In our series, The Last Word, Todd Wagner teaches through 2 Timothy 3-7 and the three metaphors given to us to be faithful Christians in our daily lives. We are encouraged to live as soldiers, obedient and faithful to our commander, Jesus.
Finishing Well | 2 Timothy 4
Inspect, Expect, and Respect | 2 Timothy 3
The Lost Art of Argument | 2 Timothy 2:23-26
Being Useful for the Kingdom | 2 Timothy 2:20-22
Dealing with False Teachers | 2 Timothy 2:14-19
Remembering Christ | 2 Timothy 2:7-13
Enduring Hardship | 2 Timothy 2:3-7
Defining Discipleship | 2 Timothy 2:1-2
The Last Word: 2 Timothy 1:8-18
The Last Word: Courage in the Cold
2 Timothy 1:1-7
In our series, The Last Word, Todd Wagner teaches through 2 Timothy 3-7 and the three metaphors given to us to be faithful Christians in our daily lives. We are encouraged to live as soldiers, obedient and faithful to our commander, Jesus.
`Well, good morning! How are we doing? Yeah! If you're just jumping in or watching this later, you're going to not know that David just made a joke over the fact that we just got through two verses last week. Let me just say this to you: the goal is not to get through the Bible; the goal is to get the Bible through you.
So we're going to spend all the time we need to with every bit of the Scripture God has preserved for us so that we might have it deeply embedded in us and germinate and bear great fruit. That's the goal. We're not here just to increase information; we're here to see if God might produce transformation. The goal here is not that you would get great notes in a lecture; the goal is life change. So that is why we are studying this amazing book, and we are glad that you're here.
I want to say hello to my fellow teachers, my fellow soldiers, my fellow athletes, and my fellow farmers, faithful agrarians. Husbandmen is what they used to call them. It is a pleasure to be with you. I'm glad, also, in addition to faithful teachers and soldiers and athletes and agrarians, we have some seekers. We have some folks who are here this morning who aren't really sure why we are willing to suffer hardship for this amazing truth that God has given us. So I pray that today the eyes of your heart will be enlightened and that you will come to know the kindness and the goodness of God.
We have been preaching to you all morning already through song. We have been declaring to you the kindness of God. I hope that you have already heard that there is nothing that you need to do or can do to earn God's love other than to acknowledge that you're nothing like him, and I hope you've heard us sing of his lovingkindness and his faithfulness and his goodness toward you and that you would long to know him and believe in him and, in seeing his grace, that you would then be strong in it and join us as teachers, soldiers, athletes, and faithful farmers.
Father, I pray this morning that you would get the Bible through us, that it would bear great fruit, that we'd be useful to you, vessels of honor that live to the fullness of your intention, mature men and women, strong, not distracted. Thank you just for the beauty of your Word, the joy we have in studying it, and what you're going to teach us today. Would you get busy in our hearts, producing in us that which would bring glory to you, joy to us, and good to others? You are a great God, that when we do the thing we were created for, which is give you honor and glory and worship, it blesses us. So teach us now. In Jesus' name, amen.
Well, you know it's a good day when, to prepare for the message, you listen to country music, and I did that. I have already today, I think maybe four times, listened to Toby Keith's "American Soldier." That's how I worshipped, honestly, getting ready this morning. I love that song.
Toby Keith, in that song, when he's talking about our American soldiers, he just says in there, "Listen, I can't call in sick on Mondays when the weekend gets too strong. I just work straight through the holidays and sometimes all night long." I love this line: "You can bet that I stand ready when the wolf growls at the door. Hey, I'm solid. Hey, I'm steady. Hey, I'm true down to the core." Then I sang along with him. I'm a Christian soldier, not American. It meters just fine. That's exactly what I pray that I am.
Some of you might be offended this morning that I call you onward as a Christian soldier, and I'm going to say I'm okay with that, but your problem won't be with me. It'll be with God's word, and I don't want to offend you with how I say things, but if God's word offends you, I'm okay with that. I don't want it to offend you. I want to present it in a way that's wise so that these words might be acceptable to you.
