On Being a Good Soldier – Part 1 of 2
Having a son in the U.S. Army has made me a bit more alert to the “soldier” analogy in Scripture. One passage in particular is Paul’s admonition to Timothy, his son in the faith. “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). Let’s walk through this passage verse-by-verse, today and tomorrow, meditate on its meaning and make fitting application to our Christian lives.
You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus (v. 1). The Apostle Paul addressed Timothy, “my son,” because he was his child in the faith. Timothy was already a disciple of Jesus when Paul met him in Lystra, but Paul took him under his wing and taught him as any good spiritual father would (Acts 16). Timothy then became one of the apostle’s traveling companions and later a pastor of the church in the city of Ephesus, where he was living when he received this letter from his mentor. The word, “therefore,” takes us back to the previous verses where Paul speaks of suffering for the gospel, for which God appointed him to be a preacher (1:12). Young Timothy was told to be faithful to the standard of “sound words” (1:13) and to guard the gospel “treasure” entrusted to him. All in Asia had turned away from Paul (1:15), being opposed by two evil men in particular, Phygelus and Hermogenes. So, Paul tells Timothy to “be strong” for the sake of the gospel. “Be strong” means to be empowered. In other words, it does not mean Timothy had to somehow come up with his own strength, but he needed to let himself be empowered by someone else—Jesus Christ. More specifically, he was to be empowered by “the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” In other words, the same grace that had saved him (Eph. 2:8-10) would also strengthen him to be faithful to his Lord.
We are soldiers—soldiers of Jesus Christ. We will face opposition from the world, our flesh, and the devil; but God will never forsake us. Therefore, be strong in His grace. The Christian life is not a playground. It is a battlefield. There are many difficulties around us and before us, not to mention the ongoing struggle with sin within us. But God’s grace will be sufficient as we walk in obedience to Him and rely on the power of the Holy Spirit rather than our own strength. His grace will supply all we need to be strong.
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 (v. 2). In the strength of God’s grace, Timothy was called to teach others the things he had learned from the Apostle Paul. The “things” he referred to include the sound teaching and treasure of biblical knowledge that he heard in public preaching, “in the presence of many witnesses.” This was entrusted to him (1:13-14). However, Timothy wasn’t simply to pass truth on to just anyone, but to pay special attention to “faithful (reliable) men.” Jesus warned His disciples not to cast the pearls of gospel truth before men who act like swine and thereby trample God’s precious Word under their angry feet (Matt. 7:6). Once taught by Timothy, these faithful men would then “be able to teach others also” so that the process of making disciples would continue. As believers, we are supposed to be sponges that not only soak in sound teaching, but also squeeze it out for the benefit of others around us.
God has placed us where each of us is right now because He wants to use us to teach someone else the things we have learned thus far in our faith-walk with Christ. Today, begin praying for God to single out three people among those around you:
- a person who does not know Christ whom you can witness the gospel to,
- a fellow brother in the Lord whom you can teach and encourage, passing on the truth you’ve learned (your “Timothy”),
- a fellow believer whom you can learn from, probably one who has walked with Christ longer than you. “Longer” does not always mean chronologically. Some younger-in-the-Lord believers are more mature than older ones due to their wholehearted submission to the Lordship of Christ demonstrated by humble surrender to the authority of God’s wisdom in His Word.
God wants us to witness to those who do not know Jesus. But He also wants us to selflessly invest in the lives of fellow believers, as well as remain teachable students of godliness throughout our lives. We do so in the power of the grace found only in Jesus Christ.