I TIMOTHY 6:12
INTRODUCTION: In 1776 Thomas Paine wrote these words: "These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country.” When many of the Army Reserve and National Guard Units were activated in the wake of September 11th, most of the men and women in those units were anxious to valiantly serve their country. However as units were being activated many of the summer soldiers and sunshine patriots ran from their duties and went AWOL either while on deployment or in some cases even before actually being deployed. I believe that there is a parallel in the Lord’s Army and that many Christians have gone AWOL. But first, we must understand that…
I. ALL BELIEVERS HAVE BEEN DRAFTED INTO THE LORD’S ARMY.
A. 2 Timothy 2:3 "Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ."
B. You did not enlist you were drafted by the Captain of Salvation – The Lord Jesus Christ.
C. John 15:16 "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain..."
D. Ephesians 6:10-17 "Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:"
II. ALL BELIEVERS HAVE BEEN GIVEN THEIR MARCHING ORDERS.
A. John 15:16 "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ORDAINED (ordered, commanded, commissioned) you, that you should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain..."
1. 1 Timothy 6:12 "Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses."As we look at the world around us, we see the drama of men and of nations, seething, struggling, laboring, and dying. What we often fail to see is that within the silence of the souls of men an eternal war is raging. Here soul is the place where supreme and final battles are fought. As Christian soldiers we are called to combat the forces of Satan as he seeks to capture the souls of men.
2. We’re doing battle in the army of our King. A mighty struggle in a fight that can’t be seen. Make us strong in You, Lord. Make us mighty by Your power for we struggle not with men but the evil of this hour. [We Will Stand © 1991 Integrity’s Hosanna! Music (c/o Integrity Music, Inc.) CCLI License No. 754427
3. Jude 1:3 "Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints."
C. RESIST - James 4:7 "Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
D. HOLD THE GROUND AND ADVANCE
1. Ephesians 4:27 "Neither give place to the devil."
2. Matthew 16:18 "And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall NOT prevail against it."
III. MANY BELIEVERS HAVE GONE AWOL.
A. Caught up in CORRUPTION – distracted by the outside world.
1. Some soldiers go AWOL as they are drawn off base by the allurement and addictions of various vices such as alcohol, gambling, and sexual promiscuity. The glitter and flashing lights surrounding the base draw them like a moth is drawn to the light of a fire. Christians are not immune to such enticement.
2. 2 Timothy 4:10 "For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica..."
3. 2 Timothy 2:4 "No man that wars entangles himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier."
4. There is an old Greek story of a soldier under Antigonus who had an extremely painful disease that was likely to bring him soon to the grave. This soldier was always first in the charge, rushing into the hottest part of the fray, as the bravest of the brave. His pain prompted him to fight, that he might forget it; and he was not afraid of death, because he knew that in any case he had not long to live. Antigonus greatly admired the valor of his soldier, and discovered his malady and had him cured by one of the most eminent physicians of the day. But from that moment the warrior was absent from the front of the battle. Now he sought his ease; for, as he remarked to his companions, he had something worth living for--health, home, family, and other comforts, and he would not risk his life now as he had before. So, when believers live crucified lives and have nothing to live for in this world but Christ, they are driven to exhibit zeal, self-denial, and industry. But how often pleasures and joys distracted them, causing them to be absent without leave. – ( adapted from Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Quotable Spurgeon, (Wheaton: Harold Shaw Publishers, Inc, 1990)
B. Caught up in COMFORT – see the struggle as too hard
1. Some soldiers find that army life means struggle and giving up some of the comforts that civilian life affords. They find it too hard and so they go AWOL.
2. Amos 6:1 "Woe to them that are at ease in Zion…"
3. Matthew 13:20-21 "But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that hears the word, and anon with joy receives it. Yet hath he not root in himself, but endures for a while: for when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, by and by he is offended.”
4. Matthew 8:19-20 "And a certain scribe came, and said unto him, Master, I will follow thee whither so ever You go. And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head."
5. In his book Fuzzy Memories, Jack Handey writes: “There used to be this bully who would demand my lunch money every day. Since I was smaller, I would give it to him. Then I decided to fight back. I started taking karate lessons. But then the karate lesson guy said I had to start paying him five dollars a lesson. So I just went back to paying the bully.” Too many people feel it is easier just to pay the bully than it is to learn how to defeat him. [Sherman L. Burford in Fresh Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching (Baker), from the editors of Leadership.]