You need to know something. The metaphor of Christian soldier is thoroughly biblical. It shows up almost a dozen times in the apostle Paul's writings alone. He calls Epaphroditus his fellow _soldier. He calls his buddy in Colossae a _fellow soldier. He calls Archippus in Philemon a fellow_ soldier_. He tells Timothy in 1 Timothy 1, and again in 6, to fight the good fight.
So let's read this text. It was one of Paul's favorite metaphors, as was athlete and as was farmer. Let's read the Scripture together. I'm going to start in verse 1, and I'll read down through verse 7. "You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus." And in addition to you applying the text, make sure…"The things which you've heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also."
Now where we focus, especially this week. "Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 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." Then he changes metaphors right down there in verse 5. "Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules." Verse 6, another metaphor: "The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops." Verse 7: "Consider what I say…" Consider, reflect upon. "…for the Lord will give you understanding in everything."
Are you ready? This section of scripture is so great, so encouraging, so filled with truth, so applicable. Let me remind you what's going on here. In 2 Timothy, chapter 2… Again, there were no chapters and verses when Paul wrote the letter, but chapter 2, verse 1 is a summary of everything he already said.
He just said, "Hey, listen to me. Make sure you hold on to the gospel, the truth of Scripture, the glory and kindness of Christ and all that he's done. Make sure you don't lose the message and you don't lose an awareness of the love of God, because that's your job. You have been called for this purpose. It's a holy calling. Don't lose it.
Then he goes on from saying not just make sure you hold on to, but now verse 2, make sure you hand off. You got it? Verse 1, make sure you hold on to this. Verse 2, make sure you hand off, because you're going to die.
All soldiers die. All athletes grow old. Father time never loses. All farmers are eventually planted in the same dirt they tilled. If there's not somebody to go to war after you and somebody to compete after you and somebody to be faithful after you, the world will die. The wolf won't just growl at the door. The wolf will devour. So while you, Timothy, stay solid, steady and true down to the core, make sure you train other soldiers, inspire other athletes, teach other farmers.
The rest of the book, Paul is going to tell you what it means to be a disciple. So this text, if you want to know, Christian, what it is you're supposed to do, I'm going to start the message. This is what a disciple is. He uses the metaphor of a soldier, an athlete, and a farmer. So let's see what God might have us learn right here.
That idea right here, when he tells you to suffer hardship with me, I just want to make a note. This is so important. Paul is not just saying, "Timmy, go out there and die. Go out there and suffer." He says, "Suffer hardship with me." Remember what he said in verse 2? "The things you have learned from me… Great leaders don't ever ask others to do what they're not doing." Do as I say not as I do is a dead-end phrase that leaders use.
Mom and Dad, if you want to know why your kids don't want to live faithfully for Jesus Christ, I'm going to tell you it's probably because they haven't seen you live faithfully as Jesus Christ. I know you don't want them be crazy in high school. I know you don't want them to go and be active sexually and to watch movies that poison their hearts and to drink to the point of dissipation.
I'm just going to tell you, if they watch you take on content that is going to corrupt their heart, if they watch you think that the party starts when the alcohol rolls out, if they watch you be timid in your faith, if your kids have never seen you share your faith, never seen you make disciples, then don't be surprised that they don't make disciples.
Paul said, "I'm not telling you, Timothy, to go fight. I'm going to tell you to spill your blood. I'm telling you I've spilled my blood. Join me." Remember how I said, when we studied chapter 1 together, because we got pansies in the pulpit, we don't have the aroma of Christ in the pew. I love the comment that Tozer said, and that is this: "Today Christianity in the Western world is what its leaders were in the recent past and is becoming what its recent leaders are."
I take it really seriously when I think about who our leaders are at this church, and if we can't say with integrity "Follow me, imitate me as they imitate Jesus Christ…" If you, to a watching world, can't say, "This is what a Christian is," then we've got trouble. It is the law of creation in Genesis 1:24 that creatures produce after their kind…after their kind. That's the law of creation, and we're not going to reproduce faithful people if we're not faithful ourselves.
You know, if you've been around here very long, that one of the ways that we engage people… I did it yesterday. I was having a conversation with somebody yesterday, and I just said to them, "Well, tell me, do you have a faith?" I do that just to begin to let them share a little bit about their story and just to listen and then to pivot off of that. I've been adding, lately, something to that, especially if they go, "No, not really." I then ask them this question: "Have you ever met a faithful Christian?" Because the truth is, most people have never met a faithful Christian.
