There are many places in history where a great leader for the Lord is also a great soldier. Or where a great soldier, a great military leader is also a great leader for the Lord. And that's the reason I thought I'd preach today on the subject of, "Soldiering for Jesus Christ."
Turn with me now to II Timothy chapter 2. There are many suitable references one could read. And by the way, I've got a little problem this morning. I usually have a one hour tape on that machine, and this morning I found out I only have a forty-five minute tape left to record it with, so I've going to have to cut it short today. So, we'll try to get in all the main points anyway.
Second Timothy 2:3-4. You may remember that, of course, in the whole of the books of I and II Timothy, Paul is writing to a young preacher boy that he'd been training. He'd been working with Timothy. Timothy had been sort of a right hand, number one assistant for Paul for quite some time. And now Timothy is off away from Paul, working for the Lord in another place and so Paul is writing in these letters and the Spirit inspired Paul to write these words, I believe, for our benefit as well. So let's read there now in II Timothy 2:3-4. And remember to whom he's speaking. He's speaking to this young preacher that he had been training.
It says: "Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier."
Notice these words especially --- "That he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier."
When we begin to think about the Christian life, or soldiering for Jesus, and think about the Christian life as a good soldier, there are several things that one must think about.
First perhaps, one should think about enlistment in service. Enlistment. Yes, enlistment. You know, there are many different expressions which are used in various parts of the world meaning approximately this same thing --- enlistment in service. In many parts of the world as you know, they have national service or the draft as we call it in the United States. Where men are called up, they have no choice about the matter, they are called and they go, or else. You know, in the United States it says something like this: "Greetings, a committee of your neighbors has decided that you should serve in Armed Services, etc." And that's it. And you go, or else.
Of course, they may word it in different ways. They probably have a little telegram something similar to that here in South Africa. "Greetings, the minister of defense," or whoever it is that says it has decided that your term of national service shall begin at such and such a date, and place.
Now that's what we think of as being drafted or called up by force, we might say. In other words, not by choice but by force of law. That's not really what we think of when we think of enlistment, is it? That's a different situation from enlistment. Enlistment is where you volunteer as, for example, my son. Back some years ago when he was about to be drafted into the Army, he didn't want to go into the Army, therefore he enlisted or volunteered and signed a four year enrollment in the Air Force of the United States. And then later he extended it and went on another year. But there's a difference between being brought in by force of law and coming in as a volunteer, by voluntary enlistment, isn't there? There's quite a difference.
This enlistment in service in the case of a Christian is never by force. That is, the opportunity to enroll in God's army is always there for every man. He doesn't close the door against anyone. Nor does the Lord go out and round them up and drag them in tied in ropes and say, "Okay, you're in the service. Period." He doesn't do that, either. It's a matter of volunteering. A matter of your choice whether you become a part of God's army or not. So, it's a matter of enlistment or voluntary enrollment in God's army.
Matthew chapter 4 is a good place to read, beginning with verse 18, where it says in Matthew 4:18-22 these words: "And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And he saith unto them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.' And they straightway left their nets, and followed him. And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them."
Now Jesus didn't go over there and say, "Okay, the law says you start service in My army day after tomorrow, and you'd better be there." He didn't do that, did He? That's the way the draft works and that's the way national service works, isn't it? But that's not the way enlistment in God's army works. It's an all volunteer army ---every Christian soldier is a volunteer. You have a choice. And you must make the choice. The opportunity for enlistment in God's army is there but you're not forced to join it. You have to make the decision. You have to make the choice.
The opportunity is open to all men. And this fits in with the passage of Scripture which says, "The grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men." The Scripture says that in those exact words. That's a direct quotation: "The grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men." (Titus 2:11). So it's emphasizing in that passage, of course, the fact that the opportunity for enrollment in this army is open to or has appeared to all men.
But notice here what happened. I didn't read the last verse yet of our passage here in Matthew. I want to read it to you now. The Lord went walking by the sea of Galilee and saw two brethren. He called them, Simon or Peter and Andrew. He saw them casting their nets in the sea because they were fisherman. And He said to them, "Follow Me." And they followed Him. But it doesn't just say they followed Him. What does it say? It says, "They straightway left their nets, and followed him." They immediately left their nets and followed Him.
