Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him (2 Timothy 2:3–4, esv).
When you join the military, life changes fast. Good-bye, civilian life. Hello, military life. No civilian gear. Standard issue clothing. No individual hairstyles. Limited contact with family and friends. (No calling mama during boot camp sessions.) No personal possessions: no camera, no watch, no designer sunglasses. Regimented schedule. Stricter laws with stiffer punishment than civilian life. Move when and where you’re told. Carry out orders without expressing your personal opinion.
Why so strict? Because soldiers can’t afford distraction. Soldiers can’t afford the luxury of individual freedom because it distracts them from the mission.
The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to use a military analogy to describe the Christian life. Paul called Christ-followers “good soldier[s] of Christ Jesus.” And soldiers know how to focus.
As soldiers of Christ Jesus, we’ve been given a mission—but many of us are too distracted to focus on the mission. Take our smart phones, for example. Our phones are meant to enrich our lives, but do they? Many of us are glued to our screens. Our families have to compete for our eye contact and attention. Some people are disciplined with Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, and some people are consumed by them.
We see this scene constantly: a family dinner, five people sitting together but looking at their own phones. Is that a close family? Might they be closer if they put their phones down and looked at each other? Since when did “talking” to someone who isn’t with us become better than talking to someone who is with us?
We’re distracted people! How many mornings last week did you wake up, make your bed, do your morning hygiene drill, brew a cup of coffee, check email, and then race right off into the day without taking time to center your life, to look up, to be refreshed? You may be physically clean to start your day but spiritually still a mess (see Ephesians 5:26).
When we get a spare moment, do our minds and thoughts drift to God and grace, or do we so abhor downtime that we instantly search for a cheap filler? News headlines and pictures of your cousin’s cat aren’t inherently bad, but what’s being crowded out in your mental space?
Soldiers don’t do this. If you could see soldiers in the trenches in the midst of a battle, they’re not texting their friends. They can’t afford to be distracted. There’s too much on the line.
And that’s Paul’s point to Timothy. When Paul wrote this letter, he was in prison, nearing the end of his life. Paul wasn’t years or months away from dying. He was weeks or days off. He dashed off a final letter to his protégé with some vital instructions. Paul warned Timothy to expect suffering and to take it like a soldier. And don’t get distracted.
Because distraction drains grace, and it drains us, and our goal is “to please the one who enlisted [us].” Listen up, soldiers: Focus on the mission.
Lord God, forgive me for getting entangled in and distracted by my life. I find it so easy to let my focus wander. Help me to think like a soldier, to focus on my mission and on my leader, Jesus Christ. I want to please Him. Help me to set aside distractions today and to center my thoughts and life on You. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.