I was talking to somebody from the East Coast not long ago and they go, "You know what? No, I haven't. I've met some churchgoers. I've met some nominal Christians, but I've never met somebody whose life had the aroma of divine. I've never met somebody who, because of Jesus, loved differently, led differently, lived differently."
Therefore, it's no wonder that they're not curious about Christ. What they've seen most of the time is the same kind of Christian that shows up in The Godfather, that you've got immorality and debauchery and then go and talk to the priest, ease your conscience, and go back to living for a different way of life. The world is not impressed with our journeys to buildings. The world will be impressed when Jesus lives and journeys through us and we become like him.
Look what Paul says. He is a good leader, and good leaders are always individuals who say, "Follow me. Suffer hardship with me as a good soldier of Jesus Christ." There is that offensive phrase. We don't like the term "soldier" for a lot of reasons today. One of the most famous reasons is because people throw the Crusades at us. Most people don't know anything about the Crusades except they were told they should hate Crusaders.
There is no doubt that there were some individuals who were zealous to further what they thought were God's purposes, and they were Machiavellian more than they were followers of the Messiah. Machiavelli is a leader that basically his worldview was the ends justifies the means, so there were times that people did things that were completely contrary to the way of Christ in order to further the kingdom of Christ, and it's haunted us to this day.
Here's the deal: being a soldier is not the problem. It's like people talking about toxic masculinity. I agree toxic masculinity is a terrible thing, but biblical masculinity is a blessing. I have nothing to do with toxic masculinity, and I have nothing to do with toxic soldiers, but I want to be steady and ready, and when the wolf growls at the door, I want to be ready to lay my life down and work through the holidays and sometimes through the night, because I am about it.
So when Paul says, "…as a good soldier of Jesus Christ," let me just tell you, I have asked some people to pray for me at this point in the message because I don't want to start singing, because I will hurt you if I do, but there is a song that we don't sing very much anymore. It is "Onward, Christian Soldiers." You remember that song? This is where you need to pray that I don't start singing. We don't sing it much anymore. It's got a very hup-two-three-four feel to it.
It was written by a guy about 150 years ago. They used to, on what's called Whit Monday, which Whitsuntide is just an Old English way of talking about the miracle of Pentecost… Pentecost is when the Spirit of Christ fell upon people, so for whatever reason, the English took Pentecost and called it Whitsuntide, and there was Whit Sunday, which is Pentecost Sunday, and Whit Monday is when school children…because they train kids as an extension of building into the future of the nation.
They built into them the Judeo-Christian ethic, so at their schools they would continue the conversation of moral training and virtue, and they knew that the highest levels of moral training and virtue were found in Jesus. So they taught it in their schools, just like America did, until the 1960s.
Let me ask you a question. We were not a pristine nation before 1960, but if you're asking me if I want America pre-1960 or I want America today,I want to say that one of the big problems of America pre-1960 is that the church was not a Spirit-filled church and didn't speak against, specifically, the sin of racism that had haunted our country.
From the very beginning, when we were a hypocritical nation, we said all men were created equal, unless they had too much melanin, and that was the proverbial fly in the punch bowl, which is the kindest way to say it about our country from the very beginning. By and large, with that one inexcusable exception, we were a better country prior to 1960 than after.
Now, interestingly enough, we started to pay attention in 1960 because a Christian rose up and started to say, "This cannot be." I'm glad we're paying attention to that, but we have, while starting to make some ground in that area, had some significant erosion in every other.
The thing that changed our country is when we finally started to pay attention to God's word and what it really said about racism and did not distort the Scripture, because the Bible talks about slavery, but it's not talking about and has never talked about the African slave trade in a complimentary way. It's always been a sin, in your Bible, to kidnap somebody and to put them into indentured servitude. That is from the very beginning of your Bible to the end.
When the Bible talks about slavery, it's never talking about the African slave trade, ever. It never endorsed it. Because people didn't study 2 Timothy… In a few weeks, two weeks, we're going to study 2 Timothy 2:15, which says we should be diligent to show ourselves approved as a workman who doesn't need to be ashamed, who accurately handles the word of truth. Because we didn't do that, because we weren't faithful disciples, we used our Bible to continue to be un-Christian in that one regard.