Then on down to this last verse that I didn't read to you yet, when He called the other two men, "James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother," they were in a ship with their father, Zebedee, fishing. Or mending their nets, getting ready to fish, as it says there. And He called them and then what happened? "They immediately," it says, "left the ship and their father, and followed him." Now they didn't have to leave that ship and follow Jesus. He didn't go over there and rope them and tie them and drag them along or He didn't use His power as the Son of God to force them to follow Him, but He called them and they answered. And they followed immediately.
Now this voluntary enlistment is an important principle to remember in soldiering for Jesus. There's a voluntary enlistment in the Army. But some people, after they have voluntarily enlisted, may decide they don't want to serve as they should. And that's true of Military services today. Sometimes a fellow volunteers into the service and then he doesn't follow through with it the way he should. But this army of the Lord is all a volunteer army. And we see here, whether you want to call this forced draft or call up or national service or whatever you want to call it, still it was voluntary because they didn't really have to follow, did they? But they did.
Now no matter whether you call this draft or volunteer, in this case here and in the case of all Christians, there's one thing that you must understand. And that is, any enlistment as a soldier for the Lord is for the duration. Yes, it's for the duration. That eternal life that we get at the moment we enlist in His army is eternal. It's really eternal. It's really everlasting. And our service that we are obligated to render to Him when we enlist in His army is for life. It's not just for two years or five years as most of the military enlistments on earth are, but it's a permanent enlistment, for the duration of the war.
And when is the end of the war? The end of the war is at the end of the Millennium, after the last great battle with Satan. And then after that there won't be any special need for any more Christian soldiers because the devil will be eliminated permanently from action. He will no longer be a problem. But until that time of final victory comes, from the time you're saved until then, you are in the Lord's army for the duration of the war. Which is, as I said, until the end of the Millennium.
There's not going to be any AWOL. I don't know whether you use that expression here or not. I guess you probably use one similar to that, don't you? Absent without leave. That's just not going to be permitted at all. When you enlist in the South African army, you think, "Boy, they can catch you pretty well here if you go AWOL" --- you haven't seen anything compared to what God can do when you go AWOL. You just haven't seen it at all. Because He can catch you anywhere you go and sort you out. After you enroll in His army and you go AWOL, He can straighten you up fast. And He will, too. They don't have to send the military police out to look for you in His army; He knows right where you are. And He knows exactly what you're doing and all about it. So they don't have to send out the military police to hunt for you. In His army, He's already got you pegged to begin with. Right from the beginning, He's got you pegged. No AWOL.
And another thing, there's no end to this term of service, as we said. Because you are in for the duration. Until the end of the war. And the war won't be over until the end of the Millennium. And the Millennium is a thousand years. And then there's a seven year Tribulation Period ahead of that. So we know term of service is more than a thousand and seven years. If you got saved today and the Lord came back tomorrow, then at least you're in His army for a thousand and seven years because we know at least that length of time is still left. After the coming of the Lord to take the saved out for the Tribulation Period there will be seven years of Tribulation. And then there'll be a thousand years after the Tribulation Period when He comes back and reigns with us on the earth. So your enlistment is for at least a thousand and seven years from today. That's a pretty long enlistment, isn't it? After that, it'll go into the situation where we don't really need the army anymore but we'll still be in His army anyway.
This, remembering now we said no AWOL, no end to the term of service, unless you want to count that an end of it at the end of the thousand years, each one is willing to die for his King. A real soldier of the Lord is willing to die for his King. Back in the old days, millions of them did. Literally millions of them died as martyra. Even today, a great many still die for their King as martyrs. (Some estimates run as high as 400 or 500 per day either killed outright or severely injured by persecution world wide). And they serve our Great King willingly! They do it willingly -- all are volunteers, like some of the old martyrs. The stories of the old time martyrs are not just sad stories to make people feel badly, they're true stories. Millions have died in the service of the King!
Did you know that about fifty million --- Yes, that number is correct --- about fifty million died the martyr's death back during the worst parts of the persecutions? About fifty million from the time of Christ up until about 1850, about fifty million died as martyrs. And many of these people willingly died for their King. Some of these folks, (I remember one particular martyr about whom I read the true story of his death, he was over eighty years old and they tied him up to a post and were getting ready to burn him to death, burn him at the stake, and they said to him: "All you've got to do, we'll let you go, we'll turn you loose, we won't do any more to you, you just deny your faith and we'll let you go." He was up in his eighties. He said, "My King has loved me and cared for me all these years to the age of eighty-odd." And he said, "Shall I deny Him now?" And he said, "Light the fire." And they did. And he burned to death. This happened, and things like this really happened millions of times back through the years.
