to experience?
Note: [The apostle mentions one of these hardships in vs. 4 – the soldier’s disengagement from the world around him – “the affairs of this life.” We are going to discuss this (vs. 4) in a separate lesson.]
- A loss of morale: Physical Soldiers face a difficult emotional task. It is easy to become discouraged in the face of constant struggle. Spiritual soldiers can become discouraged as well and give up the battle. Even the most engaged disciples are susceptible to discouragement (Jeremiah, David, Elijah). Have you ever been discouraged with the outcome of the spiritual battle?
- Discouraged by the apathy of others– no one is doing anything, why should I? Being alone on the battlefield is something that should never happen to a soldier.
- We can certainly be convinced that we are alone. Elijah under the Juniper tree- 1 Kings 19:10 – 10 So he said, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.” God was willing to comfort Elijah and address his feelings. (1 Kings 19:15-18)
- Your work is not finished yet, so, go and return to where you were.
- You are not alone, 7000 who have not bowed the knee to Baal.
- Do you struggle with loneliness? Paul felt the pain of being alone. He was abandoned by others. Yet he faced this hardship through a confidence in God’s presence and strength. Later in this epistle he wrote… 2 Tim. 4:9-10 – Be diligent to come to me quickly; 10 for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica — Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia. …vs. 14-18 – Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm. May the Lord repay him according to his works. 15 You also must beware of him, for he has greatly resisted our words. 16 At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them. 17 But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear. Also I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. 18 And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen! Fight on, Paul!
- Discouraged by the success of unrighteousness – There are times when it looks like we are losing the battle. It may seem as though God doesn’t know how bad it is, or He would do something. Does He hear our prayers? Are our efforts for nothing?
- The Psalmist Asaph experienced this loss of morale in the battle, as expressed in the 73rd Psalm. Ps 73:2-13 –But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; My steps had nearly slipped. 3 For I was envious of the boastful, When I saw the prosperity of the wicked… 12 Behold, these are the ungodly, Who are always at ease; They increase in riches. 13 Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain, And washed my hands in innocence. Asaph found his courage again when he visited the sanctuary of God (v. 17) Worship restored his confidence in the transcendence and power of God. vs. 22-26– “I was so foolish and ignorant; I was like a beast before You. 23 Nevertheless I am continually with You; You hold me by my right hand. 24 You will guide me with Your counsel, And afterward receive me to glory. 25 Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You. 26 My flesh and my heart fail; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
- The word “discouragement” identifies what is missing. Courage. Every soldier needs courage in the face of battle. Notice Paul’s commands in 1 Cor 16:13 – 13 Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong. (ASV) The word quit here doesn’t mean to give up, but rather to act bravely as real men. “Be watchful, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong.” – RSV.
- Paul also commanded the Corinthians to be strong (even as he did in 2 Tim. 2) There are two ways to “be strong” in the context of our discussion:
- Courageous in the moment: Paul’s command to “be strong” is a call to make courageous choices in the heat of the battle. It means to endure the hardship that acting courageously demands. (as Daniel’s three friends endured the punishment of their choice not to worship the image of the king.) It is not courageous to take a diving leap out of a plane that is still on the ground. (Geronimo – “I don’t want to go”). There is little danger I will suffer. Courage is displayed when suffering is imminent.
- Do we know what it will take to serve God courageously? We often conclude that we will not desert Him, but we have never been tested.
- Strong through discipline: What God demands, He provides. Spiritual strength and courage are available to every Christian who submits to God’s Word, given by the Spirit. Like physical growth and strength, spiritual growth and strength do not come overnight. As we discipline our minds and spirits to study God’s Word, understand it, and live by it, we are nourished and strengthened. Every bit of spiritual food and every bit of spiritual exercise add to our strength and endurance. No Pain – No Gain.
iii. One thing is sure. If we hypocritically call ourselves Christians while living for the world, or do nothing, we undercut our brother’s morale and weaken the structure of the Lord’s army. We become saboteurs in the ranks.
- Being wounded in action: There are times when the battle gets personal. It may be that you have been wounded by the enemy. The spiritual wound is like the physical in some ways – it causes pain; it may hinder your ability to fight back; if left unattended, it might kill you. It certainly qualifies as a hardship.
- Even a good soldier can suffer a casualty. It would have been difficult to predict that Peter would desert Christ, or even be tempted to. He was so self-confident and active. Yet the record is there before so that we can be on alert, and recognize the fierceness of Satan, and the vulnerability of ourselves. 1 Cor 10:12 – Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. (Abraham, Moses, David, etc..)
- God has provided the means whereby we can avoid the wounds of Satan. We have shield of faith with which we can quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. (Eph. 6:16). We can resist the enemy and endure the pain of moral discipline.
- After Paul warned Timothy of the danger of worldliness and greed (love of money is the root of all evil, he gave a personal command – 1 Tim 6:11-12 – But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
- But we have all been wounded. The question is, is it a fatal wound? (there is a sin not leading death – 1 Jn. 5:16).
- The hardship involved is recovering from the wound and joining the fight again. The blood of Jesus can forgive every sin, but we must respond in contriteness and repentance. Luke 13:3 …unless you repent you will all likewise perish.
- Fallen comrades: The hardest moment in a soldier’s life is when he sees his comrades fall. Some never return from the battlefield. And the soldiers who survive may become bitter against the cause, or are so engulfed in guilt, they never recover. Who among us does not know someone who has fallen in the spiritual battle and never returned? How do we endure this hardship?
- Take God’s warning seriously. It is possible for a Christian to be lost. There is a false doctrine out there that denies the possibility. But God’s word is filled with warnings against apostasy. We should not be deceived or naïve about the dangers of the conflict.
- 2 Peter 2:20 – For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning.
- Heb 10:26-27 – 26 For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.
- Prepare our comrades for the battle ahead. As soldiers we are in this together, and we must join hands and hearts in an effort to strengthen each other. In the verses just preceding that clear warning against going back, the apostle said… And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24-25) How can we claim to care for our fellow soldiers if we willfully forsake the opportunity to help him grow stronger?
- The 4th verse of Soldiers of Christ Arise goes like this: “Leave no unguarded place, no weakness of the soul, take every virtue, every grace and fortify the whole.”
- Leave no comrade behind. This is one of the strongest commitments of the soldier. Are there wounded soldiers lying on the battlefield as we speak? Who among us will try to rescue him? It is not easy, and may put you in a vulnerable position, but this is our duty. We are brothers. Gal 6:1-2 – Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
Conclusion: What does it take to be a good soldier? There is more than one answer, but it certainly takes endurance. A good soldier endures hardship because he is dedicated to the cause. He is confident in His Commander, and he is assured of the victory. Are you a soldier of Christ? Have you joined the cause? God calls you out of the defeated world of sin and sinful conduct, to the blessedness of His forgiveness, and the assurance of His victory.