Christians are referred to by many different words in the New Testament—believers, disciples, saints, living stones, heirs, but perhaps one of the most unusual is soldiers. We may often wish to associate ourselves with love rather than war, but to ignore that we’re in a spiritual battle leaves us vulnerable to sin and false doctrine.
When it comes to being soldiers for Christ, hunger for God’s ways keeps us fighting. Jesus referred to such hunger in the Sermon on the Mount, when He said, “blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matt. 5:6). A longing for what’s biblically good and true means we forfeit some popular “nourishments,” but will be filled with something far better by God Himself.
Perhaps you don’t feel much like a fervent soldier. Timothy was a young pastor in Ephesus who felt the same way. Paul assured him God had not given him a spirit of timidity but of power, love, and discipline; the same is true for every believer (2 Tim. 1:7). We are called to follow in Paul’s footsteps—to be passionate in our pursuit of godliness (1 Cor. 9:25). This is what’s required of us as soldiers of Christ.
First, good soldiers are hungry for truth. “Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 1:13). Whenever the Bible says “the faith,” it is not speaking of personal faith but the entire body of Christian doctrine. All believers should crave biblical truth enough to seek and defend it.
This is necessary not only for personal spiritual protection but also for the church. What Paul wrote to Timothy applies to all of us: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). Handling Scripture accurately requires industrious study in order to interpret it correctly. If our hunger for truth is not strong enough, or is dulled by listening to false doctrine around us, we’ll try to support our own ideas using Scripture rather than submitting to what the Word actually says.
One way we do this is by pulling a verse out of its context to validate what we want to believe or how we want to live. For instance, people often use Matthew 7:1 to protect their chosen lifestyle from criticism by claiming that the Bible says, “Do not judge.”
However, the context speaks of not judging hypocritically when we ourselves are blinded by our own sins (vv. 1-5). This does not rule out all judgment since a few verses later, Jesus said to evaluate the fruit in others’ lives in order to recognize false teachers (vv. 15-20).
The reason many people are willing to accept unsound teaching is because they are not satisfied with Jesus and don’t believe the Bible is sufficient for their lives. Instead of seeking righteousness for its own sake and for God’s glory, they believe an unscriptural path will lead them to a better life. But in so doing they miss the truth, peace, and joy that are only found in Christ.
Second, a soldier’s righteous hunger provides motivation to push through difficulties. Paul wrote, “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” (2 Tim. 2:3-4). Giving up to slake our thirst in the world means missing the victory. We must be willing to endure the trials of life, knowing our persistence is pleasing to God, and that blessing will follow (Matt. 5:6).
Paul likened people to either precious or common household containers (2 Tim. 2:20-22). As believers our goal is to be vessels of gold or silver. To do this we must resist hunger for the wrong things: Abstain from wickedness, flee lusts, and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace with other believers.
Third, soldiers of Christ long for others to find the peaceable fruit of righteousness, too. Paul told Timothy, “The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition” (2 Tim. 2:24-25). When we start attacking one another rather than heresy and false teaching, the fight is no longer good. If we use our tongues as weapons of destruction rather than instruments of edification, division and gossip will take root and could destroy a local church (Eph. 4:29). But when we combine love with truth, the body of Christ is strengthened (Acts 14:22).
When you became a Christian, you automatically enlisted in Christ’s army. But take courage, because by His grace He has provided everything you need to fight the good fight, and He promises to satisfy all who long for righteousness.
Charles F. Stanley
P.S. This month we celebrate Mother’s Day. Although we don’t usually think of moms as warriors, a Christian mother is the first line of defense for her children. The sincere faith of Timothy’s mother and grandmother was a strong influence in his own life (2 Tim. 1:5), and I pray all believers will be blessed with a similar influence from a godly and wise loved one.