Hardship like a Good Soldier
This century has begun with redefining
our ideas of heroes. The brave young men and women in Iraq redefine
for us the idea of a living sacrifice. They believe their cause is righteous
and their motives are just as they lay down their lives to bring freedom
to the oppressed. They serve as an example of how Christian soldiers are
called upon to make a living sacrifice to bring spiritual freedom to a
The Bible often alludes to Christians
10 Finally, be strong in the
Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you
can take your stand against the devil's schemes. 12 For our struggle is
not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities,
against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces
of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God,
so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground,
and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with
the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness
in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from
the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of
faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil
one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which
is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all
kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep
on praying for all the saints. NIV
The first thing a soldier is outfitted
with upon entry to military service is military gear—or should we say military
armor. One is stripped naked and issued military clothing all the
way down to and including underwear. The soldier is equipped with what
is needed to become a good soldier—clothing, boots, rifle, helmet, etc.
Transforming the way a soldier thinks
is the most crucial part. The best of equipment is useless if one
is not disciplined to use it. The issuing of clothing and equipment is
followed by intense training on how to use what you have been issued to
become a good soldier.
Being a good soldier has more to do
with one’s mental or psychological conditioning than physical.
Sure there is a lot of physical training, but in physical training you
learn that when your body wants to give up your mind has to block the pain,
lack of sleep and bone tiredness. Your mind forces your body to go on.
The key to a soldier’s survival during the
hardships of service is staying focused, staying faithful, and staying
obedient to the commander’s orders despite the hardships.
Do not get Entangled in the
2 Timothy 2:1-4
2:1 You then, my son, be strong
in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 And the things you have heard me
say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will
also be qualified to teach others. 3 Endure hardship with us like
a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No one serving as a soldier gets involved
in civilian affairs-he wants to please his commanding officer.
Paul writes, "No one serving as a soldier
gets involved in civilian affairs-he wants to please his commanding officer."
When you volunteer for military service you give up many of your
rights as a civilian. When I was in the military a soldier had to get permission
from the commanding officer to get married. I had to get permission from
the commanding officer to ride a motorcycle. If you got a ticket while
off base, you not only paid the ticket to a civilian court, but you had
to answer to the commanding officer concerning the ticket. Your commanders
did not want you to get entangled in civilian affairs so as to damage their
When a soldier makes a commitment it is a
commitment to allow nothing to prevent him/her from performing his/her
duty. When I was in the military, there was what was called a hardship
discharge. One could get a hardship discharge if one’s family was going
through extreme hardship, but those who took those discharges were always
ostracized. The military expected them to live up to their duty despite
Under God’s Old Testament theocracy many laws
were given for those serving as soldiers.
20:1 When you go to war against
your enemies and see horses and chariots and an army greater than yours,
do not be afraid of them, because the LORD your God, who brought you up
out of Egypt, will be with you. 2 When you are about to go into battle,
the priest shall come forward and address the army. 3 He shall say: "Hear,
O Israel, today you are going into battle against your enemies. Do not
be fainthearted or afraid; do not be terrified or give way to panic before
them. 4 For the LORD your God is the one who goes with you to fight for
you against your enemies to give you victory."
5 The officers shall say to
the army: "Has anyone built a new house and not dedicated it? Let him go
home, or he may die in battle and someone else may dedicate it. 6 Has anyone
planted a vineyard and not begun to enjoy it? Let him go home, or he may
die in battle and someone else enjoy it. 7 Has anyone become pledged to
a woman and not married her? Let him go home, or he may die in battle and
someone else marry her." 8 Then the officers shall add, "Is any man afraid
or fainthearted? Let him go home so that his brothers will not become disheartened
too." 9 When the officers have finished speaking to the army, they shall
appoint commanders over it. NIV
These ancient laws may seem somewhat
foreign to our modern ideas of serving in the military, but it they really
aren’t. The idea is that God wanted those serving as soldiers to
be focused on the mission of a soldier. The officers did not want those
who were afraid or were thinking about something else, but they wanted
people who would be completely devoted to the battle – they wanted soldiers
who they knew would sacrifice their lives if need be.
