By Stephen Leonard
“Share in suffering as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.”
2 Timothy 2:3-4
Every servant of Jesus Christ is truly a veteran, according to this text. They might not qualify as an eligible veteran of this nation’s military, remembered and honored today on Veteran’s Day. Still, the Bible does call them a “good soldier” when they have trusted in Jesus Christ for salvation. He makes them a Veteran of spiritual warfare and a Soldier in His army.
I served 34 years as an Army soldier, 7 with the Infantry, 27 as a Chaplain. Soldiers are basically “ground pounders,” like Marines are, and are neither sailor nor airman.
The soldier dwells in foxholes, crawls in mud and dust, slogs through murky water in swamps or rivers, eats mostly cold rations, fires hand-held weapons, and throws grenades. The fighting is necessarily in “close quarters.“ When winning requires “boots on the ground,” that means the “Army.”
Paul refers to the faithful Christian as “a good soldier” of Jesus Christ. Why is he called a “good soldier?” Simply because a good soldier is disciplined to focus on the mission they have been given, regardless of those extraneous matters called “civilian pursuits.”
Those pursuits can be anything the soldier doesn’t require to complete his mission. That is, probably, a variety of civilian clothing, plush lodging, gourmet food, attractive entertainment, fancy transportation, all of them pleasant distractions! Completing the mission is the real goal here. In this case, precisely what Jesus desires most in “good soldiers.”
Jesus tells us, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these [other] things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33) For those who do seek His kingdom and His righteousness first above all, He provides all they need and much more.
Veteran’s Day honors those who served for the specific mission of keeping us all free. And to this day, Americans have enjoyed the privilege of true freedom. We have luxuriated in the blessing of living our lives as free people, unlike so many in the world who lived or continue to live under tyrants.
Yet, on this Veteran’s Day, if you belong to Christ, think of yourself as a Veteran in His service. He enlisted you to be “a good soldier” intent on completing the mission He called you to: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
And this: “Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous deeds among all peoples.” (I Chronicles 16:24)
“Am I a soldier of the cross, a foll’wer of the Lamb, and shall I fear to own His cause, or blush to speak His name?”
(1st verse of Isaac Watts’ hymn, “Am I a Soldier of the Cross,” 1724)