That Paul loved Timothy is obvious from reading the Pastoral Epistles. He considered him as his own son in the ministry. He mentored him. He modeled ministry before him.
And then one day – Paul left him. He left Timothy at Ephesus to assume the role of pastor over that flock. In writing to his son, his mentee, he reminds Timothy of another role he must understand. Timothy must be a soldier.
Paul would tell Timothy to “fight the good fight” as well as to “endure hardness as a good soldier” (2 Timothy 2.1-4). As I read 2 Timothy, I try to imagine a seasoned veteran soldier, Paul, writing his last letter. I try to envision a young pastor contemplating the instructions he received.
What does a “good soldier” of Christ look like? In what areas could we also imitate a good soldier today. In reading Paul’s last instructions, I believe there are at least four areas we can be good soldiers:
In the area of following
Paul compared Timothy to a good “soldier” rather than a captain, a centurion, or other commanding officer. Timothy was a soldier, needing to know his rank, and needing to know his relationship with the Commander-in-Chief of this Christian army.
In the area of faithfulness
Paul reminds Timothy in 2 Tim 2.4 that he will need to endure hardness. A good soldier needs patience to remain faithful – regardless of the situation or circumstances.
Yet, Paul doesn’t just speak of patience – he speaks of priorities. A good soldier doesn’t get entangled; he doesn’t drift from his mission. He stays focused on the task of pleasing the Commander.
In the area of fighting
In 2 Timothy 4.7, the veteran reminds Timothy that there is a fight to be fought. It is a good fight. A good soldier is dedicated to that cause and determined to carry out the orders of his Commander
In the area of finishing
A good soldier doesn’t quit. He understands the word “sacrifice” but doesn’t understand the word “quit.” With every ounce of devotion he desires to finish the task that has been given to him.
Paul told Timothy to endure hardness as a good soldier. That instruction is just as true for us today. My granddad fought in the Korean War. My dad served in Vietnam.
Each of these men, once the war was over, changed to a new army. They went from following Uncle Sam to following King Jesus.
My granddad preached faithfully for many years and was married to my grandmother for almost 63 years. They are both in Heaven today.
My dad is a faithful pastor who has been married to my mom for 50+ years. Every Sunday, he opens God’s Word and challenges people at his post to love Jesus and to stay faithful to Him.
We all have been given some good examples of what a good soldier of Jesus Christ looks like. May we be faithful as we follow and fight, and may we also finish well.