Summary: Prepared and preached on November 11th to coincide with the Canadian Remembrance Day. This message could be modified for an American audience and used on any date.
A Soldier For Christ
Today is remembrance day. It is on this day every year that we pause to remember the thousands of Canadian soldiers who laid down their life in the past century to ensure that the Western World remained free. Certainly some were their by compulsion, drafted into a war they wanted nothing to do with, others were young and naïve with visions of glory and battle honour, yet still others were men of stature and maturity, fully recognizing the horror of war, but also seeing the need to fight and even die to ensure that their children were free from tyrants.
In one of his most intimate and personal letters the apostle Paul writes what is likely the last letter of his life to his dear young friend Timothy. In II Timothy 2:3-4 he points to the soldier as a picture of how the Christian should conduct himself in the service of his Lord. This passage in II Timothy behooves us to better understand the parallels between Christian service and the life of the soldier that we might apply them to our own lives.
An examination of the life of the soldier will reveal the nature of Christian service. II Timothy 2:3-4 – Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs – he wants to please his commanding officer.
I. Endure Hardships
By all reports, throughout the history of humanity there appears to be more difficult place to live than on the battlefield. In the field of battle conditions are less than ideal, at the mercy of the weather, whether it be snow, rain, sleet or scorching sun. The little sleep a soldier receives in battle is not in a warm bed, but in a few blankets on the hardened ground. Many jokes have been made about using rations in the place of ammunition, yet we can be assured throughout history that the food eaten by soldiers in battle is sparse and of poor quality.
Perhaps the most difficult battlefield of all time was the battlefield of Western Europe during the Great War, the war we now refer to as the 1st World War. In that battle men of all nations gathered to do battle. The trenches were dug for hundreds of miles through France, Belgium, Austria, Germany and the Netherlands. In these battlefields thousands of soldiers endured drizzling rain and constant shelling that reduced vast tracts of land into a sea of mud. In fact millions of causalities during the first world war occurred because of the hardships of the battlefield and not actual fighting. But those who would ultimately win the day were those who were willing to endure the hardships.
In II Timothy 3:12 the apostle Paul warns his young friend Timothy that anyone who wishes to live a godly life in Jesus Christ will fact persecution. Paul knew this too well. For as he wrote this final letter to his dear young friend he was chained as a criminal to a Roman guard. As the messenger carried this message to Timothy in Ephesus the blade of the executioner was sharpened, and perhaps as Timothy read these words of exhortation Paul may have already departed this earthly life. How many of the early Christians lost their lives for their faith, even today the United Nations tell us that 16 million Christians lose their lives annually.
When I took the job here in Creston I knew nothing about what it would take to be a Youth Pastor. My schooling had never dealt with practical ministry and I had only been exposed to a couple of pastors in my entire life, so I felt a little inadequate in facing the tasks ahead. I decided in the two weeks we had to pack and depart from Ontario to gather as much info as possible. I began phoning all the pastors I knew in the area and offering to buy them coffee if they would take half an hour to speak to me. The question I asked each of them was if they could give me one jewel of wisdom from their own personal experience what would it be. Each of their answers I recorded in my day planner and each has proven itself over the past 3 and a half years. I was told to make prayer central and never to neglect it in my ministry, I was told to take a day away to focus on my family and to rest, I was told to be aware that not everyone would support me, I was told to have a tender heart and tough skin, but the piece of advice that has stood out most to me came from a Free Methodist Pastor who told me that when I came to Creston or to any other position I should together with my wife commit myself to the Lord for a certain period of time and no matter what happens to hold to that commitment. As Michelle and I traveled from Simcoe to Creston in our U-Haul we discussed what sort of commitment we should make and finally decided that at least 5 years would be required to begin to see effective ministry and so we decided to commit five years, not to the people of the church, not to the elders or the pastor, but to the Lord; with the provision that the Lord would have to firmly close the door on Creston before we would release our commitment. At the time I never realized how many ways that commitment would be tested and tried. Whether from spiritual battle, discouragement, feelings of inadequacy, and even temptations from other churches to go elsewhere. But based on the grace God gives we have been able to endure the hardships.