Believers in Jesus Christ are called to live like soldiers, strengthened by grace as members of God’s army—involved in the lives of other soldiers in God’s battalion. That was the emphasis in yesterday’s post, as we began to consider the apostle’s admonition to young Timothy, “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also. Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Tim 2:1-3). Today, let’s deliberately think about what it means to suffer hardship as a good soldier.
Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus (v. 3). Being a follower of Jesus Christ is not easy. Jesus never said it would be. In fact, He warned His disciples that they would be hated by some people simply for being a Christian.
If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you (Jn 15:18-20).
The bodily pain endured by our faithful forefathers is almost indescribable. Some heroes of the faith “were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated” (Hebrews 11:37). Therefore, Paul called Timothy to “suffer hardship.” The phrase means to bear evil treatment along with someone else. In Timothy’s case, he was to not be ashamed of the gospel of his Lord. Instead he needed to be willing to be treated poorly alongside the apostle “as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.”
This, of course, is not self-inflicted suffering because of acting like an idiot, being a lousy soldier, or for showing disrespect to one of God’s many commanding officers (Rom 13:1). If a Christian suffers for his own wrongdoing there is nothing to glory in, “but if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not feel ashamed, but in that name let him glorify God” (1 Pet. 4:16). That is what good soldiers do.
Our flesh does not like suffering, but we must endure it with joy. If we do wrong and are penalized for it then we must take it without complaining. Therefore, we must not feel sorry for ourselves or enjoy self-pity in an effort to gain the sympathy of others. If we are treated poorly for being a Christian then we ought to receive that with joy, knowing all the while that God’s gaze is more important than man’s approval. “Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles [unbelievers], so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may on account of your good deeds, as they observe them,glorify God in the day of visitation” (1 Pet 2:12).
Timothy needed to be reminded of these things. Being a soldier in the Christian army meant that he was not going to be able to live like everybody else. He was in active service. He could not entangle himself in “the affairs of everyday life.” To be entangled means to be entwined, or woven into. Therefore, Timothy’s commitment as a soldier did not allow him to be woven into, or bound to, the mundane details of living in this world. He needed to live above that so that he could please his Commanding Officer. There is a price to pay for being a good soldier.
In other words, being a good Christian soldier requires that we not fall in love with the things of this world that may entangle us or trip us, which will result in failing to please our Commanding Officer. The Apostle John warns us:
Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. And the world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God abides forever (1 Jn 2:15-17).
We are easily distracted by the details of everyday life here in this world. But we must resist the temptation to become ensnared by them, like Demas, who “having loved this present world” deserted the Apostle Paul (2 Tim 4:10). By being faithful to our duties we will please the One who enlisted us in the Christian army. If you are a believer then you are in active service with Christ. Fix your eyes on Him.
…let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus… (Heb 12:1-2).