Godly inner strength and faithful ministry can be seen in the three metaphors Paul uses. Firstly, Timothy is to be like a devoted and faithful soldier. Soldiering was one of Paul’s favourite metaphors to describe the Christian life and its challenges (1 Corinthians 9:7; 2 Corinthians 10:3–6; Ephesians 6:10–18; 1 Timothy 6:12; Philippians 2:25).
Being a soldier is not easy, as any military recruit discovers in boot camp. During training, soldiers are stretched to the limits and put through various trials, knowing that actual war is even worse. Soldiers can suffer much hardship, but they have to endure such deprivation and suffering if they don’t want to become deserters. Paul urges Timothy, “Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (v.3). Paul was a veteran soldier of Christ. He was like “an iron pillar” (Jeremiah 1:18), “hard pressed on every side, but not crushed” (2 Corinthians 4:8). Timothy could draw courage and comfort from the fact that he was not a lone soldier on the battlefield. Instead, he was part of a great company of faithful and courageous soldiers of Christ whose only desire was to please Christ, their “commanding officer” (v.4). They were totally devoted to Christ their King.
Good soldiers don’t get involved in civilian affairs (v.4). They are so focused on soldiering that they will not allow any distractions in their lives. In the spiritual life, you cannot be a part-time soldier of Christ. The battle can take place at any time or all the time (Ephesians 6:10–18). Satan is like a roaring lion, a master at ambushing Christians (1 Peter 5:8).
But the metaphor of full-time soldiering does not mean that all Christians should become monks or priests. Reformer Martin Luther insisted that we must faithfully serve in the stations that God has placed us—whether as farmers, doctors, teachers, or salespersons. What is important is that we should be very focused on devoting ourselves to Christ and serving Him, so that in all things we will bring Him glory (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Whatever our job or role in life, French theologian John Calvin’s assertion is relevant: “Everyone who wishes to fight under Christ’s command must relinquish all the trifles and diversions of this world and devote all his energies to the fight.”
Remembering that our weapons are not of this world (2 Corinthians 10:4), why do you think soldiers of Christ must be prepared to endure much hardship? How can they find help in such circumstances?
Devotion and focus are key ideas in Paul’s metaphor regarding soldiers. How would you assess your own devotion to Christ? How are you focusing on the tasks He has given you?