Last time I shared from 2 Timothy 2:2 about one image of the strong Christian — that of a teacher. But this isn’t the only aspect of what mature faith looks like. Paul also exhorts Timothy by saying, “Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him” (2 Timothy 2:3-4). So we see that a strong Christian is not only a teacher, but a soldier as well.
If you are a child of God who wants to be strong in the Lord, then you need to view yourself as a soldier. And Paul gives us three aspects of what this means.
A soldier is made for difficulty and warfare. It should be no surprise that the Christian life is hard; that’s what you were designed for. That’s why you have the Holy Spirit. That’s why you have the armor of God available to you (Ephesians 6:10-17). That’s why you have Christ as your high priest interceding for you (Hebrews 7:25).
Your warfare may not involve clear cases of demon possession, but you are still involved in spiritual warfare. You can’t expect it to be easy, and you have to be willing to suffer what faithful soldiers sometimes suffer. You may be misrepresented, persecuted, rejected, maligned, mocked, or accused. This is why it’s important to have your armor on and have a settled willingness to suffer for the cause of Christ.
What weakened Timothy was an unwillingness to suffer. When life became tough, he became timid. But as soldiers, we must be willing to take heat for the commander whose name we bear.
When you go into the military, it requires total commitment. It isn’t enough to show up on base every once in a while. It isn’t enough to work your military responsibilities around your other commitments and plans. You can’t show up to work in your civilian clothes and with whatever hair style you want.
When you’re in the military, they control everything. They cut your hair. They tell you what to wear. They decide what to feed you. They put you wherever they want to put you. They control your life from top to bottom. That’s how it is with a soldier.
That’s how it is with a Christian, too. When you’re in the service of Jesus Christ, it’s a total life commitment. You serve Him. You’re disentangled from the rest of the world. You don’t get to decide when to be faithful, or what being faithful looks like. God has made these decisions for us, and we are responsible for walking in them. And the clearer our understanding of this fact is, the more faithful we will be.
One of the greatest lessons you’ll ever learn in your life is to do everything you do to please the Lord. It sounds basic, but it is the controlling factor in Christian living. David set an example for us in this when he said, “I set the Lord always before me” (Psalm 16:8). His life was controlled by his awareness of God. Similarly, Paul said, “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all things for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
It doesn’t matter what other people think of me. It doesn’t even matter what I think of me (1 Corinthians 4:3-4). What really matters is what the Lord thinks of me. When I’m preparing my sermons, the central question in my mind is, “Am I pleasing the Lord?”
My first football game in college, we played in the Rose Bowl against a formidable team. During our first play, my job was to take the linebacker out. Linebackers are big people, and the longer I looked at this guy, the bigger he seemed. I was afraid and didn’t know what to do, so when the time came I only nudged him. Of course, he leveled me, and we had about an 8-yard loss.
We ended up winning the game, so I figured no one would care about that first play. But on Monday, our coach called us into the film room, and the video was wound to that moment. He said, “Men, watch MacArthur,” and then he played through it five times.
I went out of there so humiliated. And for the rest of my football career I had only one guy in mind. I didn’t care what the cheerleaders thought, or my girlfriend, or my parents. The only guy I cared about was the one I was going to face on Monday.
In the same way, when you serve the Lord Jesus Christ, He’s the commander-in-chief that you want to please. And when you live in light of this fact, you will be acting as a good soldier and a mature Christian.
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