Written and preached by David P. Nolte

2 TIMOTHY 2:3-4

During the Korean Conflict Billy Graham went for a Christmas Tour to preach to the missionaries and troops. In a field hospital about a mile behind the front lines, he encountered a young man who had been so badly wounded that he would never walk again. He was suspended in a special bed made of canvas and steel which caused him to face downward, looking at the floor. His spirits were stronger than his body and he gladly welcomed Billy to his bedside. He said, "We've all been praying for you and looking forward to your coming. I won't be able to be at the service." This young man with his horribly ruined body, but courageous spirit, represents all of us who endeavor to be soldiers for Jesus Christ and who suffer hardships along the way. Paul consistently urged Timothy to "Fight the good fight of faith" and endeavored to do so himself. In order that the young preacher might be a good soldier, Paul gives this admonition to Timothy. We need to know that it is also for us:
    1. By the time Paul wrote to Timothy his ministry was nearly done. He would shortly die a martyr's death in Rome. He was in a position to speak of suffering! He was no stranger to adversity. Listen to him:
      1. 2 Corinthians 11:23-28 "Are they servants of Christ? (I speak as if insane) I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure upon me of concern for all the churches."
      2. 1 Thessalonians 2:2 "but after we had already suffered and been mistreated in Philippi, as you know, we had the boldness in our God to speak to you the gospel of God amid much opposition."
    2. Not many of us stand in line to get our portion of suffering. We do all we can do to avoid it! We take pain killers, antacids, and allergy remedies to avoid suffering. Well, all right. Those sufferings which have no moral essence are okay to avoid.
    3. But anyone who imagines that the Christian life is one cushy trip, a rose garden with no thorns, a walk in the park, a festival of fun has missed the truth. Following Christ may bring its own suffering: persecution, alienation from the world, spiritual disciplines. You might suffer things as a Christian you would have escaped as a nonbeliever. The promoters of "feel-good religion" lie. The gospel is not "health and wealth, peace and prosperity!" Listen to what Paul said:
      1. Romans 8:16-17 "The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him."
      2. 2 Corinthians 1:5 "For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ."
      3. Philippians 1:29 "For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me."
      4. 1 Thessalonians 3:4 "For indeed when we were with you, we kept telling you in advance that we were going to suffer affliction; and so it came to pass, as you know."
    4. Does this mean that we must go out and purposely, masochistically seek suffering? Must we go out and locate the biggest, meanest, ugliest unbeliever we can and provoke him into breaking our face? NO! It means, though, that
      1. If it is a choice of either suffering for Jesus' sake or denying Him and falling from our commitment, the right choice is suffering. In Matthew 16:25 Jesus said, "For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it."
      2. If serving Jesus means inconvenience, cost, a change of personal plans and adjustment of our own agenda, be faithful! Pay the price, suffer as a good soldier!
This soldier knew what suffering was all about. He had been paralyzed by his injuries. For him, and all like him, civilian life was put on hold. His family matters, any educational plans, his career were on the back burner now as he endeavored to be a faithful soldier of the United States Armed forces. Things that were still important were not going to get in the way of his duty. So Paul counsels all who would be good soldiers:
    1. The word for entangled means to become entwined with, like an ivy wrapped around a post. Paul does not forbid normal involvement with daily necessities, but he does negate becoming wrapped up in them in any way that hinders our service. The affairs alluded to can involve
      1. Education.
      2. Employment, vocational and career concerns.
      3. Recreational pursuits, hobbies, and sports events.
      4. Health issues and care of the body.
      5. Purchases we all have to make for daily living.
    2. All these are well and good -- until and unless they become a snare to us! They become a snare when
      1. They are the major focus of our lives and they are all we think about and live for.
      2. We worry and fret ourselves about them: and we frantically ask, "What will we wear?" "What will we eat?" Where will we live?" And we forget our Father's kind and sure providence to His faithful children.
      3. We conclude that our security depends upon acquisition of these things. In Luke 12:15 Jesus said, "Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions."
      4. We become discontented with what we have and restlessly seek more and better things.
      5. We become selfish and greedy in reference to our things.
    3. The good soldier of Jesus is in charge of his things, they are not in charge of him. He is less concerned with making a living than making a life. He is not entangled with the affairs of this life but is deeply involved in the things of Christ.
    4. In reference to not becoming entangled Paul said, "Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." Hebrews 12:1-2.
Having laid aside his own personal concerns for the concerns of a nation at war, the soldier set himself to do a selfless task: to do all he could and even to die if need be for the sake of freedom. The young man learned, as do all real soldiers, to obey commands as they are given; without questioning, without hesitation; without expecting an explanation. It was his goal to be pleasing to his commander. So it is with every good soldier:
    1. Paul said it this way, too,
      1. 2 Corinthians 5:9 "Therefore also we have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him."
      2. Ephesians 5:8-10 "for you were formerly darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord."
      3. 1 Thessalonians 2:4 "but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men but God, who examines our hearts."
    2. It matters not who we do please if we don't please the Lord. It matters not who we do not please if we do please the Lord.
    3. How do we please Him?
      1. Romans 8:8 "and those who are in the flesh cannot please God." We please God by overcoming the passions and drives of the flesh.
      2. Colossians 1:9-12 "For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects,
        1. bearing fruit in every good work
        2. and increasing in the knowledge of God;
        3. strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience;
        4. joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light."
      3. 1 Thessalonians 4:1-6 "Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that, as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you may excel still more. For you know what commandments we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification;
        1. that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God;
        2. and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you." We please God by living morally pure and ethical lives.
      4. Hebrews 11:6 "And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him." We please God by faith.
      5. Hebrews 13:16 "And do not neglect doing good and sharing; for with such sacrifices God is pleased." We please God through generous giving.
    4. "Let us thus think often that our only business in this life is to please God" Brother Lawrence.
The soldier said to Billy Graham, "Mr. Graham, could I see your face?" Billy got down on his back and looking up into the soldier's hollow eyes, still stunned by his injuries, prayed with him. Then the soldier said to General Jenkins who was escorting Billy, "Sir, I fought for you, but I've never seen you. Could I see your face?" The general promptly got down on his back beneath the boy to look into the face of this young man who had given so much for his country. The young man had been a good soldier. After all has been said and done, when the final day of life is lived, when we are called away from earth to eternity, let us have served Christ so faithfully that we can say with Paul, as he wrote in 2 Timothy 4:7-8, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing." Serve Him well, serve Him faithfully, and then you can say, "Lord, I have fought for you. May I now see your face?" And as He reveals Himself to us in all His glory, though tears may have brimmed in our eyes, He will wipe them all away and receive us to Heaven and eternal life. Until that day, let us endeavor to be ever true and faithful, courageous and bold in standing with Jesus and standing by Jesus and standing up for Jesus.

Story from "Just As I Am" autobiography of Billy Graham, Zondervan

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