You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also. 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. – 2 Timothy 2:1-4
Paul's address of Timothy as his ‘child’ is unmistakably tender. Although not biologically related, this spiritual father-son relationship was deep and personal. This is not a sentimental letter written from a cozy place offering heartwarming advice to a younger Christian leader for whom he had great affection. These words to Timothy come from a man who has been imprisoned several times and is now awaiting his execution in a grim and intimidating Roman prison due to his unashamed faith in Jesus. This spiritual father is not vague about what the Christian life entails. The stark theme of suffering is an integral part of the package that the disciple of Jesus must receive and embrace. This is loud and clear both in the words of Paul and the life of suffering he has faithfully endured.
In the calling to be a ‘good soldier of Christ Jesus’, the Christian is being called to battle. A civilian cannot engage in effective battle. There is no such thing as a civilian follower of Christ. The concept of a Christian as a soldier, might be a difficult one to grasp and may even feel uncomfortable to some. However, this is a crucial description. Christians have been enlisted into a much larger engagement than we often realize. Jesus, moved resolutely towards suffering and the cross for our freedom. He pressed on in obedience to His Father knowing He would overcome. Jesus forewarns His disciples that Satan who was bent on destroying Him will also engage in militant combat against those who follow Jesus. If we are not willing to take a soldier stance as Jesus followers,we cannot follow Him faithfully.
Only two territorial kingdoms exist – the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of light. There is no in-between ground. Though Satan is defeated, he continues to wage guerilla warfare against the soldiers of Christ, to trip and discourage them. Timothy is being reminded to strengthen himself in the grace offered in Jesus, and motivate others to keep on keeping on as soldiers of Christ.
The civilian facing battle in contrast to an equipped soldier is untrained, unprepared, fearful, vulnerable and prone to being overthrown, overcome and defeated. Paul speaks of the incongruence of soldiers getting ‘entangled in civilian pursuits’. Comfortable Christianity is a dangerous affliction that has entangled many soldiers of Christ. These are seduced by the bling of this life. In Biblical language, “all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world” (1 John 2:16).
Are we as Christians then not to enjoy the good things in this life? The point is that when we give these good things our primary attention we are in danger of getting entangled. Civilian Christians deceive themselves thinking they can maintain a dual allegiance to the priorities of earth and heaven. Investing our energies into anything that robs us of our spiritual identity as soldiers is a dangerous pursuit. When earthly loves and kingdom of God priorities clash and we are tempted to think they are compatible, we are deceived. In this precarious position we lose our calling as Christian soldiers and do not engage in battle and where there is no battle there is no victory.
Jesus Christ is our ultimate Warrior. He fought the bloodiest battle ever fought and came forth victorious over sin, Satan, death and all the evil powers of hell. We have been deployed as soldiers of our Lord to push back the kingdom of darkness. Whether the darkness openly shows up in our culture in our relationships, or resides in the depths of our own beings, we can be strengthened to fight as good soldiers with the grace given to us in our victorious Lord Jesus.
How are you doing? Have you understood the calling to be a Christian soldier? It is a call to discipline and endurance. There is grace for a wandering soldier who repents and returns back to his/her post. Are you weary or afraid? Remember that it is God who trains you for battle and the gates of hell will not prevail against you. Do you see someone who needs encouragement to soldier on in the Lord? Do your part in helping them. Is there an area of life you need more discipline in? Can a friend help you be accountable and pray with and for you? Is there an area in your culture where the kingdom of light needs to be ushered in? Perhaps you need to join your fellow soldiers in fervent prayer before the Lord for this. Let's do anything it takes to advance the kingdom of light and righteousness. In this we fulfill our aim to please the one who enlists us to fight from a place of victory.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?... In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. Romans 8:31,37
Ministry Fellow, Christian Union Lux
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