6. 2 Timothy 2:3 "Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ."
C. Caught up with COWARDICE – afraid of the conflict
1. Some soldiers enlisted in the army with a belief that they would never be called upon to fight for their country. They saw the reserves or the guard as an easy way to get money for college or as a second income. But when faced with the possibility of conflict, injury and possible fatality some go AWOL.
2. John 7:13 "Howbeit no man spoke openly of him for fear of the Jews."
3. Mark 14:29-30 "But Peter said unto him, Although all shall be offended, yet will not I.  And Jesus saith unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this day, even in this night, before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice."
4. We promise according to our hopes, and perform according to our fears. – La Rochefoucauld
5. The fear of God makes a hero; the fear of man makes a coward.
6. The Scots and Robert I, the Bruce, won the Battle of Bannockburn and liberated famous Stirling Castle all because of a mistake. As was common in those days, Bruce’s army had its large contingent of camp followers. From a hill they watched the battle and finally decided to go to Bruce’s aid. The English army saw them and thought it was a new army coming to reinforce Bruce’s men. They fled and Bruce won the battle of Stirling Castle. How often our unfounded fears cause us to lose what we might have retained.
7. Fear of God can deliver us from the fear of man.
D. Caught up in CONTEMPT – they have no respect for discipline or authority
1. Some troops have an extremely difficult time, especially during basic training, when they are called upon to exhibit discipline and to submit to authority. They despise having anyone telling them what to do and when to do it. Finding the discipline hard some go AWOL.
2. Numbers 16:1-3 "Now Korah, the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On, the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took men: And they rose up before Moses, with certain of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty princes of the assembly, famous in the congregation, men of renown: And they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said unto them, Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them: wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the LORD?"
3. The disciplined person is the person who can do what needs to be done when it needs to be done. The disciplined person is the person who can live in the appropriateness of the hour. The extreme ascetic and the glutton have exactly the same problem: they cannot live appropriately; they cannot do what needs to be done when it needs to be done. The disciplined person is the free person.
4. "Discipline" has become a dirty word for our culture. ... I know I am speaking heresy in many circles, but spontaneity is greatly overvalued. The "spontaneous" person who shrugs off the need for discipline is like the farmer who went out to gather eggs. As he walked across the farmyard toward the hen house, he noticed the pump was leaking. So he stopped to fix it. It needed a new washer, so he set off to the barn to get one. But on the way he saw that the hayloft needed straightening, so he went off to fetch the pitchfork. Hanging next to the pitchfork was a broom with a broken handle. "I must make a note to myself to buy a new broom handle the next time I go to town," he thought. ... By now it is clear the farmer is not going to get his eggs gathered, nor is he likely to accomplish anything else he sets out to do. He is utterly, gloriously spontaneous, but he is hardly free. He is, if anything, a prisoner to his unbridled spontaneity. The fact of the matter is that discipline is the only way to freedom; it is the necessary context for spontaneity. [John Guest in Only a Prayer Away. Christianity Today, Vol. 34, no. 7.]
5. Obedience means marching right on whether we feel like it or not. Many times we go against our feelings. Faith is one thing, feeling is another. [Dwight Lyman Moody (1837-1899)]
E. Caught up in CONFLICT – they don’t believe in the cause.
1. It’s hard to believe that there are troops they don’t believe in their country or in the cause their country is fighting for. But there are those soldiers who when conflicts arise either sympathize with the enemy or say something like “I don’t believe we should get involved or be there. It’s not my fight.” And so they go AWOL.
2. Jonah 1:2-3 "Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me. But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD."
3. It is said that Dr. Mortimer Adler suddenly left a discussion group at a tea quite disgusted, slamming the door after him. One person trying to relieve the tension, remarked, "Well, he’s gone." To this the hostess replied, "No, he isn’t. That’s a closet!" We share the same plight when we attempt to rush from God’s presence. We are confined to ourselves. – [Myron S. Augsburger, When Reason Fails. Christianity Today, Vol. 30, no. 9.]
4. Most of us are not like Jonah who hated the Ninevites but we are indifferent.
5. Neutral men are the devil’s allies.
6. The worst sin toward our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them. - George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)
Conclusion: Though you may have gone AWOL, thank God for the example of John Mark! He went AWOL on Paul, but later after repenting and demonstrating Christian valor Paul speaks of Mark as profitable for the ministry. We serve in the army of the Lord of the Second Chance. God stands ready and willing to both receive and recommission you if you will but repent and return.