It was already almost a week ago when the incredible news hit that Osama bin Laden was killed by an elite squad of Navy Seals. We probably never will know the names of these brave men but they are due our thanks and gratitude for risking their lives for the country.
We as followers of Jesus Christ are also called “soldiers” according to 2 Timothy. What does that mean? Well, we too are at war. We too need expert training and are constantly being deployed against the enemy. Our aim as 2 Timothy 2:4 tell us is to please the one who enlisted us.
Another very well known branch of the military is the Ranger Regiment of the US Army. They too are specially trained and equipped for special operations such as those in Pakistan. I came across “the Ranger Creed” and I’d like to read it this morning:
“The Ranger Creed”
Recognizing that I volunteered as a Ranger, fully knowing the hazards of my chosen profession, I will always endeavor to uphold the prestige, honor, and high esprit de corps of my Ranger Regiment.
Acknowledging the fact that a Ranger is a more elite soldier who arrives at the cutting edge of battle by land, sea, or air, I accept the fact that as a Ranger my country expects me to move farther, faster and fight harder than any other soldier.
Never shall I fail my comrades. I will always keep myself mentally alert, physically strong and morally straight and I will shoulder more than my share of the task whatever it may be. One-hundred-percent and then some.
Gallantly will I show the world that I am a specially selected and well-trained soldier. My courtesy to superior officers, neatness of dress and care of equipment shall set the example for others to follow.
Energetically will I meet the enemies of my country. I shall defeat them on the field of battle for I am better trained and will fight with all my might. Surrender is not a Ranger word. I will never leave a fallen comrade to fall into the hands of the enemy and under no circumstances will I ever embarrass my country.
What are the crucial points of being a “good soldier” for Christ? Of being “the best”?
1) Know who you are fighting for!
The Rangers make a vow to serve their country. They will never betray the country they serve. There is no doubt who they serve – they are proud of their country and are willing to die to protect it.
As Christian soldiers, it may seem very natural that it’s the Lord whom we serve but deep down many times we discover that it’s something else at the heart of what we do – even in church.
Sometimes we fight for our reputation – I want to look good in front of others. Sometimes we fight for our congregation’s growth and success. Sometimes we fight for the Lutheran church, or the AFLC, sometimes for a particular cause. None of these areas are what or who we ought to be fighting for.
As soldiers, we are “fighting” for Jesus Christ! “a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” Remember the children’s song: “we’re in the Lord’s army”? Are you? Or are you following someone or something else? Philippians 1:20-21 “as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Christ must be exalted. The King of Kings and Lord of Lords and we are his children. We are an Elite group of people – a chosen profession – to glorify the King!
The moment “our” ministry, success, reputation, popularity, etc. becomes our chief goal is the moment we lose the blessing and power of God. He is to be glorified as our chief and highest authority. John said HE must increase, I must decrease!
2) Know who you are fighting against (know your ENEMY)
One thing that any army must do to win a battle is study it’s enemy. Today it seems that everyone is reading about Islam and what they believe. We want to know how they think and then we’ll know how they will attack and how to defend ourselves. We need to know the weapons they have, the motives, the training, the size of army, etc. etc. As Christians, our strategy is not different. We must know everything about our enemy.
Who is the enemy? Ephesians 6:12 “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.” Not a physical enemy. It’s a spiritual enemy. There are spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. It’s not people who are our enemies because those who are causing problems for us are not the enemy, it is Satan who has deceived them. It’s always a spiritual battle! Pray for them. That their eyes would be opened.
What is the enemy’s strategy?
Ephesians 6:11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the SCHEMES of the devil.” He has plans. He is crafty. He is smart. Don’t think that you can outsmart this enemy. But God has given us his word and his Spirit and his power to overcome the enemy. “Satan hates you and has a terrible plan for your life.”
• James 4:7 – resist him. Jesus resisted the devil by using the Word of God – persistently. Satan is not all-powerful and has weaknesses which the Word can undermine and defeat.
Don’t take anything for granted – whatever we assume is safe will be the object of the Devil’s attacks. Take up the weapon of God – take up the Word! Take up your identity as a holy child of God. Satan cannot stand against the righteousness of Jesus. He has no ground!
3) Training! Discipline!
One of the most well known characteristics of a soldier is that he is the epitome of discipline. From his physical condition, to the shine of his shoes. He stands straight, runs fast. His gun is ready and clean. He answers every order immediately. It’s not an easy road to be trained - if Bob West were here he could tell us.
Is training as a Christian easy? Is it a piece of cake? 1 Timothy 4:7-8 “Rather train yourself for godliness; 8 for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”
“Train” yourself is from the Greek word “gymnazo” where we get the word “gymnasium.” Greek athletes used this word for their training. You are in training to live more and more like Jesus! I’m not talking about training to be saved, to receive salvation. We are already owned by the Lord. If you are a soldier for Jesus, you have already signed your life into His hands. You have put yourself under his authority.
Nobody wakes up already trained and ready for a task. As a servant of God, you need special training.
• Physical training – good for physical health, feels good, invigorating (temple of the Holy Spirit so we take care of our bodies) Paul is not against physical training but that’s not his point here.
