Combat Training With God – 2 Timothy 2:3-6

Be Engaged In The Work Entrusted To You

3 Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. 5 Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules. 6 The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops.

Equally Engaged

No one is above their master.  Jesus suffered at the hands of the very people that he was trying to bring the message of salvation – God’s people!  We have been charged with spreading the Good News to every nation and people.  We are going to experience the same resistance and, in some cases, the same persecution that He experienced.

No matter how many times we hear this, we need to hear it again and again.  God had directed the Israelites to build monuments of stone in certain places to remind them of what He had done for them.  When children would ask what the monuments were for, the parents were to explain it to their children.  It was also there so that the parents wouldn’t forget what God had done for them either.

Imagine being led by a pillar of smoke by day, and a pillar of fire by night FOR FORTY YEARS.  Imagine walking in the desert in circles FOR FORTY YEARS and your clothing and shoes NEVER WORE OUT.  Imagine gathering manna every day FOR FORTY YEARS in the desert where God provided all the food, shelter, and water that you needed.  And now imagine that the same people who witnessed this amazing power of God FOR FORTY YEARS so quickly forget His wonderful provision to them.

It would appear that we have the memory equivalent to that of gnats.

Committed to the Commander

In the same way that a soldier is committed to his commanding officer, we are to be committed to our commanding officer – Jesus Christ!  This requires discipline and the ability to do what our commander says.  To the extent that we listen to our Commander-In-Chief will be to the extent that we are successful in completing the missions that we are assigned.

And just like in the military, promotions and better assignments come to those who are obedient in their callings.  The committed military person doesn’t get involved in civilian matters, because they are dedicated to military matters.  In the same way, those who are Christ’s don’t pursue the pleasures and desires of this world, but instead pursue the instructions of Christ.  And like military members, we can be called at a moment’s notice to serve in whatever capacity that Christ desires us to serve – whether temporarily or permanently, often relocating our family to our deployment site.

Don’t Disqualify

Just as in the world of sports, we are not to cheat our way to success.  Jesus was given the opportunity by Satan to have what He was competing by submitting to Satan.  This would have been cheating.  God had rules in place that Jesus needed to follow in order to accomplish the goal that was set before Him in order to achieve complete success.

Moses learned this the hard way when he was faced with an obstinate and forgetful people.  God was trying to reveal Himself in a greater way to Moses when He asked him to speak to the rock to bring forth water.  This was far different from the previous method of striking the rock with his staff.  When Moses, in a fit of anger, disobeyed the revealed will of God by striking the rock twice with his staff, he forfeited his life early, and was not able to see the people that he had shepherded for forty years enter into the promised land.  Keep in mind that Moses appeared with Elijah on the mount of transfiguration with Jesus.  Nonetheless, ACTIONS HAVE CONSEQUENCES.  Disobedience is not looked upon very kindly by God.  There is always a penalty for disobedience.

It is only by obeying the rules that we win the race.  Jesus said that many will come to Him saying, “Lord, Lord”, but He will turn them away because of disobedience:

  21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!‘”

When tempted to go around what appears to be obstacles by doing what is specifically delineated as wrong in order to avoid pain, suffering, or a perceived delay in timing, remember that Jesus didn’t take the easy road.  And by doing so, He won the keys to Death and Hell for us.  It took a long time, effort, and pain.  Jesus willingly submitted Himself to all of this and more for us.  Should we not do the same for Him?

Receive the Reward

Paul planted, Apollos watered, and God gave the increase.  The use of agrarian principles to illustrate spiritual truths was widespread because the people at that time would have fully understood the implications of what was being said.  They lived it each and every day.  The farmer should receive the reward for his effort.  Paul was planting and watering the seeds of Godliness in Timothy as well as his grandmother and mother.  Paul had laid his hands upon Timothy, apparently with other elders, and God has provided Timothy with his spiritual gifting.  Timothy was to teach others.  Their spiritual growth and resulting efforts would be reflected back upon Timothy as he sowed and watered their seeds.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question: When engaged in my work, am I following the rules?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, I thank You for Your love, patience, and persistence with me as I try to obey You and do Your will.  Thank You for Your many mercies that renew every morning.  Thank You for showing me the Truth, and giving me the opportunity to do Your will.  Thank You for freeing me from the bondage of sin, and giving me the freedom to follow and obey You.  Thank You for revealing Your Son to me.  Help me to do all that You have instructed me to do, in the way that I should do it, so that it would honor and glorify Your name.  This I ask in the name of Your Precious Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Combat Training with God – Ephesians 6:10-13

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

Evil people are not our enemy; the devil and his minions are.

We forget that people are not the real enemy because they are the tools of the enemy for the visible manifestations of evil.  We see people do horrific things out of malice, indifference, ignorance, or selfishness.  We get so tied up in dealing with the tools of the enemy that we forget who the enemy really is.

One of the interesting aspects of this is that the enemy has ranks.  Just as in a human army, the demonic army has its authority structure as well (the rulers, the authorities, and the powers of this dark world, as well as the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms).  When the archangel Gabriel was delayed in bringing a response to Daniel, he indicated that it was due to a battle with the prince of the Persian kingdom, and that the archangel Michael came to assist him to overcome the resistance to bring the message.  Gabriel, an angel, could wipe out any human being.  This was a power of our dark world.

Sin blinds us to the spiritual.  But it is recorded in scripture that Balaam’s donkey saw a Christophany (a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ before He took on flesh) and wouldn’t move.  Balaam beat his donkey, and in a very interesting turn of events, God opens the mouth of the donkey to speak (when was the last time you were at the zoo and the animals spoke to you?  The serpent spoke to Adam and Eve…)!  But this isn’t the only time we see that we are blinded to spiritual things.  Elisha asked God to open the eyes of his servant to see what the servant was spiritually blinded to – hills full of horses and chariots of fire.

When we see people do evil things, remember that they are the servants of their father, just as we should be the servants of our Father.  The only difference is that they don’t really have a choice in the matter.  Every person that you see is in one kingdom or another.  God marks His own with a mark – the Holy Spirit.  The devil is a counterfeiter, and marks his own as well.  And every spiritual being in the heavenly realms can see the marks.  But God, in His grace and mercy, seeks them out through His servants.  And when we don’t do our job fighting this spiritual war, He will intervene and reveal Himself.

Gird up with the full Armor of God.  Recognize who you fight this day, soldier of Christ, and, when you have done everything that you can, STAND.  The word stand is interesting as well.  It is intended to give a visual of a Roman soldier placing his shield in front of him, hunkering down behind it, and digging his feet into the ground to bear up under the pressure of an attack.

In light of this, let us now look with our eyes using this lens at those who wrong us, who run us off the road, steal our identities, mug us, rape us, murder us, and perform every other kind of evil against us, as prisoners in a war that they don’t even know is going on around them, let alone know that they are active participants.

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have given us spiritual life in You.  You open our eyes to reality in Your Word, and show us Your heart and intentions.  Help us to see this world and all in it as You do.  Remove the spiritual blinders that we have, and open our eyes that we would be better prepared as we are engaged in Battle.  We pray that You will go before us this days, and make our paths straight, and make them known to us, that we may do Your will and Your will alone.  Help us to give grace, mercy, and forgiveness to all who wrong us, as You did and still do to us.  Make known today to us our marching orders, and may our spirits be sensitive to You when You ask us to make corrections.  This we pray in the precious name of Your Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?