Based on 2 Timothy 2:1-13

In our devotion today, the apostle Paul uses a military illustration to teach a pastor named Timothy and us what it means to engage in meaningful ministry as Christians.

In verse 3 of his second letter to Pastor Timothy, Paul writes this: “Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather he tries to please his commanding officer.”

Paul’s point is this: That just like a faithful warfighter, you have a single purpose as a Christian—to please your commanding officer. That single purpose is to obey the command of the commander-in-chief, which is Jesus himself. The commands of Jesus are not burdensome, as Paul will write in other letters. But he does say that obeying Jesus’ commands may include enduring hardship, just like the apostle Paul was enduring.

The apostle Paul wrote this letter to Pastor Timothy while Paul was sitting in prison, enchained, because he had shared the gospel with other people. His government arrested him and had thrown him into prison and had chained him. And that specific message that Paul references here is that Jesus Christ is raised from the dead.

Now that’s a little bit of a headscratcher because we might wonder, Well, how in the world could anybody oppose that message? And why would they be so adamantly opposed to that message that they would take someone like the apostle Paul, throw him into prison, and chain him so he wouldn’t be able to share that message anymore?

We know the answer to that. It is because the sinful heart is just naturally opposed to anything good that God would give us. In spite of the reality of where the apostle Paul was, his encouragement to Pastor Timothy and to you and me is this: Focus on the commanding officer’s orders and share the gospel. Endure any hardship that may come as a result of sharing that message.

And even though not everyone will be receptive to that message, Paul says it’s okay. It’s okay because even though sinful people and wicked people had chained Paul in prison, Paul says in this letter that God’s Word is not chained. Even though the enemies of God’s Word succeeded in locking Paul up in prison, there were a whole host of other people who had the Word of God, so they could not keep God’s Word chained up.

You and I are those people who are free right now to share the good news that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. When we share that Word of God, it sets people free from being imprisoned by their sin, by their guilt, and from their fear of death. It sets them free to live for Jesus and to live with him forever. And, finally, that’s why Paul says it’s worth it.

God uses your voice and mind to share that unchained gospel to gather his elect, to gather souls, to be with him for eternity.

Now, you might be wondering, Well, how do I do this exactly? Where do I start? Especially in an environment where you must carefully choose what you say and how you say it, because the military does have rules about these kinds of things, and you’re absolutely right. My first encouragement to you is this: Build on the relationships that you already have with people.

Secondly, seek first to understand their religious background. When you engage in conversations about religion and spirituality and the Bible and other religions, ask questions like, “Can you tell me more?” “Why is it that you believe this?” “When did you first come to believe this, and what led to you believing this?”

Thirdly, because you have this relationship with them, and when they share with you the difficulties that they’re having in their life—whether it’s with work or home or their health—you get to share with them the hope that has strengthened you when you went through those same difficulties. You get to say to them, “Hey, I’ve been there. I get it. I’ve felt that way before too, but here’s what’s helped me—these promises from God’s Word.”

And finally, it can be a simple invitation to come and see and hear more at your church for worship or Bible study or maybe at an event that’s being hosted by your church. Or maybe you can start a small group Bible study and fellowship in your own home. If you’re wondering about how to start something like that and what that might look like, shoot me a message at [email protected] and we can chat about it.

In the end, follow the command of your commanding officer, Christ Jesus. Know that his gospel message is unchained and can do some pretty amazing things in the hearts of people.

God be with you as you join with me and all Christians in serving as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.

Almighty, eternal, and righteous God, you revealed your divine Word to teach us what we should do and what we should avoid. Strengthen and lead us by your Holy Spirit that we serve you in new obedience here until we come to complete holiness before you in that life to come. Today we also ask you to guide and direct all who serve in our nation’s military as NCOs and POs. Continue to raise up faithful men and women to be leaders, to serve as mentors and models for the junior enlisted service members under their charge. May they find their strength and faithfulness and service-mindedness in you, so they continue to be the backbone of the armed forces. In your name I pray. Amen.

Written and recorded by Rev. Paul Horn, WELS National Civilian Chaplain to the Military, San Diego, California.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Note: Scripture reading footnotes are clickable only in the web version.

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