“Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.” (2 Tim 2:3-4)
Paul is instructing Timothy here to have the attitude of a soldier, and suffer hardship with him. A good soldier doesn’t give up when hardship comes his way. He endures, because he is disciplined and perfected for what he has been trained to do. Paul doesn’t instruct Timothy to be a common or ordinary soldier, but to be a good soldier. There are men who are just soldiers and that’s it. With just enough temptation they give in and become useless for their task. But the good soldier is brave and courageous all the time, and does his duty with heart and earnestness.
Likewise, if a believer is not willing to endure hardship, they will not accomplish much for Jesus Christ. They will give up as soon as something hard is required of them. We need to train hard, be disciplined, so that we will be perfected in unity with Jesus Christ (John 17:23), perfected in holiness (2 Corinthians 7:1), perfected in patience (1 Timothy 1:16), perfected in faith (James 2:22), and perfected in love (1 John 4:12), “for I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6)
A good soldier detaches himself from everyday life, leaves all behind what needs to be left behind, to serve the greater purpose or goal, what he believes in. Jesus said in Matthew 16:14 that “if anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” A good soldier has to be willing to give up many things. Some of them bad (pride, self-will), but also some of them good (his home, his family). This is required of him. He must give up anything that comes in the way of being a good soldier, and serve his commanding officer. A faithful soldier doesn’t have the right to do anything that will entangle him as it will makes him a less effective soldier.
Choosing Christ means that we have to give up our self-will and clothe ourselves with the will of Christ, our commanding officer. He is our drill sergeant, our general. He’s the one that disciplines us, shapes us into the good soldier he needs us to be, to serve for His kingdom, fight for His kingdom. It should be our higher purpose to please Him. To be totally obedient to Him.
Yesterday I went to see “John Rambo” in the cinema, the latest and supposedly last movie in the series. Now John Rambo has lost faith in the greater purpose and prefers not to fight anymore, so in that sense he does not serve as a good example (because we should never lose faith or give up the fight). But what is evident is that he is a trained fighting machine, no matter what. It has become second nature to him. He has been disciplined and perfected to be what he was trained to be. In the movie he says that we should “live for nothing, or die for something”. In this he does serve as an example as it echoes Paul who says “for to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21). We should be willing to give our lives.
I must say that this is challenging. I do like the whole analogy of the good soldier, to be a soldier in Jesus’ army. I think I need to see Jesus more as my drill sergeant, let Him push me more, train me more, mold me more, shape me more into a loving “fighting machine”, so I can serve in His army and fight to advance the kingdom, regain land that has been lost. But in order to do that I also have to let go more of everyday life, disentangle myself from everything that holds me back from giving my complete focus to be good soldier.
Jesus has enlisted me into His army. It’s time to be a soldier in active service!