In the Second Epistle to Timothy, the apostle Paul writes to his beloved disciple: “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.” (II Timothy 2:3-4 NASB). This is also the motto of the national mission conference that is now taking place in Vadul-lui-Voda. I am also invited to share a message from God’s Word and I have decided to put this message on the website so that I can serve those who do not have the opportunity to attend the mission conference. So here are the things that describe a good soldier of Christ.
1. A good soldier of Christ suffers with his comrades
Military terms are often used in the New Testament and especially in the epistles of Paul, who often calls his collaborators in the gospel “comrades in battle.” Unfortunately, fewer Christians and even gospel workers today are aware that we are engaged in a spiritual warfare that requires a hostile attitude on the part of all of us. A soldier with the right attitude understands that he must share the same sufferings with his comrades. The apostle Paul wrote this second epistle to Timothy while in prison and wrote: “You are aware of the fact that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes.” (II Timothy 1:15 NASB). From the context, it is absolutely clear that these people were with him in a team, doing the same work, but when he ended up in prison, they left him. They were not able to take responsibility for sharing Paul’s sufferings while he was in chains. The matter had already become well known, but Paul marvels at Figel and Hermogenes, which makes us understand that they were never expected to do so. In fact, it is no coincidence that the proverb says that the true friend in need reveals himself. But not all of Paul’s comrades-in-arms were like that. The apostle continues to write: “The Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains; but when he was in Rome, he eagerly searched for me and found me — the Lord grant to him to find mercy from the Lord on that day — and you know very well what services he rendered at Ephesus.” (II Timothy 1:16-18 NASB). Isn’t it interesting? Those who were with Paul left him in a difficult time, and the one who was far away ran and jumped in quickly to help and did not leave him. What kind of man are you? How do you deal with your co-workers when they are suffering? Those in Asia, along with Figel and Hermogenes, left Paul, but Onisiphorus came, it seems, from Ephesus to find him in Rome, and to comfort and encourage him. Do you want to know what the people of Rome did? Here is what Paul says: “At my first defense no one supported me, but all deserted me; may it not be counted against them.” (II Timothy 4:16 NASB). Can you imagine how Paul feels in that situation? Don’t be afraid or indifferent. Help your brother when he is in pain. And if others leave you and do not come to your aid, do not take this into account.
2. A good soldier of Christ does not confuse himself into the affairs of life
To better understand what God’s Word means here, I want to look at a passage from Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians, where the apostle writes of his disciple Timothy as follows: “But I hope, in the Lord Jesus, to send Timothy to you shortly, so that I also may be encouraged when I learn of your condition. For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare.” (Philippians 2:19-20 NASB). Attention, now, in the following verse, Paul explains what it means to be entangled or not with the affairs of life when he writes: “For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:21 NASB). When one goes after his own interests and not those of Jesus Christ, such a man becomes entangled in the affairs of life and can no longer be a good soldier of Christ. Paul says that most Christians who are called to be soldiers of Jesus Christ at that time were looking for their benefits. The apostle even uses a hyperbole here when he intentionally says the word “all” to show that the overwhelming majority had such a motivation. Things haven’t changed much. So it is nowadays, maybe even worse. Timothy was a good soldier who did not take care of the affairs of life because he did not follow his own interests but those of Christ. That is why Paul was able to write to the Christians in Philippi “But you know of his proven character, that he served with me in the furtherance of the gospel like a child serving his father.” (Philippians 2:22 NASB). Look at your running and efforts, where they are directed, and then you will understand whose benefits you are looking for more – yours, or those of Christ. Don’t be fooled into believing that you are a good soldier of Christ while you are entangled in the affairs of life.
3. A good soldier of Christ wants to please the one who enrolled him in the army
I recently watched the movie “The 38th Parallel” about the Korean Civil War. The main character of this movie, in his desire to save his brother, does everything to please the commander and be able to send his brother home. In his efforts he showed extraordinary heroism and courage, so he became a national hero. All the more so must we Christians, workers in the gospel, want to please the One who enrolled us in His army. Such a soldier will always look upon it as an honor to go to the most difficult tasks to be accomplished and will do so with joy. One such soldier was Epaphroditus, of whom Paul wrote in the same epistle to the Philippians. Epaphroditus was a brave man from the Philippian church. When the Christians in the church gathered and wanted to send help to Paul in Rome, Epaphroditus offered to go and send that help. On the way he was very ill, then he was healed and served Paul in the gospel, there in Rome. Now Paul writes: “But I thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger and minister to my need, because he was longing for you all and was distressed because you had heard that he was sick. For indeed he was sick to the point of death, but God had mercy on him, and not only on him but also on me, so that I would not have sorrow upon sorrow. Therefore I have sent him all the more eagerly, so that when you see him again you may rejoice and I may be less concerned about you. Receive him then in the Lord with all joy, and hold people like him in high regard, because he came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his life to compensate for your absence in your service to me.” (Philippians 2:25-30 NASB). This special man wanted to please Christ who called him to the army and put his life at stake, he was very close to death, for the work of Christ. Are you ready to risk your life for the work of Christ? Are you ready to go to the hardest place and do the hardest and most dangerous thing for the gospel? Only then can you be a good soldier of Christ.
May God help us all to be good soldiers of Christ, ready to suffer with others, seeking not our own benefits but those of Christ, and that we may be pleasing to Him, the Lord who has enrolled us in the army.
Translated by Nicoleta Vicliuc