Follow Jesus like a Soldier
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The Scriptures often use the military as a metaphor for the Christian life. Therefore, if you understand the military, you will better understand the principle being taught about the Christian life. In 2 Timothy 2:3-4, Paul tells Timothy to behave just as a soldier, “as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” Paul gives the command to Timothy, then explains the metaphor of a soldier’ life.
Command: Suffer hardship with me,
Metaphor: 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 as a soldier.
A soldier knows hardship. Yet this hardship is not without companions. Paul calls Timothy to join him in the common sufferings that go with being a Christian of that day. If you think of Paul’s life*, you would hesitate to join him in his sufferings. Yet the cause for which he lived drew many to join him. A soldier joins others in the common sufferings of military life because of the cause. A soldier knows what Paul is talking about here. They do not take lightly the call to join in the everyday life of suffering as a soldier because they know what that means. Many people make commitments without fully understanding the implications. When they are in the middle of the suffering, they quit. A good soldier commits without the option of quitting.
Cadets, midshipmen and military men and women know that they live a lifestyle that is different from the world’s. Civilians often misunderstand or avoid them, because they live by a different system. A good soldier does not get entangled in the affairs of civilian life. The life of a disciple of Christ is also different than the life of the world. The purpose and goals are different; therefore the system of life in which they live is different. If a disciple’s purpose is to advance the kingdom of God, then they cannot live a life focused on advancing their own kingdom.
What motivates soldiers to suffer hardship and avoid things that will distract them from being good soldiers? They desire to please the one who enlisted them as a soldier. I still remember times as a cadet, when I would hear phrases like, “Great job, freshman,” “You motivate me, fish” (fish = freshman), and other phrases of motivation I cannot repeat here. I vividly remember the day we got our “fish brass.” This was the day we were recognized as being pleasing in the sight of the upperclassmen for finally doing all things well as a cadet. That was the best day of my entire four years as a cadet. My eleven “fish buddies” and I had suffered many hardships together to get to this point. We did not live the life of civilian students. We suffered together in order to please the upperclassmen and take care of each other.
When a cadet, midshipman or soldier reads 2 Timothy 2:3-4, they not only have a theoretical understanding of what it means to suffer with others and avoid the distractions of the world in order to please their commanders, but they have an experiential understanding that includes both their hearts and their hands.
How will you respond to this invitation from your heavenly commander who is enlisting you into His army? I imagine that if you know the love and power of the commander, Jesus Christ, you will enlist and ask…
“Father in heaven, what is my mission and who are my fellow soldiers?”
*see 2 Cor. 11:23-28