Now another thing about this soldiering for Jesus, we've been thinking mostly so far about enlistment in service, let's think for a few minutes about the fact that it requires involvement. It requires involvement. You know, that's a popular saying today, "Get involved!" But often, when they say, "Get involved," it means get involved in some kind of mischief about half the time, doesn't it? It doesn't really mean what we mean here. But it requires involvement to be a proper soldier of the Lord. Even after you get saved, then things are just getting started, aren't they? It's not just being a spectator to be a proper soldier, is it?
Buck (referring to a retired military man we had in the audience) knows that from his military service. You can't go out there and just be a spectator --- "Oh, boy, he killed a terrorist there, isn't that good?" And he's just standing there watching him. Or, "Boy, he can fly that plane, can't he?" "He can run those engines, can't he?" That's not the way to be a good soldier, is it? In order to be a proper soldier of any kind, either here on earth or a soldier for the Lord, you've got to really get involved. You can't be just a spectator and stand off to one side and watch it while your buddy is fighting the battle. That's not the way to be a soldier! And that is not the way you can be a good soldier for the Lord, either.
A good soldier will get right in there and take part in the battle. As a soldier you get involved, don't you? When you see a buddy over there about to be shot by the enemy, you try to help him some way. You try to rescue him or kill the enemy first or something to keep your buddy from getting killed. And that's the way it is about the service in the Lord's army, too. It's not a matter of just being a spectator and saying, "Well, we don't have anywhere else to go today, so we'll go down there to church."
That's not being a proper soldier for the Lord, is it? That's just being a spectator. "We'll go down there, well, they've got a good speaker coming today." Or, "They've got some kind of special program today, we'll just go to church." That's not it, is it? That's just spectator type soldiering and that's not really soldiering at all --- that is being a spectator! Being a soldier requires involvement!
The Christian soldier needs a proper attitude. He not only needs a proper attitude but he needs proper understanding and proper enthusiasm. Now if you've got a soldier in the army and he's just got a rotten attitude toward the whole thing and has no understanding and enthusiasm for his work or for the goals or for the needs of his work, then he's not going to be much of a soldier, is he? Just as well not have him, in fact, he's liable to get you killed. That's what he's liable to do. And neither is a soldier like that any good in the Lord's service. Without proper attitude, understanding and enthusiasm, a soldier is no good!
Romans 13:11-14 tells about the kind of attitude a soldier for the Lord should have. Romans 13, beginning with verse 11 says: "And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof." In other words, put God first in your life if you're going to be a good soldier for God.
The Christian soldier must or should do several things. And these things apply pretty well also to a soldier here on earth in our earthly armies or our earthly defense forces. If you turn to Ezekiel chapter 3, we'll read there a few verses that show what a Christian soldier must or should do. Ezekiel 3:17-21 reads: "Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me. When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul. Again, When a righteous man doth turn from his righteousness, and commit iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die: because thou hast not given him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he hath done shall not be remembered; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Nevertheless if thou warn the righteous man, that the righteous sin not, and he doth not sin, he shall surely live, because he is warned; also thou hast delivered thy soul."
Now basically, what he has said there is this: the Christian soldier must or should do several things. First, he must watch. We have watches that soldiers or defense force personnel have to perform, watching for the enemy, don't we? He must watch. He must stand fast. There is nothing worse in God's army or in an army here on earth than some low-down, yellow-backed coward that runs away instead of facing the enemy when he's supposed to be facing the enemy! There's nothing more contemptible than that. And that's true whether you're talking about God's army or a secular army here on earth. There's just nothing worse than a guy with a yellow streak about a mile wide down his back.
You say, "Well, how could he get a yellow streak a mile wide down his back?" I don't know, but some of them seem to manage it! Not many, but a few of them manage it. But the good soldier must watch, he must stand fast, he must be strong. He mustn't be a lily-livered little chicken that runs away when the first shot is fired, whether you're talking about God's army or a defense force here on earth. He mustn't be that kind because he'll get people killed that way! He'll lose the war that way. If enough of them are that way, the war will be lost! He must be strong.