I digress. We're going to get to that. What I say to you this week is we used to teach our kids God's Word in the schools. There was a young man that was the curate of a school, and he wanted his children… What they would do on Whit Monday, they would travel schools to schools. They would go from one town to another. They would go there, and it would be a reminder that the Spirit comes into you and gives you power, and you will be his witnesses in Jerusalem and Judea and then eventually the uttermost parts of the world.
So as the kids were moving, this young teacher goes, "I don't have the right song to teach them when they go along." So he started to say, "I'm going to write one." So he sat up all night and he wrote this song, the lyrics of which are now before you.
This is the song he taught them. If you're filled with the Spirit, this is how you live. It is thoroughly biblical. "Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war, with the cross of Jesus…" That's 2 Timothy 2:1. "…going on before. Christ, the Royal Master, leads against the foe. Forward into battle, see his banner go." Watch this. "Like a mighty army moves the Church of God, brothers, we are treading where the saints have trod. We are not divided."
I love this line. "All one body, we, one in hope and doctrine, one in charity. Onward, then, ye people, join our happy throne. Blend with ours your voices in the triumph song. Glory, laud, and honor unto Christ, the King. This through countless ages, men and angels sing." That is thoroughly biblical.
Can I just tell you something? You may not know this, but in August of 1941, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt left the coast, the East Coast, and he got on the presidential yacht. Did you know we had a presidential yacht? You might go, "Well, I figured we did the last four years," right? We had a presidential yacht way back in the 1930s. It was called the USS Potomac, and they made big fanfare about the fact that Franklin Delano Roosevelt was getting on the Potomac.
They said he was going on a fishing holiday up off the coast of Newfoundland. So there were a few reporters that were on the Potomac with him, or following on other little boats around, and they took off, and they went up north off the coast of Canada where there's great fishing to this day. In the middle of the night, they snuck FDR off the yacht on to the USS Augusta, and they had him go there and sit for four days.
Then on the British battleship, the HMS Prince of Wales, Churchill had sailed across from England, and they met for four days. We thought our president was on a 10-day fishing trip, and he was having a secret meeting with Churchill. Churchill knew that if America did not get involved, Germany was going to swallow up Europe, so he was there to make a case to FDR, "You've got to get in the game," and what was formed is what is called the Atlantic Charter.
Now, here's what you need to know. First, Churchill came off the Prince of Wales on to the Augusta and met with FDR. That was on August 5, but on August 6, it was a Sunday, and they took FDR over to the Prince of Wales. What Churchill did on that particular Sunday is he said, "I want you to come worship with me," and he planned the service.
FDR and Churchill sat through a church service on this British battleship, and the hymn that Churchill chose to close the church service with was "Onward, Christian Soldiers." What Churchill knew is, he said, "If we can use the same language and sing the same hymns, we will have the same mission." He said, "It brought us together."
He went back and reported to his cabinet. He said, "Franklin is with us. He is not going to publicly declare war, but he has promised that he would engage with us, and he's going to look for the right event to get them all in." FDR went back to his aide, and he said, after those four days with Churchill, "If nothing else happened while we were here, that joint service cemented us to fight against the monster that was Hitler."
Do you remember the words to the Toby Keith song? "The wolf growls at the door." He's saying, "The monster is at the door, and you can sleep well because I'm awake." Can I tell you why America has been in trouble? It's because soldiers are sleeping, and we have not been involved the way that we are to be involved. We have been told that soldiers are evil and men are toxic. It doesn't surprise me, because that's what the wolf growls. That's what he says. God says, "This is true," Satan lies.
Men are not the problem. Soldiers aren't the problem. It's godless soldiers and godless men that are the problem. Men are God's provision. Christians are not haters. They are God's provision, and we are to suffer hardship, not in the war against those that are held captive by Satan to do his will but against the enemy that holds them captive. We are to set captives free. We don't declare war on captives. We declare war on the enemy that has them imprisoned.
