Are You A Soldier Living a Civilian Life?

In 2 Timothy 2:3-4 Paul makes an interesting comment about the Christian life, comparing it to the life of a soldier. In verse 3 he writes, “Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.”

Now the heart of this statement is about the cost involved in being a disciple of Jesus. Paul is inviting Timothy into the suffering that comes through participating in the work of the Gospel as a follower of Jesus. And since the work of Christ involves suffering, Paul compares the work of the Christian with a soldier, one who understands suffering.

And then Paul makes this intriguing comment in verse 4: ” Soldiers don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them.”

After comparing Christians to soldiers, he talks about the sacrificial commitment of a soldier. A soldier has a different focus than one who is a civilian.

The word civilian is describing someone who is not in active duty with “a military, naval, police, or fire fighting organization.” The civilian isn’t living life ready to defend or engage in a military conflict. The civilian has the freedom to be concerned about other things like raising a family, running a business, going to school, enjoying leisure activities like movies, concerts, sports and other entertainment. The civilian can be concerned with community activities and local and national politics. The civilian can spend their time discussing the weather and debating politics.

The civilian is not under the command of anyone. They have freedom to live where they want and work where they want.

But not the soldier. They are under authority. They live and work according to their commanding officer. Their time is not their own. While a civilian can be concerned with their own affairs, the soldier is concerned about carrying out the orders given to him. The soldier is always living life prepared to enter into the battle.

So why does Paul make this statement about soldiers and civilian life? And what does this have to do with the work of the Gospel? And what does this have to do with suffering?

As Christians, we are active duty soldiers in a battle for the souls of men. When we made the commitment to follow Jesus, he commissioned us to go and make disciples. We have been given our orders that we are to carry out. We are not to be concerned with or distracted by the everyday issues of this life. We are not trying to build the best life we can build so that we can leave a legacy. Or to live life to the fullest before we die. We have become called into the battle for the sake of Christ. And it may require the sacrifice of our own life for the sake of the Gospel.

The challenge is that this type of sacrifice can seem contradictory to the American dream, where we are given the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But the reality is, the work of Christ is often in conflict with the American dream. And to be even more candid, the work of Christ is often in conflict with the desire to maintain the rights and freedoms of this country. The soldier does not spend time fighting for his rights but rather he is consumed with carrying out the orders given to him. The civilian is able to think about rights and freedoms.

As Christians, we must recognize that we are soldiers and not civilians. We are on active duty and not free to spend our time any way we want. That might seem like we are giving up everything to follow Jesus. That is exactly what it means. When Jesus called us into a relationship with him, he called us with this invitation, “Take up your cross [meaning give up your life] and follow me [make my life your life].”

Paul reminds Timothy that the work of the Gospel will involve suffering. That is when we tend to bail as Christians. And we can try to avoid the suffering by running back into the civilian world but that is not what we have been called into. And Paul also understands that as soldiers it is easy to get distracted by the civilian lifestyle.

And so Paul is saying to Timothy and therefore to us, “Do not get distracted by the civilian lifestyle.” Or in other words, do not get drawn into the allure of a life that keeps you from suffering therefore keeping you from living out the outward work of the Gospel.

If we allow it, these words from Paul are incredibly convicting. Because the reality is, particularly in America, we have become distracted. We have become tied up with the affairs of this world. Our primary pursuit has become our families, our jobs, our schools, our weekend hobbies and entertainment or even preserving our country. Now there is nothing wrong with having a family or a job or hobbies or even being concerned about our country, but the problem is when those things become our primary pursuits. And what Paul is telling us in verse 4 is that our families, our jobs, our hobbies, our politics should never, ever become our primary passion. They should always remain secondary.

Now the challenge is most Christians would never say their families or jobs or political worldviews are more important than following Jesus in his work and mission. And yet that is often how many people live, prioritizing their own life and comfort over the mission of Christ. So the question is, what does it really mean to live as a Christian soldier concerned about carrying out the orders of the one who enlisted us?

Well, first, it means I am living life as an active duty Christian soldier. If someone looked at your life would they say you are a soldier for the sake of the Gospel? Is that what you have given your life to? Is that where you spend your time and energy? And I am not talking about someone who is constantly engaged in cultural battles for the sake of a Christian or moral worldview. But a soldier who is on active duty for the mission of Christ? Would people see that your passion is for the Gospel? Would people see you passionately laying down your life for the sake of Christ?

And does that passion impact everything you do?

Too often the work of the Christian gets summed up in church activity. We declare ourselves on mission because we teach Sunday school or we lead a small group or we serve as an Elder or a Deacon. Those things can certainly be ministries you are involved in when you are involved in the work of Christ, but the activity alone does not necessarily mean you are living out the mission of Christ. And when you are on mission for Christ your work becomes far more than a church activity. In fact, your reputation is far more than a ministry leader. You are known as one who proclaims the hope and truth of Christ.

One of the great challenges for the church today is that we have created a Christian lifestyle that we believe is a life on mission when it is often simply a life of religious activities. We can look at our calendar and we can have family activities and work activities and church activities. The work of the Gospel becomes just another activity that fits into our schedule.

We would never mistake a soldier in a battle for a civilian raising a family and pursuing the American dream. In the same way, we should never mistake a Christian soldier with someone who is not engaged in the work of the Gospel. And yet we have created a version of a Christian soldier that looks just like a civilian. And no one is questioning why this soldier is not on the battlefield.

Church, we have become soldiers who have become distracted by the civilian lifestyle. We are soldiers who have gone AWOL. It is time to come back under the authority of the one who has enlisted us into his mission. It is time to to carry out the orders of our commanding officer to go and make disciples. It is time to be willing to lay down our own life for sake of the Gospel.

Christian soldier, it is time to get back on the battlefield.


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