In Active Service

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!

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Power, Love And A Sound Mind

For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and of a sound mind” (2 Tim 1:7)

To be timid means to be lacking in self-assurance or courage, to be shy, or to be easily alarmed. But God has given us a spirit of power and of love and of a sound mind. I would say that I can be timid a lot of times. I am an introvert and I am shy, and there are a lot of situations where I am lacking in self-assurance (speaking in front of others, praying out loud, doing something for the first time). I assume everybody has to deal with situations where they feel timid and afraid.

I think it’s important to understand that such fears are not from God! And I do think I realize this. The problem I face is more how to overcome this. Is it an issue of personality, of weakness of the flesh? Is there something that I need to ask forgiveness for, or repent of? How do I deal with such fears? How can I fully embrace that God has given me a spirit of power and of love and of a sound mind.

What does it mean to have a spirit of power? It reminds me of Paul in his letter to the church in Corinth when he says: “I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:3-5). I find it’s comforting to know that even the great Apostle Paul felt weak and afraid, but it shows that when we are doing God’s work and proclaiming His glorious word and being ambassadors of His kingdom that we have all His power at our disposal, and that it is our weakness that is demonstrating the power of God in us and through us.

Many songs are written about the power of love (Celine Dion, Huey Lewis and the News, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, 10CC, Jennifer Rush), but all of these are talking about love between two people. Jesus’ love is expressed in serving others. He gave up His life for us! I am more and more beginning to understand and embrace this. I was actually telling me wife this weekend how wonderful it is to serve her. I love doing this. Doing these, mostly small and simple tasks to serve her really expresses my love for her.

God has given us a sound mind. The Greek word here has the idea of being calm and self-controlled, in contrast to the panic and confusion that rushes in when we are in a fearful situation. I can really recognize this. I am usually quite calm and self-controlled, but when I am in a fearful situation then inwardly all of that goes out the window. I start getting cold and sleepy, and words usually don’t come out the way they sounded in my head. It’s quite annoying!

I think it’s important to realize that we don’t need to accept the spirit of fear as it’s not from God. We need to humbly receive and walk in the spirit that God has given us. Fear and timidity will keep us from using the gifts that God has given us. He wants us to fully embrace His power, His love and His calm thinking so we can be His ambassadors in this world. We’ve got to be bold, for “on the day I called, You answered me; You made me bold with strength in my soul” (Psalm 138:3).

Near

But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Tim 5:8)

As a husband and a father this verse really stands out to me. It’s one of those verses that should be memorized and fully understood, just in case. Why? Because being called worse than an unbeliever does not sound like a pleasant situation at all.

I see to provide for your own, especially for your own household, as a more specific way of saying “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). And like Jesus said, there is no greater command than this (along with “and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30).

The Greek word used here for neighbor is “plesion”, which translates best as “near”, and so we could say: love those near to us as ourselves. In the context of a household this means your spouse and your children. As God has appointed the man to be the head of the family, it’s the man’s responsibility to provide for his wife and his children, his household. And so providing for them means loving them unconditionally, to deny oneself and give oneself up for them (just like Christ gave Himself up for the church).

How do we do that? Well, it will probably be a livelong journey to figure out, but it is my prayer that every day as I mature more in Christ-likeness I understand better what it means to love unconditionally. Why? Because I don’t want to be somebody who’s worse than an unbeliever, as “they profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.” (Titus 1:16). I want to really know God, and be obedient so that God can do good deeds through me.

The Whole Truth And Nothing But The Truth

But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness;” (1 Tim 4:7)

A fable can be considered a story not founded on fact, an untruth. When I think about stories not founded on fact the first thing that comes to mind is the story of creation. I am always surprised how people can believe that first there was nothing and then there was something. How can nothing create something? I don’t know… It’s a story not founded on fact. And although I don’t think it’s necessary that science has to proof the existence of God, it is interesting to see that more and more scientists (men such as the great scientist Stephen Hawking, an atheist) come to the conclusion that the universe is created by someone, and did not evolve out of nothingness. The beauty is that so many intricacies that only now with modern technology science can conclude, have been described and explained in God’s Word, the Bible, over 2000 years ago!! (If you desire to study “biblical science”, please have a look at the studies of Koinonia House).

Our priority should be on God’s Word, not on the words of men. It’s so easy to get caught up in the thoughts and ideas of the world that it can be difficult to see what God has to say about this. Yet His word is truth, as God cannot lie (Titus 1:2). But this requires study of the Word, dig into Scripture, and this takes discipline. We have to discipline or exercise ourselves towards godliness. “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” (Hebrews 12:11). So discipline leads to peace, righteousness which ultimately leads to love (2 Peter 1:5-7).

We have to always go for the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help us God!

Above Reproach

And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.” (1 Tim 3:7)

In the third chapter of Paul’s first letter to Timothy he primarily focuses on the qualifications of elders (overseers) and deacons. An elder should be the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money, not be a new convert, manage his household well, keep his children under control, and be above reproach. It’s quite a list, but what it ultimately comes down to is that an elder is in terms of character a mature man of Christ who’s preferably married with children. Whether he is an elder depends on if he’s called and appointed to be an elder. Whether or not you’re an elder or aspire to be an elder, we all should aim to mature in Christ, and so most of these qualifications are generic for any Christian. We can summarize this list to only one item: we should be above reproach. We should be above reproach towards God, towards our wife (or husband), towards our children, and towards our community.

As Christians we have been given the task by Jesus to go out into the world and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:20), and in my view this is a two-step process. It is first our character towards those outside the church. The more we mature in Christ, the more we show Christ-likeness, the more we show the character of God to others, the more it becomes apparent to those outside the church that we are different. This should provoke questions and discussion, which leads to the second step. And that is that we then should fully embrace the opportunity to speak about Christ, “for out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Mat 12:34b). Showing God’s character only through our character is not enough, as “faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17). – Just to be sure, I am not saying that we should only start talking about Christ when we are mature Christians. The moment that we give ourselves to Christ is the moment we receive the Holy Spirit, which enables us share to the Gospel. I am only saying that the message we speak through our character is just as important as the message we speak through our words, and that our character should also lead to spreading the Gospel through our words. –

And so our character, or reputation, towards those outside the church should be above approach. Like most people I spend 40 hours of my week at work, being surrounded by unbelievers. You could say that this is an excellent place for mission, and it is (although it could be much more). At work I feel I am constantly tested on my character (not as much by my colleagues, but by myself – or I should say the Holy Spirit who’s convincting me). It’s so easy to get sucked into the world’s way of thinking, of acting, engaging in conversations that you shouldn’t, laughing at jokes that are actually not funny at all, etc. It’s a daily challenge. And I must admit I am often failing more than I would like to or like to admit. And whereas the Holy Spirit convicts me, He also helps me by providing Scripture to either stay focused or refocus. And so I leave you with two verses that I find very encouraging in this aspect: “Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain.” (Philippians 2:14-16), and “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.” (Colossians 3:23-24)