How must he acquit himself? Like a man, the Scripture says. First Corinthians 16:13 says this: "Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong." Don't be cowardly about God's service. Just do it. Just do it, whatever the cost.
Ephesians 6:10-11 says this: "Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might." That is where our strength comes from. Not from ourselves, but from God in His battle. "Be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil." Put on the armor and then stand up against the devil. If you're a Christian soldier, then that's what you must do. There's no place for neutrality or draft dodgers. You don't use that expression "draft dodgers" here in Africa probably, because you don't use the word "draft" much if any here. (I believe the expression here in Africa is usually "Call up" for military service).
But there's just not any place for draft dodgers or for one who attempts to avoid his duty to go and defend his country when he is called. In the US a draft dodger is a fellow back in the war (we had some of these in the second World War), and then in the Korean War we had a very few. Very few in the second World War, and very few in the Korean War, but a lot of them in the Vietnam War.
When their draft call would come --- when their call up would come, they would just hide out and wouldn't report for service. And if they thought they were about to be caught, then they'd go to Canada, or they'd go to Switzerland and just stay there. A few of them even went to places like East Germany. A few of them even went to Vietnam itself, to North Vietnam. Hiding out from their duty, their call to duty in national service. There shouldn't be any draft dodgers though, hiding out from God's army. There's no place for neutrality in this war. You're either on God's side or you're against God. One of the two. There are just two sides in this war. There is no middle ground here. You're on one side or the other.
Numbers 32:6-7 says this: "Moses said unto the children of Gad and to the children of Reuben, Shall your brethren go to war, and shall ye sit here?" He says, "Look here," he says, "you can't expect these other tribes to go out and fight the battle, while you just sit here and take it easy. You can't do that," he says.
Reading further we see: "And wherefore discourage ye the heart of the children of Israel from going over into the land which the Lord hath given them?" He says, "You're discouraging the rest of them by trying to hold back yourself from the battle. This holding back from the battle --- we don't have time to read it today, but if you'll read sometime in Mark 5:1-17, you'll see that these same people who held back in the battle going over into the land that God had promised to the children of Israel, who didn't want to go and fight their part of the battle, still held back in New Testament days.
Even at the time of Christ, (which was about 1500 years after this), they were still holding back from the fight. Hundreds of years after the incident recorded in Numbers, all the way down to the time of Christ, the descendants of these same people were still affected by this staying out of the battle as these two tribes had done. We refer to the children of Gad and the children of Reuben. Mark 5 tells us that their descendants in New Testament times rejected Christ. The fact that they had withheld from following the Lord back in their earliest ancestors had passed down through all those years, and this bunch still rejected the Lord even in New Testament times. From the time of the children of Israel going into Canaan, way back then, until the time of Christ --- the descendants of that same bunch still rejected service in God's army!
Now hear some encouragement for Christian soldiers. There is plenty of encouragement for Christian soldiers. You know, there's nothing, I think, that encourages a soldier more than knowing for sure that they're going to win the battle. That is pretty encouraging if you could know ahead of time, every time you went into battle that your side was going to win. Wouldn't that be a tremendous encouragement? Well, we can know as Christians. We know who's going to win the war. We can't lose. There's no way that we can possibly lose te war if we are on God's side.
Romans 8:37 says this, "Nay, in all these things we are," what? Losers. No, it doesn't say that. We are more than conquerors through him that loved us." Also, if you read verses 38 and 39, he goes ahead and says this, "For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." There is no way to lose.
God protects the faithful Christian soldier while he fights the good fight of faith. Isaiah 43:2 says this about that when it says: "When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee."
And I've told some of you before, these two verses were written into a new Bible that was given to me just before I came back to Africa by a friend in the United States. And later the verses came true in my own life.
Another thing we must know as Christian soldiers that is that entanglements with the things of the world can greatly harm and hinder a Christian soldier in battling for the Lord. If we get too involved in things of the world, then we don't have time for the things of God. Money or wealth can be a hindrance to us. It doesn't have to be, but it can be. Our job can become a hindrance to us and yet, we've got to have jobs. If we have poor morals, if our moral standard is like the world, then it destroys our usefulness as Christian soldiers. If our moral standard is as low as the rest of the world, then we just don't have much standard nowadays, do we? Because the moral standards of the average person in the world are often very low.