Sometimes they've got a little Stockholm syndrome. You know what that is? It's when captives start to think that their captor has their best interests in mind. Does that describe a non-Christian? "Hey, buddy, you keep serving me. You can do whatever you want to do. You don't have to listen to God. You don't have to have morality. You just do what I… You used to be free." Except that freedom isn't free. It leads to bondage and slavery.
So we want to be individuals that are soldiers. What is a soldier? A soldier has three things. You ready? This is how you study your Bible. You just stop and go, "Why did Paul use this metaphor?" Here's why: because it preaches. By the way, if you want to know what I think Paul's really doing right here, this is pretty insightful. I say that not because I thought of it, all right? I realize that didn't sound so good. "Let me take a moment to tell you how brilliant I am and how fortunate you are that I stand before you today." No.
I heard one guy say, as he was looking at this, that in Romans 2:3 he talks about a soldier, which to a Roman would have really communicated, "You live to serve your king." To be Roman was to be a soldier. It's like in Israel, every single Israelite from 18 to 20 serves.
By the way, just a total rabbit trail just to let you know a little bit about me. I have on my phone a little note and it's called things I would do if I were king, and periodically I just add something else to the list. Like, just so you know, if I'm king, I'm going to realign all college leagues back to more geographic-centric leagues. West Virginia has no business being in the Big 12. Let's get the old Southwest Conference going. Again, the Big Eight was just fine. So that's on my list. I would just realign all that.
I would not allow Hollywood to make a movie if they didn't, along with that movie, produce a G version. So you can go ahead and make your R movie with all the f-bombs you want, but I want a G version of Goodfellas. So you can make your movie, but you've got to make one for the kids, and every kid needs to watch Goodfellas on VidAngel at some point in their life, probably after 40, but that's another point.
Anyway, I've got a long list. One of them is I would reinstitute the draft. You would learn how to be a soldier. From 18 to 20, you kiss your son on the cheek and you say, "This is your drill instructor. You never made your bed for me. You're going to learn to make it for him. See you in two years." They would learn to rise up early, and they would learn to stay up late, and they would learn to be men. So there is a list of other things that are on my platform. If they ever have an election for kings, I will submit it to you.
In verses 3 and 4, he's talking about soldiering, which would appeal to Romans. In verse 5, he's talking about athletes, which would appeal to Greeks. That's where the Olympics come from. So he's saying, "Hey, you guys admire your athletes, so let me just appeal to the Greek." In verse 6, he talks about the hardworking farmer, which everybody knew, if you didn't farm, you died. Nature was very unforgiving.
So he's using metaphors that connect with people, and this metaphor of a soldier works. So here's what you got to have if you're a soldier. Every soldier has got a commander. Every soldier has a commission or a campaign or a calling, whatever C you want to use, and every soldier has got a country. Now, I'm going to give you one more C. It's verse 4: "No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he might please the one who enlisted him as a soldier." Every soldier concentrates. He's not distracted.
There are three things… I'll give you a fourth next week, but I'll give you three things that always pull people off being faithful Christians. One of them we're going to study in several weeks, which is they are deceived with doctrinal error. They don't hold fast to the gospel. They start to corrupt this text and they're not faithful men who show themselves approved.
So some people are deceived by doctrinal error, and it's why 2 Timothy 2:15 is in your Bible. Some are disqualified by moral failure. They are no longer fit to lead. They can't say, "Follow me." They can't say, "Imitate me," because they are godless men, and they're trapped in their lust and in their licentiousness, so they can't lead.
I'm going to tell you where I think most of us in this room, if you haven't already seen yourself in the first two, find ourselves today, and it's why I needed to teach 2 Timothy 2, 3, and 4 to you and be reminded of it myself. They are distracted by too many things. You are entangled in the affairs of everyday life, and no soldier in active service does that.
The problem with most Christians is they are inactive. They muster, but then they don't go to war. Too many of us come to our little Christian muster every single week, and we say duty, honor country, and we leave here and we get distracted and off duty. We don't live with honor, and we don't remember that this land isn't our home, and we forget that we are citizens of another kingdom.
So God doesn't want us just to muster up. It's important when you muster up that you hear words from your commander that the whole army assembles so you know you're not alone and you're reminded of your campaign and your calling and that you are not home yet. You are in active service.