It is no less for those who have voluntarily
joined the Lord’s Army. It is possible to become so entangled in
the affairs of the world we no longer hear the commands of the Lord. The
Christians in Corinth were so entangled in worldly wisdom that Paul had
to remind them that the commands he was giving them were from the Lord.
Sometimes we need to stop and ask ourselves who is calling the shots in
our lives. In many cases we may need to become disentangled from the world
(1 Corinthians 14:37).
1 John 2:15-17
15 Do not love the world or
anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father
is not in him. 16 For everything in the world-the cravings of sinful man,
the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does-comes not
from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away,
but the man who does the will of God lives forever. NIV
The call to endure hardships as a good
soldier isn’t focused on fighting battles as much as it is focused on the
single mindedness and self discipline it takes to stay disentangled from
things that hinder one’s focus on the mission. That kind of discipline
and single mindedness is a kind of suffering, because it means saying no
to things that seem so important to a civilian.
37 "Anyone who loves his father
or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or
daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38 and anyone who does not take
his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life
will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. NIV
If you want to know what it means to
put family behind so as not to lose your focus asks a soldier?
A soldier leaves father, mother, brother, sisters, wife and children knowing
that it may the last time they will ever see him/her. The soldier gives
up family to answer the call of duty. So it is with Christians.
Endure Hardships as a Good
Paul admonishes Timothy to "Endure hardship
with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus." The Bible pulls no
punches. If we wish to be faithful, we must determine to endure the hardships
that faithfulness brings. A Paul spoke of his hardships as a soldier of
2 Corinthians 6:3-10
4 Rather, as servants of God
we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships
and distresses; 5 in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless
nights and hunger; 6 in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in
the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; 7 in truthful speech and in the power
of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left;
8 through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet
regarded as impostors; 9 known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet
we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; 10 sorrowful, yet always rejoicing;
poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
Soldiers are required to go on despite
the bad reports and the good reports. I am afraid that if they
had access to much of the reporting of the war we hear they would become
very discouraged. It would probably affect their endurance.
Today there is such a great struggle
taking place on the battlefield of our minds that it makes it hard to keep
2 Timothy 4:3-5
3 For the time will come when
men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires,
they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their
itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth
and turn aside to myths. 5 But you, keep your head in all situations,
endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties
of your ministry. NIV
Being a soldier is a demanding way of
life. Soldiers are exposed to the elements, to danger, to times
without food or shelter. We have a vivid image of the hardships of being
a soldier as we observe the conflict in Iraq. The soldiers have no showers,
they have very little accommodations for personal hygiene, they have no
bathrooms, no toilets, or no beds to sleep in. They are contending with
sand, sand storms, sand fleas, they have sand in places on them that we
don’t even want to think of. I heard that many of the soldiers wanted panty
hose because sand fleas can’t bite through panty hose. One soldier sent
an email to his family telling them that even their food ended up with
sand in it before they could get it eaten. The hardest part for many is
being away from husband or wife and their children. Many will have children
born while they are deployed, or have family seriously ill. Some of them
will never see their families again. This only says a small part about
the fears within and the enemy lurking without.
The average age of the military man is 19
years. He is a short haired, tight-muscled kid who, under normal circumstances
is considered by society as half man, half boy. Not yet dry behind the
ears, not old enough to buy a beer, but old enough to die for his country.
He never really cared much for work and he would rather wax his own car
than wash his mother or father's; but he has never collected unemployment
either. He's a recent High School graduate;
he was probably an average student, pursued some form of sport activity,
drives a ten year old jalopy, and has a steady girlfriend that either broke
up with him when he left, or swears to be waiting when he returns from
half a world away.
He can recite to you the nomenclature of a
machine gun or grenade launcher and use either one effectively if he must.
He digs foxholes and latrines and can apply
first aid like a professional.
He can march until he is told to stop or stop
until he is told to march.
He obeys orders instantly and without hesitation,
but he is not without spirit or individual dignity.