• Godliness training (spiritual training) – good for this life (decisions, service, praise) and eternity – we can’t take our bodies with us, but we will take our soul and spirit. Its labor, it’s striving – it’s work! Paul compares the difficult physical training of famous Greek athletes with what our attitude should be toward our walk with God. Yes you may be saved, but are you growing in your walk with him? How has he been training you lately – in what area?
What disciplines are there? for example....prayer, reading scripture, fasting, memorizing scripture, Bible study, discipline your mouth, your thoughts, your time. These don’t come natural but take time to develop and make them habitual.
Why do we do this? because our hope is on God and on nothing else! (verse 10)
Bottom line: develop a training strategy for your spiritual life as if you were training in the army!
3) Know WHAT your objective is: what are you fighting for?
Soldiers know exactly what they are to do – and they’re life goal is to accomplish those orders.
Jesus gave his disciples marching orders: “Go into all the world and make disciples of all nations….” Gain lost territory. Free the captives. If we are part of the Lord’s army just to meet together and drink coffee, then we are a mockery of our name.
Just imagine if you knew that our soldiers were trained and battle ready and then they simply met together as a soldier’s club day after day. Watched movies, played games, ate food, told stories and then went home. Day after day it’s the same story. It would be a scandal!
Are we as soldiers of the King of the universe any different? It’s not to say that we shouldn’t have fun together, play games, laugh and eat together. But if that’s it – we ought not bear the name “soldier of Christ.” Call on the Lord. Ask him where he would have you serve – how would he have you complete the mission. Ask him to open doors of ministry for you. You have a mission!
4) Be UNIFIED against the enemy
Mark 3:24-25 “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.”
As you know firsthand, so often our energies are spent fighting within. Satan loves it when we fight ourselves because he doesn’t have to do a thing – he’s already won the battle. All our energy and strength should be focused on the battle we have before us and NOT against each other! The more we spend time focused and unified in prayer and praise and lifting up the name of Jesus, the more we accomplish true victory!
A soldier for Christ has no enemies – only opponents.” No hate - Luke 9:56 – the son of man DID NOT COME TO DESTROY men’s lives, but to save them. Jesus wept over Jerusalem. There must only be hate for Satan but not for man. We fight out of duty and love.
Are you a noticer? You notice that things aren’t right – the way God would have them. You can react one of two ways: 1. you can get critical, angry, bitter, and fight against that injustice. 2. you can use it as an opportunity to intercede for that situation. Pray. The victory of the devil is when we always react the first way and the immediate result is division and separation. Luke 6:28 “pray for those who mistreat you.” James 5:16 “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” This isn’t just physical healing but also emotional, spiritual. There is obvious sin and therefore we should be praying in that situation and not accusing.
5) care for the WOUNDED: you always help your wounded!
Will we help those who fall down or will we let them die because we don’t know what to do or day – go out of our comfort zone. Are our wounded our first priority or do we leave them to die or suffer?
2 Corinthians 1:3-5 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.” Caring for those who are hurting emotionally – grief, physical suffering, problems. The Lord doesn’t want us to just pretend that these problems don’t exist when we meet someone. God comforts us so that we can do the same for others and they in turn can comfort someone else. It’s a chain effect.
Job was cut down by 3 of his “friends” when he was hurting and had not sinned at all. His third friend “Elihu” comforts him and points him to God. That’s what we need to do for others.
Sometimes all that is needed is to be a shoulder to cry on or an ear willing to listen and not even say a thing. Is this church really a hospital? It ought to be!
Caring for those who have fallen spiritually, failed: John 8:10-11 (adulterer). Jesus didn’t reject her because of her sin but forgave her and received her anew – she knew she had fallen and failed and needed grace.
1. know who you’re fighting FOR.
2. know your enemy
3. know your objective
4. be unified against the enemy.
5. take care of your wounded.
Let us return as we close to the Ranger Creed once again and this time let me read it as a "Christian soldier's creed."
Recognizing that I volunteered as a Ranger [soldier for Christ], fully knowing the hazards of my chosen profession [calling], I will always endeavor to uphold the prestige, honor, and high esprit de corps of my Ranger Regiment [church].
Acknowledging the fact that a Ranger [Christian] is a more elite soldier who arrives at the cutting edge of battle by land, sea, or air, I accept the fact that as a Ranger [Christian] my country [Lord] expects me to move farther, faster and fight harder than any other soldier.
Never shall I fail my comrades [fellow believers]. I will always keep myself mentally alert, physically strong and morally straight and I will shoulder more than my share of the task whatever it may be. One-hundred-percent and then some.
Gallantly will I show the world that I am a specially selected and well-trained soldier[for Christ]. My courtesy to superior officers [my leaders], neatness of dress and care of equipment shall set the example for others to follow.
Energetically will I meet the enemies of my country [Lord]. I shall defeat them on the field of battle for I am better trained and will fight with all my might. Surrender [to the enemy] is not a Ranger [Christian] word. I will never leave a fallen comrade to fall into the hands of the enemy and under no circumstances will I ever embarrass my country [Lord].