Being a follower of Christ is a very rewarding way of life, but it is not always easy to describe what it is like. One analogy used in the Bible is the life of a soldier. In 2 Timothy 2:3-4 the Apostle Paul says:
Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.
Paul mentions three aspects of the life of a soldier that are similar to the life of a Soldier of Christ.
Soldiers suffer… Soldiers are asked to go into life-threatening situations at a moment’s notice to get a difficult job done. Even when they are not fighting, their living conditions may be less than ideal, being cooped up together in small quarters, with meager rations. They must wake up before the crack of dawn to train and endure harsh discipline. These conditions, however, make them very good at what they do and help them to ultimately save the lives of others. Furthermore, the hardships of the war are only temporary, compared to the lasting peace their efforts bring about.
Soldiers do not get entangled in civilian pursuits… Soldiers cannot afford to get distracted while on active duty. When on watch, they need to be alert and focused to make sure the enemy does not sneak into the base. When on patrol, they need to look out for any traps or enemy patrols. When amongst civilians, they must not act like them or become too relaxed with them, otherwise their authority will not respected and they will be taken advantage of. A soldier’s focus must be solely on his orders – it is a matter of life and death!
Soldiers serve the one who enlisted them… Soldiers must follow the orders of their commander exactly, without hesitation. For the soldier, this involves putting aside his own wants and ideas about what it best for the greater good. He must trust that his commanding officers are seeking the best possible outcome for him and his fellow soldiers, and please them by following their commands. If every soldier were to only do what he wanted, the army would be in chaos, which would create a great weakness that the enemy could exploit.
Unlike the world’s soldiers, Soldiers of Christ do not fight a literal, physical enemy. They are fighting a spiritual battle with the sinful nature that lies within us and tempts us to disobey God. As Paul writes in Romans Paul says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). He also says in Ephesians 6:10-12:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
The “devil” is the sinful nature that dwells in us, which tempts us to disobey God and His ways. It is present in every human being, and creeps in to every aspect of our lives, from how we treat our neighbours to how the country we live in is run. It is a constant threat that we need to be aware of, for if we don’t do our best to fight our sinful tendencies we will be consumed by them. This ultimately leads to death, and God will deny us everlasting life in His kingdom. For this reason, Paul continues:
Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance.”
Since they are constantly under attack by their sinful human nature, Soldiers of Christ, like any soldier, must have the proper weapons and armour to fight it off. Again, these are not literal, physical weapons, but spiritual weapons. Things like trying to do what is right, living according to the Gospel message, praying to God and having faith in Him can help Soldiers of Christ to fight the sin in their lives and make peace with God. This is not easy, for like the world’s soldiers:
We will suffer… but only for a time Soldiers of Christ will suffer because of their sinful human nature and that of those around them. By following God’s ways, Soldiers of Christ make others aware of their sinful nature, which they may not like, which in turn may cause others to treat them poorly. But, if they endure as good examples to them, their suffering will be short compared to the everlasting life they can look forward to in God’s kingdom!
We will not get entangled in civilian pursuits… but will pursue Godly things Soldiers of Christ seek to avoid being distracted by the sinful temptations of the world around them. They pay close attention to the people they spend time with, the activities they choose to pursue, and their behaviour in everything that they do. Their focus is on obeying God and doing His will and ultimately helping their friends, family to know Christ. When they make these Godly things their focus, they can look forward to an everlasting life of Godliness in God’s kingdom.
We will serve the one who enlisted us… rather than ourselves Soldiers of Christ serve the one who enlisted them, God, by acting the way He wants them to rather than the way they want to. Like the General of the Army, God knows what is best for His followers. Even what the Soldier thinks is best may not truly be what is best. He needs to have faith in the decisions his commander makes for his life. This faith comes from developing a personal relationship with God through reading the Bible, prayer, spending time with other believers and looking for the ways God reaches out to him or her in daily life. When the Soldier serves God, he or she can look forward to the pleasures of God’s kingdom.
Training to be a Soldier of Christ is never complete. It is a lifelong occupation, which will change your life for good! It is a worthy pursuit that anyone can engage in, which will be fully rewarded in God’s kingdom. Are you up to the challenge?
* All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version of the Bible