He is self-sufficient. He has two sets of
fatigues: he washes one and wears the other. He keeps his canteens full
and his feet dry.
He sometimes forgets to brush his teeth, but
never to clean his rifle.
He can cook his own meals, mend his own clothes,
and fix his own hurts. If you're thirsty, he'll share his water with you;
if you are hungry, his food.
He will often do twice the work of a civilian,
draw half the pay and still find ironic humor in it all. He has seen more
suffering and death then he should have in his short lifetime.
He has stood atop mountains of dead bodies,
and helped to create them.
Beardless or not, he is not a boy. He is the
American Fighting Man that has kept this country free for over 200 years.
He has asked nothing in return, except our
friendship and understanding.
Remember him, always, for he has earned our
respect and admiration with his blood.
The Obedience of a Soldier
Obedience is the key to being a good soldier.
Obedience is the first thing a soldier is taught. This is even more crucial
for the Christian for our struggle is not against a foe we can defeat with
human wisdom. Paul admonishes us to "be strong in the Lord and in
his might power . . . for our struggle is not against flesh and blood,
but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of
this dark world . . . against spiritual forces in the heavenly realms.
Therefore put on the full armor of God . . . so that you may be able to
stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand . . . stand
firm . . ."
The key to standing firm is obedience
to God’s command. God is not a politician so when he gives you
a command you can totally trust him. John Newton, the writer of the most
popular hymn in history, "Amazing Grace" said: "… if two angels in heaven
were given assignments by God at the same time, one of them to go and rule
over the greatest nation on earth and the other to go sweep the streets
of the dirtiest village, each angel would be completely indifferent as
to which one got which assignment.
It simply wouldn’t matter to them. Why? Because
the real joy lies in being obedient to God. Obedience is the key that puts
us into the center of God’s will. It is there we discover the power of
Our soldiers’ skill to save themselves is
made possible through their armor. The Christians faith only becomes his
shield of protection through the power of God.
1 Peter 1:3-5
3 Praise be to the God and
Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new
birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from
the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade-kept
in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God's power until
the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
Much of the success of soldiers on the
modern battlefield is dependent upon modern weapons and the wisdom of those
giving them orders. Paul admonishes Christian soldiers to put on
the armor of God. We might think the armor of the American
forces in Iraq is awesome, but it is really nothing when compared to the
armor of God. It is crucial to understand that our success as a Christian
soldier is dependent upon our spiritual weapons and the power and wisdom
2 Corinthians 10:3-6
4 The weapons we fight with
are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power
to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that
sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every
thought to make it obedient to Christ. 6 And we will be ready to punish
every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete. NIV
1 Corinthians 2:4-5
4 My message and my preaching
were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the
Spirit's power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom,
but on God's power. NIV
Gideon stands as example of our need
to stand in God’s power. God wanted the Israelite to understand from whence
2 The LORD said to Gideon,
"You have too many men for me to deliver Midian into their hands. In order
that Israel may not boast against me that her own strength has saved her,
3 announce now to the people, 'Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back
and leave Mount Gilead.'" So twenty-two thousand men left, while ten thousand
4 But the LORD said to Gideon,
"There are still too many men. Take them down to the water, and I will
sift them for you there. If I say, 'This one shall go with you,' he shall
go; but if I say, 'This one shall not go with you,' he shall not go."
5 So Gideon took the men down
to the water. There the LORD told him, "Separate those who lap the water
with their tongues like a dog from those who kneel down to drink." 6 Three
hundred men lapped with their hands to their mouths. All the rest got down
on their knees to drink.
7 The LORD said to Gideon, "With
the three hundred men that lapped I will save you and give the Midianites
into your hands. Let all the other men go, each to his own place." NIV
It is important that our faith lies
in the power of God for our salvation is not dependent upon the strength
of our faith but upon the power of God. It is essential to know
when our faith fails God’s power to save is not diminished.
6 You see, at just the right
time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very
rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone
might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us
in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. NIV
This morning God is asking you to enlist
in his service. He promises you victory as you fight for his cause.
Your service to God must begin with
a willingness to die to this world in such a way that you are no longer
entangled with the world.