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. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything (2 Timothy 2:3–7, ESV).
The Apostle Paul was like a veteran soldier, and his spiritual protégé, Timothy, was like a young recruit. Sensing the newly enlisted fighter might be having second thoughts, Paul gave him a straight dose of truth: as a soldier, you will “share in suffering.” No ifs, ands, buts, or maybes here. Every good soldier suffers.
Why enlist then, knowing that suffering awaits? Because the soldier’s goal “is to please the one who enlisted him.” Just as a servant wants to please his master, or a worker her boss, or a soldier his General, so a Christian wants to please Christ Jesus. Let’s dub this the “Soldier Principle.” Soldiers know whose glory they are fighting for and exactly what’s at stake in the battle.
And a good soldier stays focused on the mission. “No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits,” Paul explained. That word entangled is used elsewhere in Scripture to describe how sheep get their wool caught in a thorn bush and can’t get free. Entanglement is a very real danger. A soldier going into battle can’t afford to be distracted, nor can a Christian focus on the kingdom of God while tangled up in the thorns of life (Matthew 13:22). Paul’s analogy prompts this reflection question: Are you caught up in something that is sapping your energy and distracting you from living for God and His kingdom?
Far too often, we live in a tornado of constant, competing, everyday distractions. Paul was referring to the routine tasks that govern our lives—in modern life, that includes balancing the checkbook, mowing the lawn, buying groceries, cleaning the house, commuting to work, etc. Though these tasks may be inevitable, part of basic spiritual training is learning to complete them without letting them entangle you and drain your energy. The challenge is to complete what’s necessary while focusing on the greater mission. For example, is it wrong to clean your house? No. Might actually be a sanitary choice on your part. However, is it wrong to own so much stuff that it takes all your available energy to manage it? Now that would violate the Soldier Principle.
It’s not easy to practice the Soldier Principle and stay focused on the mission, which ties back to the theme of suffering, right? You will be in continuous training throughout your life. Disentangling yourself from the distractions, cares, and encumbrances of this world requires focus. Which requires all eyes on the Commander.
Lord God, the Soldier Principle is simple, but it’s not easy. Forgive me for getting tangled up in civilian pursuits, the everyday things that distract me from the kingdom of God. Jesus worked as a carpenter, yet He didn’t let woodworking distract Him from His mission. Paul was a trained tent-maker, yet he didn’t let his craft distract him from his kingdom work. In fact, he used his career as a platform for the gospel. Teach me a similar focus, Lord. Even as I go about my everyday life, I don’t want to be entangled by my everyday life. I want to live for Your kingdom and Your glory. I lift my eyes from my tasks to my Commander. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.