The United States Army abides under what is called, “The Seven Core Army Values.” They are, Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage. Soldiers learn these values and their meanings when they first begin their basic training. They are to learn them, understand them, and use them in everything they do from then on. Their minds are as conditioned as their bodies in order to be good soldiers for their country.
In his second letter to Timothy, the Apostle Paul encouraged his young associate to, “Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus,” (2 Tim. 2:3, New American Standard Bible, NASB). Metaphorically speaking, Paul was applying one of the core values of a good soldier serving the Lord Jesus. Paul could make this comparison since he had many encounters with Roman soldiers in his missionary journeys. Undoubtedly, he had witnessed the fortitude, discipline, and loyalty of the soldiers and their commanders he had met during his ministry (for example, Acts 21:31-40; 22:23-29; 23:10; 23:17-35; 24:1-27; 25:1-22; 25:23-27; 26:1-32; 27:1-44; 28:1-30). And the apostle observed how their military life reflected the values of an even more meaningful spiritual life of a soldier in Christ.
Applying the kind of values expected of believers, we consider how to be a good soldier for our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Here are seven core values for those in his army:
Core Value #1. A good soldier has faith.
Faith is belief, confidence, and trust. All three characteristics are essential for being a good soldier in Christ. If a soldier doesn’t believe in the cause for which he or she is fighting then the soldier is bound to be defeated. If the soldier lacks confidence, he or she will be weak on morale and motivation to overcome the enemy. If a soldier doesn’t trust his fellow soldiers and especially his superiors, he or she will likely be unfit for duty. Christians live by these standards of faith as they fulfill their duties as good soldiers of the Lord. Paul reminded Timothy, “And that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation THROUGH FAITH which is in Christ,” (2 Tim. 3:15). In fact, Paul commended Timothy for his sincere faith that was instilled in him through the influence of his godly mother and grandmother since childhood (2 Tim. 1:5). And Paul testified how he, himself, “Fought the good fight…finished the course…kept the faith ,” once he accepted the call of Christ in his career (2 Tim. 4:7).
Core Value #2. A good soldier obeys the commands.
No soldier should even think about questioning the commands of his officers. Rank is essential when a soldier is given orders. God, the Commander-in-Chief, gave his Ten Commandments to Israel. Jesus Christ, who was granted “all authority and power in heaven and on earth,” (Matthew 28:18) serves as God’s Appointed Supreme Commander in the office of Prophet (Deut. 18:15, 18; Acts 3:22), Priest (Psalm 110:4; Heb. 5:5-10; 7:1-3), and King (Isaiah 9:6-7; Luke 1:31-33; Rev. 19:16). We, as good soldiers, are expected to live according to the commands given through God’s Son. We are instructed to practice unconditional and unquestionable obedience to our Master for he knows those who are loyal to him (2 Tim. 2:19). We’ve enlisted in God’s army through Christ. And, therefore, we are under obligation to not allow ourselves to be entangled in worldly matters. “No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier,” (2 Tim. 2:4). Our duty is to obey the commands found in God’s Word. It is the instruction manual for achieving complete victory. “Be diligent to present yourself approved by God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth,” (2 Tim. 2:15).
Core Value #3. A good soldier makes sacrifices.
Good soldiers of Christ are willing to give of their time, their toil, their talent, as well as their blood, sweat, and tears for serving and honoring the Lord. When Paul spoke of suffering hardship like him, he wasn’t just blowing smoke. He went through more than most of us ever will as he took his stand for the Lord (2 Corinthians 11:21-33; 12:7-10). One of the distinguishing characteristics of a Roman soldier in Paul’s day was that every new recruit was branded with a hot iron. To have that brand mark is said to be an honor for being in the Roman army. The Apostle Paul used this as a metaphor for his sufferings for Christ. He said to his fellow soldiers in Galatia, “…I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus,” (Gal. 6:17). Just think of all the scars and wounds his body suffered from the beatings, whippings, and all other abuses for proclaiming the Good News of Jesus! But Jesus said this is what his recruits would suffer (Matt. 5:10-12). And then, of course, there’s the ultimate sacrifice. Jesus suffered, bled, and died for the sake of completing his mission—a true mission of love. He said to his little army of disciples, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends, if you do what I command you,” (John 15:13-14). Stories are often told of brave soldiers who died falling on grenades or standing in front of gunfire or diffusing loaded bombs in order to spare fellow comrades from fatal danger. Any good soldier of Christ is just as brave if it comes to sacrificing one’s own life while under persecution for sharing Christ with others and saving them.
Core Value #4. A good soldier has endurance.
You can’t think about sacrifice without including endurance. It is for the Gospel that Paul endured hardship. He stated, “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel, for which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned,” (2 Tim. 2:8-9). Endurance, like sacrifice, takes divine love in one’s heart. Love of this kind “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things,” (1 Cor. 13:7). You can have much faith, sacrifice everything, and endure all things, but without love, nothing is profited (1 Cor. 13:2-3). With godlike love you can endure with patience and kindness without becoming jealous, boastful, arrogant, unbecoming, selfish, or vengeful. Rather, you can endure because you are rejoicing with the truth rather than rejoicing in something not true (1 Cor. 13:4-6). When times get tough, the tough will endure. We are told that at the end of the age when perilous times will really get tough, it will be those who “endure to the end” that “will be saved,” (Matt. 24:13). It begs the question, “How tough am I to endure?” Our love for God and others (the primary essence of living God’s commandments—Matthew 22:36-40) provides the ability to endure with perseverance which can accomplish great things. It is written that “there are four steps to accomplishment: Plan purposefully. Prepare prayerfully. Proceed positively. Pursue persistently.” You never give up if you’re enduring as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
Core Value #5. A good soldier has strong will.