Christian, do you know that? You have been enlisted. God believes and agrees with me. He has conscripted you with a holy calling. If you know Jesus, your number has been drawn and you have been conscripted into service. The problem is that the Christian soldier is not like what Toby Keith is saying about with the American soldier. The Christian soldier is not ready and steady and true to their core, and what the Enemy does is he takes us and he gets us busy.
I love the acronym for busy:Being Under Satan's Yoke. He just throws mortgages and kids' sports and Netflix and everything at you so you'll chill, and it pulls you off mission. The world doesn't just have a wolf that growls; the world has a wolf that devours it. Soldiers aren't at their post.
Hey, this isn't just a muster so I can be impressed with how many troops come to this muster. We are soldiers in active service, and if we're not, we need to repent or we need to question our calling. That's what Paul's saying right here. I'm going to tell you this real quick, soldier. You're going to bail out if you don't know your commander. You're going to bail out.
You'd better know two things about your commander. This is what allows me to be faithful and obedient. I know that my Commander is competent. He's not going to call me to do something… A soldier, when they're given an order, doesn't go, "Hey, before I run off and do that, can you explain that to me?" It's "Yes, sir. Sir."
Because it's the job of the commander to see the whole battlefield, to see all of history, to see everything that he's got going on in your life, and you may not like what he calls you to do. It may not make sense to you that you've got to scale Pointe du Hoc to take out these machine gun nests, that you've got to climb a 100-foot cliff while they disengage the rope that you shot up there and while they shoot down at you with artillery.
You might not understand it, but you don't see the big picture. Your job is just to say, "All right, here we go. Not my favorite assignment. I don't want to lay down my life for you, but if I have to, I will, because you see something I don't see, and you're competent, and your character is good.
That's the second thing you need to know. If you don't believe in the wisdom and the goodness of God, you will not be a faithful soldier. You will constantly challenge your commander, you will abandon the campaign, and you will question whether the country that is coming that is filled with glory is worth living for.
That, my friends, is why you read this book. That is why you see that your commander says, "I'm the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, of weak, fearful, pagan liars and compromisers who abandon their post, and I keep pursuing them and keep the promise going to them, and they are faithless, but I am faithful." Guess what the next section of 2 Timothy is. It talks about the character and the competency of your Commander. So you have got to read this book because it tells you great war stories, how he never loses.
I read a long time ago Woodrow Wilson, one of our presidents, said he would rather be the loser in an ultimately victorious cause than a winner in an ultimately defeated one. Christian, sometimes you're going to lose the battle, but you are going to win the war. It's called a Pyrrhic victory. Have you ever heard that term? That's because Pyrrhus was a Greek king that in 280 BC went and attacked Rome, and he won two decisive battles. He took his 25,000 men and 20 elephants and marched into Rome, but the Romans were ticked. He was in Rome and not in Greece.
The Romans, though they were defeated, rallied, and they conscripted more men, and Pyrrhus, even though he had won the battles leading to Rome, realized there were no more Greeks here to reinforce his armies. He had lost a bunch of men, including his commanders, so he was under resourced and under-led. So though he marched into Rome victorious, that Pyrrhic victory that he accomplished on the way out, he got back on some boats and sailed back to Greece, and Rome won the war, even though they lost the battle.
You want another one? The Battle of Bunker Hill, that was a Pyrrhic victory. The British wanted the high ground so they could control Boston Harbor, so they came charging at them. They outmanned the American Revolution. It was the very first battle, the American Revolutionary War. What happened was they won. The Battle of Bunker Hill, which we rally around, was won by the British. Why do we rally around that? Because about twice as many British leaders died, including 100 of their commanders, and they were in America and could not resupply.
So Nathanael Greene, the leader of the American Revolutionary forces… America got beaten there, but they rallied, and they got some strength, and they said, "We'd like to sell you another hill for the same price," because that was a Pyrrhic victory. That's why when we sit here today we don't make a big deal about Harry and Meghan, because we could care less about British royalty, unless you are distracted and spend too much time on Entertainment Tonight and you are a bad soldier. Stop it, all right?
So back to the text. I love this. "No soldier in active service…" That word right there… One of my favorite games as a kid was Stratego. Anybody ever play Stratego? Yeah, I loved Stratego. That is just from the Greek word which means active soldier: strateuō.
