One of our best-loved hymns, Onward Christian Soldiers, describes believers as soldiers marching off to war following the lead of our Master. It has been said, “The Christian life is not a playground. It is a battlefield.” Every day believers battle the world, the flesh, and the devil. However, we are on the side of the One who has already gained the victory, as the hymn’s refrain says, with the cross of Jesus going on before. It was through His death that Christ rendered powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil (Hebrews 2:14). So we have the privilege of fighting in a battle that has already been won ultimately. But this does not mean we can be careless, lazy soldiers. In fact, the longing to hear our commander say, well done (Matt. 25:21) should compel us to strive to greater heights of faithfulness in the battle for our Lord.
The New Testament contains an example of a man who was a radical soldier. His name was Epaphroditus. His name means charming, and charming he was to those whom he served. His name was common in the Roman period in which he lived, derived from Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty. In Philippians 2:25 the Apostle Paul refers to him as my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier. From the few times his name is mentioned we learn two qualities of a true soldier of Christ.
A soldier of Christ will have a radical commitment to serving Christ and His church. The ministry of the Apostle Paul was dear to the Philippian believers because it was through him that their church was founded. As these believers gave generously to the collections received on behalf of Paul’s ministry they needed a trusted messenger to deliver their gift. Epaphroditus was that messenger. After making the long journey to deliver the gift, and ministering to Paul in his time of need, it came time for Epaphroditus to return to his church. Paul encouraged the Philippians to receive their commissioned representative with joy because he had been sick unto death (v. 26). Three verses later, Paul revealed the reason for his friend’s physical illness: he came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was deficient in your service to me (v. 30). As a messenger in Christ’s army, Epaphroditus had faithfully delivered the gift to the imprisoned missionary and apparently had also stayed in Rome for some time in order to serve Paul in whatever capacity was needed. He put his own health at risk as a result of his diligent labor. By the hand of this faithful servant, who risked his life so that Paul’s needs would not go unmet, the church’s gift became a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God (v. 18).
A soldier of Christ will have a radical concern for the encouragement of other believers. One of the reasons Paul was sending Epaphroditus back to Philippi is because the church had heard of his illness and was deeply concerned. Paul told them that Epaphroditus was longing for [them] all and was distressed because [they] had heard that he was sick (2:26). When he learned his church was discouraged his heart sank. A true soldier of Christ cannot bear to see his comrades discouraged. As soldiers enlisted in God’s army, how is our service? Do we have a radical commitment to Christ and his church? Are we genuinely concerned about our comrades who are battling with discouragement?
Let’s pray God will make us radical soldiers.