Are You A Good Soldier?

As disciples of Jesus how should we invest our time and effort?
Paul wrote to his protégé Timothy:
“The things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules. The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this” (2 Timothy 2:2-7).
First, Paul instructed Timothy to disciple other faithful men the way that Paul had discipled Timothy. From my personal experience, the hard part about doing this is not the teaching part, but finding the faithful men to teach.
I have found no shortage of men who consider themselves to be faithful; but I have found a shortage of men who are faithful enough to sit still and receive correct instruction. As much as I attempt to not be astonished by the fallenness of mankind, I am continuously astonished by men who consider themselves to be mature followers of Christ, but will immediately turn tail and run when you correct them; ultimately proving themselves to be immature.
Considering yourself mature and in no need of instruction (except for that which reinforces what you are already doing) is in reality a sign of immaturity. Understanding that there is always much more to learn and that there is always someone who can teach you something, is the true mark of maturity and faithfulness.
Because, from my own experience and from what I can extrapolate from the teachings of others, we have almost completely lost the knowledge of how and why we are to be and make disciples of Jesus in the modern American church. Therefore, there is still much for all of us to learn when it comes to being and making disciples of Jesus. Personally, I continuously read both Scripture and other discipleship resources in order to learn any detail of discipleship that we might have left out or overlooked.
Next, Paul gave Timothy an instruction that might be difficult for some to understand If they have never been in the military. Paul wrote:
“Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.”
Being in the military requires a certain amount of suffering. Usually, in the civilian world, if you are asked to suffer, you are rewarded with higher pay or position; but in the military, many times the only reward for your suffering is the knowledge that you have protected those in need of protection.
Likewise, in suffering for Christ, we suffer not for rewards in this life; and often our suffering only has the simple purpose of conforming ourselves or others into the image of Jesus.
Moreover, much of this suffering comes in the form of abstaining from activities that we would normally partake in; even activities that in and of themselves are benign. Paul wrote that Timothy was not to become entangled in civilian affairs. Paul doesn’t differentiate if those affairs are good or evil; but rather makes the argument that a soldier does not have time for civilian affairs that interfere with their service under their commanding officer; whether they are good or bad.
When you are in the military there are things you aren’t allowed to do that a normal citizen is allowed to do. Those things are not necessarily bad, they simply interfere with your readiness as a soldier/sailor/airman/marine. It’s called discipline and it sounds like discipleship for a reason.
Likewise, because we all but lost the understanding of why and how we are to be and make disciples of Jesus in the modern American church, there are many things we will not have time to do while we are trying to recover and relearn true discipleship. And these things might not necessarily be bad; we just don’t have time to do them AND recover and relearn true discipleship.
Personally, I used to be a fitness nut and exercised all of the time. But because I made the decision to devote myself to recovering and relearning true discipleship, I simply don’t have the time to workout like I once did. As Paul also wrote to Timothy:
“Train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:7-8).
I had to choose training to become godly over physical training. I had to choose the best thing over a good thing. I had to chose being a good soldier over becoming entangled in civilian affairs.
I also had to choose to leave another thing behind; doing church the same old way we have been doing it for decades.
This is perhaps the most ironic thing that people can become entangled in and waste time doing; doing church the same old way.
Why is it such a waste of time? As we recover and relearn true discipleship, there will be things we will have to change in order to realign our churches so that we might properly be and make disciples of Jesus. Doing church the way we have been doing it for decades was only effective decades ago because the culture at large had a predisposition toward Christianity; but it no longer does.
In fact, American culture has shifted so quickly and radically in the last couple of decades, that the way we did church just 20 years ago is no longer effective. The culture has shifted so drastically, that we must recover and relearn discipleship as it is presented in Scripture if we intend to make an impact in people’s lives.
Let me be blunt; if you are doing church the same old way that we have been doing it for decades, you will not reach a significant number of people for Jesus. I don’t care how much you believe you will or how hard you pray that you will; you might as well be doing church the way they did it 400 years ago (Baptist didn’t play instruments or sing hymns 400 years ago).
You could argue that you are fine with not changing anything and reaching only a few people; but why would you do that? All that does is prove that you are more concerned with doing things the same old way than you are reaching people for Jesus. Why would you not be willing to change anything and everything (as much as allowed by Scripture) to reach as many people as possible? If you don’t care to reach them, who are you expecting to reach them?
And if you just replied, “Jesus said He would build His Church and the gates of Hell would not stand against it, so it doesn’t matter how we do church;” then you are assuming that what you are doing is a part of Jesus building His church. But why would Jesus be reaching people in 2020 with a style of church that was designed to reach people in the 1950s? Why would Jesus be stuck in the 1950s (or any other decade for that matter)?
Why would you not want to be a good soldier who tries to please his commanding officer?
Notice that Paul wrote that Timothy should also be like an athlete who competes according to the rules in order to win the victor’s crown. The athlete doesn’t get to decide how he competes; he completes according to the situation and the rules set before him.
Likewise, Paul wrote that Timothy must work hard like a farmer in order to produce a crop. Again, the farmer must work to the conditions set before him; the conditions don’t conform to him.
Are you a faithful man that is willing to learn the Scriptural why and how of being and making disciples of Jesus, and then teach others the same?
Are you a good soldier who is willing to suffer, avoid entanglement in unnecessary affairs, and work hard in order to please your commanding officer?
Are you an athlete who is willing to compete according to the rules in order to gain the victor’s crown?
Are you a farmer who is willing to work hard in the conditions set before him in order to produce a crop?
If you live in the Morganton, NC area and would like to know more, please reach out to us at, or visit us on Sunday mornings, 10:00 am, at 1110 Carbon City Road.
If you would like to learn more about what it means to imitate and obey Jesus as His disciple, and to be conformed to His image, start here and follow the link at the end of each article to the next one: The Four Principles of Discipleship…