I like this right here. The word entangles right there is the word emplekō. It's the word that we get implicate from. When you implicate somebody, what you're saying is that they are involved in an incriminating way. A soldier that is too given to the things of this world is emplekō. They are implicated in an incriminating way. You're doing things you shouldn't do. Good soldiers don't have side hustles. They are 100% committed.
I love the way one of my friends talks about this. Paul, in Philippians 3:13-15, watch this. This is Paul, when he talks in Philippians 3:13-15. He says, "Brethren, I do not regard myself of having laid hold of it yet, but one thing I do…" _ Not 40 things I dabble at. I am not distracted by anything. _ "… one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind…" Why? Because I'm no longer a civilian and I don't live for comfort. I live for that which I've been called to. I live for my campaign, and I forget that I was civilian. I shaved my head, so I don't need a blow dryer. I don't live to eat; I eat to live. An MRE will do just fine. I am denying myself comfort because the wolf growls at the door. Do you see that?
What's going on right here is Paul saying, "This one thing I do, I forget that I'm a civilian, because I'm not a civilian. I reach forward to what lies ahead." Do you know what lies ahead? Glory. _ "I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God." _ Being a faithful soldier. I don't muster up and then go get distracted or live an immoral life or pervert the command of my Commander. I am about it.
That's why he says, "Let us therefore, as many as are perfect…" In other words, as are mature, as are rightly trained as soldiers. This is verse 15: _ "Let us therefore, as many as are perfect have this attitude…" *"Think this way, soldier."He says, _ *"...if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you…" I would love to stay here. I've got so much more, but I must move on.
No, I'm not. I'm going to say this one thing about "Onward, Christian Soldiers." Does it surprise you that the Episcopal church doesn't put "Onward, Christian Soldiers" anymore in their hymnals? Does it surprise you that the Methodist church removed "Onward, Christian Soldiers" from their hymnals? You know why? Because they don't listen to their Commander anymore. They are arguing over what the Commander says about morality, and so they've lost their campaign because they don't want to be aliens and strangers to a post-1960 country and represent the country from where they're from.
So they have jerked this idea out of their hymnals because we don't we don't want to be here in a way that's just going to be uncomfortable. I'm telling you, not every Methodist, not every Episcopal, there's a lot of godly folks still there, but the Methodists have left as… Put it this way. Thank God for African Methodists which kept them from caving completely the last time they had their muster.
Now American Methodists everywhere are saying, "I think we want to split the Methodist church and have those that don't trust the same commander and don't live for the same campaign because we want to be okay with what this country thinks of us and those that are still holding on." Don't take it out of your hymnal. It's thoroughly biblical.
Look at verse 5. "Also if anyone competes as an athlete…" I love this right here, nominis _athleō. This term right here, where it talks about what an athlete… "Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules." What Paul uses when he talks about a competitive athlete, it's what we would say in our language today as a _professional_ athlete_.
What he's doing is he's picking up on verse 4 where he's saying good soldiers aren't entangled. Real, good athletes, they don't eventually get to their training. They are pros. They eat differently. They train differently. They don't have a 9-to-5 and then spend a few hours a week training. It's what they do 24/7.
The idea of being an amateur Christian is so thoroughly unbiblical. A part-time Christian doesn't show up in your Bible. Our core value here at Watermark is that we say full devotion is normal for a believer. Guess where it comes from? You are either in or you're out. You're either about it or you're not. That word right there that Paul uses is such a compelling word.
The easy way is the attractive way, and I'm going to tell you pleasure and indulgence have killed champions. Remember Rocky III? Here's your assignment, Church. Meditate on this text by watching Rocky III. Rocky III is where Mickey… Let me just walk you back through Rocky and Rocky II. The Italian Stallion beats Apollo Creed. He becomes the champion. That's I and II rolled up.
Rocky III. He has 10 title defenses as champion, but he has a statue that is placed in his honor there in Philadelphia. He's at a press conference, and a young hungry fighter named Clubber Lang shows up and mocks him and says, "You know why you're still champ? Because you won't fight real challengers." Rocky's ego gets involved, and Mickey's like, "Down, Rocky. You don't want to fight that brother." "What do you mean I don't want to fight that brother?"
