A Good Soldier’s Practice

“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.”

- 2 Timothy 2:3–4

Human beings will usually do whatever they can to avoid pain. Sometimes our attempts to alleviate discomfort are fine, such as when we take aspirin to help with a headache. But when we face hardship for the gospel, there is rarely a godly path that leads away from suffering. True, there may be occasions when it is acceptable to flee or escape those who would do us harm just as Jesus did at times (John 10:31–42). Most often, however, the only way we will be able to stay faithful to our Savior will be to endure the trouble, as even Christ had to do on the cross in order to fulfill the mission His Father gave to Him.

God mercifully equips us to stand for His truth in the most trying situations with the assurance of His grace and the power and presence of the Holy Spirit (2 Tim. 1:7–2:2). He also prepares us for faithfulness throughout His Word, encouraging a single-minded devotion to Him that keeps our eyes on the goal when the pain of life would distract us and make us stumble. Paul in today’s pas- sage contributes to this recurring theme using the analogy of the soldier and his entanglement with everyday pursuits (2:3–4).

Good soldiers who ght for the rulers of this world ignore all distractions in the heat of battle and remain focused on their objective (including just staying alive) in order to advance the cause and please their commanders. Similarly, good soldiers of Christ place their mission first, allowing nothing to deter them from keeping the orders of their captain. This is Paul’s point in 2 Timothy 2:4. He is not calling for believers to withdraw from everyday life but is exhorting us never to let anything keep us from following Jesus. Suffering is inevitable, for serving Christ will mean going against the tide of this world. Nevertheless, John Calvin writes that “in the worship of God, we ought to give such earnest- ness of attention that nothing else should occupy our thoughts and feelings.”

Military imagery is prevalent in Paul’s writings (Eph. 6:10–20; Phile. 2), revealing that we are in a war where the stakes are high and the outcome — God’s glory — is sure. The commitment, self-control, discipline, and prepared- ness of a soldier is necessary if we are to share in our commander’s reward.

Coram Deo

The single-minded devotion that we are to have to the Lord and His cause is not developed overnight. In fact, it is something we are ever striving toward and yet will not reach perfectly in this life. Nevertheless, that we seek to put Him first shows that we have hearts that have been made to love Him, and so we should be encouraged every time we overcome idolatry. Let us be confident that He empowers us to commit ourselves to Him more each day.

Passages for Further Study

Jeremiah 2:1–3
2 Corinthians 10:1–6
Philippians 2:25–30
1 Timothy 1:18–20

First published in Tabletalk Magazine, an outreach of Ligonier. For permissions, view our Copyright Policy.