When the Apostle Paul challenged his young apprentice Timothy to be a military man, he did not ask him to take up arms, join the army, and learn how to fight. He was challenging him to be loyal.
Loyalty is not something that we think about in our modern world, never mind our modern versions of the Christian faith. In the days of the New Testament, many of the soldiers fighting on behalf of the Roman Empire were mercenaries. In fact, whole legions were financed and supported to go to war on behalf of one nation or another. History tells of entire armies switching sides because they got a better cash deal.
As dads, husbands, leaders, and believers, we have already pledged our allegiance to King Jesus. Do not get distracted by what seems like a better deal. There is no better deal. You are already on the winning team. Victory is ours through Christ Jesus. Death is defeated, sin is under our feet, and glory awaits those who please the commanding officer.
Do not get distracted by what seems like a better deal. There is no better deal. You are already on the winning team.
Loyalty Is Hard
Sound easy? Well, in my experience, maintaining an undivided heart is incredibly hard. More than anything, I want to give Jesus his place as commander and chief in my life. I want to be obedient, ready, and waiting for his orders to come in and responsive to his leading. That is what I want, but it is not always what works its way out in my journey.
This is why Paul chose the metaphor of the soldier in 2 Timothy 2:3-4 – “Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him”.
Before I trained for ministry as a pastor, I had been considering a life in the military. As a teenager in the United Kingdom, I had been scouted to attend the British Army’s elite military academy.
I was flown over from Northern Ireland to England, transferred to a limousine, and taken on a tour of the campus. It was incredible. This illustrious school had been the training ground for many of the British Army’s most famous and influential officers. I, along with a dozen other young leaders from across the nation, was pampered, courted, and wooed towards signing on the dotted line and giving our lives to the service of our country in officer training for the armed forces. In the end, I declined. I was sixteen, and truthfully, I was not ready to give up another dream that I had: to be a professional rugby player.
While I have often regretted that decision, especially when I didn’t make it as an athlete, I can still recall considering the reality of life as a soldier and asking myself this one question: do I have what it takes?
Focus On Obedience
Military service requires training—way more training than operation. Soldiers spend more time training for war than they spend at war. For soldiers, everything in their lives is shaped around a larger idea. They have a singular purpose: to be a soldier and serve.
In this text from 2 Timothy, Pastor Timothy in Ephesus is being reminded that right now, his singular purpose is to endure hardship. That is his mission. It won’t always be his mission. But in this season, that is what his commanding officer requires of him.
Military service is built on trust. It is a trust that the person above you on the organizational chart knows best. There is a need to trust the orders you are given and follow them, even if you don’t see the bigger picture. You have to play your part in the mission. There will always be the temptation to believe that there is a better deal somewhere else.
There is a need to trust the orders you are given and follow them, even if you don’t see the bigger picture.
Don’t get distracted. Bow your knee. Receive your orders. Be obedient.
Like soldiers who practice, rehearse, and train, we need to practice obedience in the smaller things, rehearse focus on the smaller missions, and listen for our marching orders in the little stuff of life.
Then we will be ready to go to war as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.