“Of Soldiers, Athletes, and Farmers!” #2

First Presbyterian Church of Elmer

107 Chestnut Street

Elmer, NJ 08318

Sermon Notes (Sunday February 28th, 2016)

Rev. Mouris Yousef, Pastor

 

Of Soldiers, Athletes, and Farmers!” #2

Psalm 27:1-6; 2 Timothy 2:1-7

 

A Minister stood at the door of the sanctuary to greet his church family after a Sunday worship service. As the Minister saw a church member approaching him whom he does not get to see more often, the Pastor thought to encourage the church member to walk faithfully with the Lord. As they shook hands, the Pastor said, “Brother, you really need to join the army of the Lord.” The man did not know what to say and wanted to just escape the situation, so he replied, “I’m already in the army of the Lord, Pastor.” So the Pastor enquired, “Then why do I only see you at Christmas and at Easter?” The man whispered back, “I’m in the secret service.”

 

Today we continue our meditations on 2 Timothy 2:1-7. The Apostle Paul uses three illustrations, three analogies, in describing the Christian way of living. Three important images the Apostle Paul shares with us in 2 Timothy 2: the soldier, the athlete, and the farmer. Paul encourages Timothy to willingly embrace sufferings for the sake of the gospel; a tough sell in our comfort-oriented culture as I said last Sunday. The question we wrestled with last week was: Where do we find the strength needed to stand our ground and endure opposition? In 2 Timothy 2:1 we read, “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” We are to be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.

 

Christians are in a spiritual warfare. The devil, the world, and the flesh are real enemies. These spiritual enemies are out to destroy the testimony and effectiveness of the believer. This morning we will spend sometime with the soldier analogy. The question I would like to ask, “What makes a good soldier?” I believe that there are two common traits, two important qualities, that every good soldier possesses which are necessary in our lives if we are to be good soldiers for the Lord – enduring hardships and avoiding entanglement. Please allow me to briefly address these two qualities this morning:

 

First: Endure Hardships

In 2 Timothy 2:3-4 we read, “Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs – he wants to please his commanding officer.” By all reports, throughout the history of humanity there appears to be more difficult place to live than on the battlefield. In the field of battle, conditions are less than ideal, at the mercy of the weather, whether it be snow, rain, sleet or scorching sun. The little sleep a soldier receives in battle is not in a warm bed, but in a few blankets on the hardened ground. The food eaten by soldiers in battle is sparse and of poor quality. But those who would ultimately win the day are those who are willing to endure the hardships.

 

In 2 Timothy 3:12 the apostle Paul warns his young friend Timothy that anyone who wishes to live a godly life in Jesus Christ will face persecution. Paul knew this too well for as he wrote this final letter to his dear young friend, he was chained as a criminal to a Roman guard. As the messenger carried this message to Timothy in Ephesus, the blade of the executioner was sharpened, and perhaps as Timothy read these words of exhortation, Paul may have already departed this earthly life. Enduring hardships for the sake of the gospel is a part of our Christian call. Think about how many of the early Christians lost their lives for their faith, even today how many around the world do the same.

 

I tell you the truth, this commitment, the commitment to endure hardships, will be tested and tried in so many ways. It will be tested and tried from spiritual battle, discouragement, feelings of inadequacy, and even temptations from within the church itself. But based on the grace God gives, we will be able to endure the hardships.

 

Second: Avoid Entanglement

“Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairshe wants to please his commanding officer,” says Paul in 2 Timothy 2:3-4. Any good soldier knows that he or she has no place in civilian affairs when they are at war. Good soldiers know that they must focus on their purpose and their goal, or risk being caught off guard when their enemy attacks.

 

Throughout Scripture, God warns His children of the dangers of worldliness, telling us to separate ourselves from the world and to recognize that we have been called out of the world. For Paul, the reminders of the draw of worldliness were fresh in his memory as all of his so called friends had abandoned him at his hearing in Rome and he writes of one called Demas in 2 Timothy 4:10 telling Timothy that it was the love of the world that caused him to leave.

 

When we visited Egypt earlier this month, a lot of church leaders there shared with us the reality of persecution of Christians. Often, pastors and leaders would ask us: how can we pray for the Church in the United States of America? I would always ask prayers for the temptation of worldliness. For the persecuted church the choice is clear and cut, it is the choice to live for Christ and die to all, or to abandon Christ to embrace the temporal things this world has and save their lives. But for us it is so much more difficult to avoid worldliness. Can worldliness be summed up in what we wear, how we speak, where we go, what we watch? Can we draw some sort of distinction between godliness and worldliness in a culture which tells us that everything is acceptable; that encourages us to be Christians who behave in every way like the others around us?

 

Friends, have we avoided entanglement with the world? Would you classify yourself as a good soldier of the Lord? A good soldier is a fighter that you can depend on to keep fighting until the victory is won. Are you that good soldier? Can Christ depend on us to keep fighting, even when we feel weak, even when we’re tempted to give up?

 

Let me conclude with the encouraging words of the Scriptures in Psalm 27:1-3, “The Lord is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked advance against me to devour me, it is my enemies and my foes who will stumble and fall. Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident.” Good soldiers of Jesus Christ, endure hardships and do not get entangled in things that are not honoring to our Lord. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Amen!

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