So eventually he accepts the challenge. Clubber Lang baits him and he gets in, and Mickey says, "What are you doing?" Rocky says, "I can beat him. I've beaten 10 guys in a row." Mickey says, "I picked those fights carefully. You're no longer the man you were. You're not hungry, Rock. The kid's hungry."
That's what he says. He says, "You're compromised. You're about endorsements and statues, and I've picked those foes and they're not real fighters. You're still champ because you're fighting lemmings. Clubber Lang is going to club you." Rocky say, "No, I'll get him. Mick, let's go train." So where does he go to train? Vegas. It's photoshoots and distractions, and in the second round, he gets knocked out, and then he gets hungry again. Then he comes back and clubs Clubber Lang, and we get Rocky IV.
Rocky IV… No, I'll get… Go watch it, all right? I'm telling you, Rocky III is your assignment this week, and you see if you're not Rocky fighting a fake bunch of fights and calling yourself a champion Christian. Stop it. You've got to train. You've got to be hungry, because the wolf seeks to devour you. Clubber Lang wants to trap you in sin.
There's so much more in verse 5. Verse 6: "The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops." I love the phrase if you tickle the earth with a hoe, it will laugh with a harvest. But, boy, you'd better go to work, because nature doesn't just grow crops for you.
I'll give you another movie to watch this week. My wife begged me to watch The Biggest Little Farm with her. Have you ever seen that? There you go. There's your Netflix movie for the week, The Biggest Little Farm. We'd sit there sometimes, and she'd say, "What are we going to watch?" I go, "I don't know. What do you want to watch? Let's watch Rocky III."
She says, "No. We're going to watch The Biggest Little Farm." I said, "No." I said, "No. What's it about?" She goes, "It's about a couple that wants to start an organic farm." I'm like, "Oh, my goodness. If we were dating, I'd act like I was interested in sitting next to you, but we've been married for 30 years. No." On her birthday, this wicked wife of mine said, "If you love me, on my birthday you will watch The Biggest Little Farm."
My wife is brilliant. It is a fantastic movie, and I'm not kidding. If you want to just see what great filmmaking is, you watch The Biggest Little Farm because it is a story about a couple that wants to start an organic farm, and they had me from the go. I asked her forgiveness, and I called myself wicked. I said, "She is blessed, and she gets to pick the next five movies, unless one of them is The Notebook, and I'm not going to watch it."
So, anyway, this movie will show you what it takes to be a farmer. We all go, "I'd love living on a farm. I'd love some goats and bees." Let me tell you something. That movie shows you it is hard work to be a farmer. You work 24 hours a day. If you sleep, animals die, predators come, disease spreads, and the world starves. Verse 7: "Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything."
Let me just say this to you: If you're out there and you're listening and you don't understand what I'm talking about, just beg that God will open your eyes. If you're a non-Christian and you're here today and you don't understand why you'd want to serve my Commander, just say, "God, would you show me how competent you are? Would you show me your character, that you would demonstrate your love for me while I was not just an incompetent soldier? While I was captive to the Enemy, you came and died for me and set me free." Would you just pray that God would open your eyes?
If you're here and you're not an active soldier, if you are an amateur athlete, if you are not a hard-working farmer, would you just reflect? Do you want to know why the world is hungry and uninspired and getting pillaged? It's because we're mustering up and not living like it really matters. I hope you don't reproduce yourself if that's who you are. I hope you let us train you and you become faithful men and women so you, then, can make disciples that you can say, "Suffer with me."
Father, I pray for this body, that we would be faithful, that we would be about what it is that you've called us to, and that we would not be entangled, we would not be implicated that we are compromised, but that we would excel still more and walk worthy of the calling with which we are called. We thank you for the grace that is in Jesus Christ, so today we repent and we want to be strong in it again. Help us to hold on to your Word, and then as we do that, to hand it off to the next generation.
Father, let us know more of your good heart. Thank you that you are a commander that has gone before us, shown us the way, and then stays with us to strengthen us. Help us to not grow weary in doing good, for in due time we know we will reap if we don't grow weary. Be glorified in us. Strengthen us. Make us your disciples. In Jesus' name, amen.