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Endure Hardship like a Good Soldier

2 Timothy 2:1-4

Jim Davis

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 lost world.

The Bible often alludes to Christians as soldiers.

Ephesians 6:10-18
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 World

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. NIV

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 mission.

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 hardship.

Under God’s Old Testament theocracy many laws were given for those serving as soldiers.

Deuteronomy 20:1-9
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.

Matthew 10:37-39
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 Soldier

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 Christ.

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. NIV

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 our heads.

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 God.

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. NIV

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 of God.

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 came victory.

Judges 7:1-8
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 remained.

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.

Romans 5:6-8
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

Conclusion:

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.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

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