Friday, February 08, 2008
"Suffer hardship...like a good soldier of Jesus Christ"
This week has been hard. Not hard like persecution. Not hard like starvation. Hard like American-spoiled hard. I admit that my "hard" is most of the world's fantasy. But for me this week was hard. Ministry emergencies, deadlines, interruptions of my routine, spiritual warfare, lack of sleep, emotional gymnastics, the sin of other's and my own sin all collided to make a trying week. More discouraging is the fact that these trials took me by surprise and I found I was ill prepared to face them, resulting in my retreat into escapism in some cases.
So when I was in my weekly discipleship meeting this morning with a student who has faced much of these same trials with me and we were going through II Timothy 2:1-7 I received a much needed kick in the pants from God's Word through Paul to Timothy.
As you may know Paul exhorts Timothy to "Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus." II Tim 2:3. He then goes on to illustrate this by saying that, "No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs—he wants to please his commanding officer. 5 Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules." (:4-5). As we began to talk about these verses I started to really think about what it means to endure hardship as a soldier does. The application that stuck out to me in a renewed way was that a soldier expects to see hardship. A soldier is not surprised when people start shooting at him. In fact, a soldier may even be disappointed if they come to the end of their career and have never been tested in the fires of combat. A soldier does not spend their life trying to avoid conflict, continually retreating to safety. A soldier is not consumed with finding new avenues of comfort and safety, but is consumed with engaging and defeating the enemy.
As I held up my life to those standards, I found myself lacking. In many ways my life (sometimes unintentionally, often intentionally) has been full of spiritual draft-dodging. I have tried every trick in the book to avoid facing the horrors of spiritual war and when the war finally comes to me, I am not prepared.
No longer can my life be about avoiding trials. Just as the soldier is consumed 24/7 with the mission so must I. My father is in a war zone right now and I guarantee you he does not know what Britney Spears did yesterday, or what movies are coming out this weekend. He might not even know who won the Superbowl. That's a good thing. Those things have nothing to do with his mission right now. So must I, and anyone who wants to be a good soldier of Christ, be so consumed with the painfully joyful mission of pressing on in our faith that "civilian" things are not allowed to choke out our light and let our guard down. Furthermore, our everyday energy must go towards preparing for trials, that will come and should be expected, and face them head on with the strength of the Lord, our Commander, Weapon, Prize, Medic, and Victor.