A soldier must have a very strong will to succeed. One cannot enter a battle without having the will or desire to move forward even when it’s against all odds. That does not mean one will not have fear in the face of the adversity. But the determination to enter any conflict with the help of God’s guidance and power will yield greater gains. Paul remarked, “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline,” (2 Tim. 1:7). The strength of our will depends upon how resolved we are to win life’s battles. But such strength does not merely stem from what WE want but from what GOD wants. He has supplied us with the grace or favor to make us strong through Christ. Paul said to Timothy, “You, therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus,” (2 Tim. 2:1). It is our reliance upon God that strength is found and the will to make progress regardless of the circumstances. Paul relied on God’s grace even though his “thorn in the flesh” was never removed (2 Cor. 12:7-10). We can endure only if we are willing to accept God’s will and, like Paul, declare, “that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”
Core Value #6. A good soldier knows the enemy and is adequately equipped.
What is a good soldier without knowing who he’s fighting and what he will need to fight with? Can you imagine a soldier going out to fight without any weapons and equipment? A good soldier of Jesus is no different when it comes to spiritual warfare. First, a good soldier must know the enemy—his strengths, his weaknesses, his knowledge and abilities and fighting patterns, and so forth. In Ephesians 6:12, our enemy is identified. Christians are not in a fight against an invading army of troops (“flesh and blood”). Rather, we’re in a battle “against the rulers, against the powers, against world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in heavenly (or, higher) places.” It would be easy to shoot from guns, fire the artillery, and march in an infantry against an opposing army that is fighting you compared to the kind of spiritual war we Christians are in. The forces opposing us are of a spiritual nature—higher powers that operate in the darkness of their wickedness, spreading their propaganda, persuading their victims to depend on them for false security, support, and strength rather than God and his Word. So, we take our stand against these powers but not with conventional weapons. No, we fight spiritual battles with something far more superior—spiritual weapons and equipment—“the full armor of God,” (Eph. 6:13). This will help to resist evil and take a firm stand in God’s truth. Therefore, “Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,” (Eph. 4:14-17, New Living Translation, NLT).
Care Value #7. A good soldier expects victory.
What good is fighting without expecting to win? A good soldier sees beyond the present conflict to the joy of receiving the crown of honor and glory. This is his hope. It’s the driving force behind one’s desire to succeed no matter the price. And there IS a price—a kind of spiritual death which will ultimately lead to life eternal. For Paul said to Timothy, “For if we died with him, we shall also live with him. If we endure, we shall also reign with him. If we deny him, he also will deny us. If we are faithless, he remains faithful; for he cannot deny himself,” (2 Tim. 2:11-13). Dying with Christ means that once we accept Jesus as Lord and Savior through faith, repentance, and baptism, we are no longer living in the dictates of our own sinful inclinations. Rather, we are now living a new way of life, under the Power of Christ taking priority in our lives so that we are now serving him as good soldiers and not ourselves. Since we are now living as his good soldiers, we can claim the promise that one day we will “reign with him.” This is referring to the Day of the Lord, when Jesus comes to call forth all the faithful—those in Christ who are living and those in Christ who are resurrected from their sleep of death (1 Thess. 4:16-18). And believers will be co-rulers with Christ in his kingdom when he reigns on earth as King of kings and Lord of lords (Rom. 8:17; Rev. 1:6-7; 5:10; 11:15; 19:16; 20:6). When the Kingdom of God is finally established, and all of his judgements are complete, those who will inherit his kingdom will be the good soldiers who served faithfully according to the scriptures. Sadly, all others (the unsaved who do not accept Christ) will be the fallen victims of their own refusal to join the army of God and his Son (Rev. 20:11-15; 21:8).
By the way, another metaphor regarding the war we are in as good soldiers in Christ is the sound of the trumpet. The trumpet, often the blowing of the ram’s horn, was like a bugle that called the soldiers to commence fighting. This goes back to the Old Testament when Israel went to war against their foes (Numbers 10:9; Joshua 6:4-20; Judges 7:8-20). Paul used the trumpet or bugle when he was speaking of misusing the gift of languages or tongues in worship services. He said to the Corinthian church, “For if the bugle produces an indistinct sound, who will prepare himself for battle?” (1 Cor. 14:8). In other words, if someone is speaking in a foreign language that others do not understand, then they would be as confused as soldiers who did not recognize a certain sound of the bugle that called them to war.
Then there’s the reference to the trumpet that will sound when Jesus returns to gather his church and to fight his battle with the nations. First, the resurrection of believers: First Thessalonians 4:16 says, “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and WITH THE TRUMPET OF GOD; and the dead in Christ shall rise first….” The sounding of the trumpet will signal the start of the coming eternal age of God’s kingdom as the dead in Christ are resurrected to immortality. Paul also refers to the sound of the trumpet in the Resurrection Chapter—First Corinthians 15:52. Next, is the REAL war that WILL END ALL WAR. After gathering his church which has met him in the air, Jesus will come down to Mount Zion and defeat the enemies who fight against him. This will be the final war known as Armageddon (Psalm 2:1-12; Joel 2:1-3:21; Zech. 12:10-11; 14:1-21; Rev. 16:16).
Good soldiers of Jesus Christ look eagerly forward to their eternal reward. The curse of sin will be removed for good (Rev. 22:3-4) and death will be no more (Rev. 21:4). And this gets us full circle to Core Value #1—Faith. “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that overcomes the world—our faith. And who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?…He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life,” (1 John 5:4-5, 12).
We are soldiers of the Lord for it his battle to win. Here is, “The Battle Belongs to the Lord,” by Maranatha! Music: http://youtu.be/vKD9ywL_OmA
Good News to YOU!