Various other things can get in the way of being a good soldier. Political or family entanglements can get in the way of service to the Lord. I heard just the other day about an American soldier in Germany who was just about destroyed because his wife didn't like it in Germany and she had to go back home. She just left him, and went home. Wouldn't stay there. It just about destroyed him. And it is true --- even your family some times can get in the way of proper service to the Lord.
First Kings 19:19 says: "So he departed thence, and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen before him, and he with the twelfth: and Elijah passed by him, and cast his mantle upon him. And he left the oxen, and ran after Elijah, and said, Let me, I pray thee, kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow thee. And he said unto him, Go back again: for what have I done to thee? And he returned back from him, and took a yoke of oxen, and slew them, and boiled their flesh with the instruments of the oxen, and gave them unto the people, and they did eat. Then he arose, and went after Elijah, and ministered unto him."
Throwing his mantle on him was a sign of being called to become his student and follow after him in those days. We don't have time to develop that today but that's what it meant. And when Elijah passed him, then Elisha said, "Oh, no. Let me go back and see my mother and father." Elijah says, "Forget about it. If you're not willing to follow after God's work first and then your family, your father, and your mother and your other work second, then forget about it." And that's still true today of a Christian soldier.
Now in closing, the last thought. And that's this, final victory is assured for the Christian soldier. Total victory. It's absolutely guaranteed. We've never started into a battle or a war here on earth where the victory was absolutely assured, have we? --- never have. But in this war for the Lord, victory is assured. And it's not just one of these mixed up, messed up, partial victories like Korea, for example. It's not one of these mixed up, messed up, partial victories like we often have here on earth. But it's total victory that's guaranteed.
And then after this total victory, what happens? Dress parade. Yes, dress parade, or medal parade we might call here it in South Africa. And when we have this dress parade or medal parade, then we shall reign and rule with the King we serve. And I heard a kind of a funny story. I won't tell you who it was who told it to me, but his initials are Buck Taylor. I don't think he'll mind me telling this or I wouldn't tell it but it fits in right here as a good illustration of what I'm talking about.
When we get up there to that big medal parade in heaven, there won't be any problem like he had once at a medal parade one time he told me about that was funny. They were calling in everybody, you know. The reserves, and everybody that they could to build up a good number for this medal parade, to make it look good. Big, massed groups of marching men. And so, finally, they decided they'd better leave Buck out of it although they had called him up, because he might not understand the Afrikaan's words and might turn the wrong way or something and mess up the fancy parade. Now that's what would've happened to me if they shouted something to me in Afrikaans, I'd probably turn the wrong direction, too. But when we get up there to this medal parade in the sky, there won't be any trouble with understanding the language, will there? It will be in a language that we can all understand because we'll all be up there with the Lord.
Let's read these two or three verses quickly and close. First John 5:5. We said total victory is assured. First John 5:5 says: "Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?" Now that's plain enough, isn't it? The one that overcomes the world is the one that believes that Jesus is the Son of God.
Revelation 3:5 says this: "He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment." Okay, going a little further, Revelation 3:21 says: "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne." we'll be up there in heaven with Him.
Revelation 21:7 says: "He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son."
Isn't it wonderful as a Christian soldier to remember and to know and to meditate on these verses, showing that total victory is absolutely guaranteed and then we'll have that big medal parade in the sky and then we'll all be with the Lord forever? Heaven is not like some people seem to try to paint it to be, where you go up there and you just strum on a harp all day long and that's it! That's just a bunch of foolishness. There's nothing anywhere in the Scripture that teaches any such silliness about heaven.
This "time" that we spend in eternity with God will be on a perfect earth in a perfect situation of perfect delight (technically, there is no 'time' in eternity, of course, but we humans need the word i n order to comprehend). And each man will sit under his own vine and fig tree, as it teaches us he will also in the Millennium. Each man, in other words, will have his own place and there will be a universal perfect government over everything. And Jesus will be the King. There's nothing better than being a soldier of the King. Are you one today? If you're not, wouldn't you like to be one? You can be. Just trust the Lord, enlist in His service and you'll be a soldier of the King permanently. No way to get out after you once enroll. You can't ever get out.
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