"Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in the concerns of civilian life; he seeks to please the commanding officer."
2 Timothy 2:3-4
Last weekend, we celebrated Veteran's Day. Of all the holidays celebrated in the United States, it is one of the few that holds a special place in my heart. Undoubtedly, our country would only have the freedom it has with the dedication of those who choose to serve our country. As I pondered what I thought about our military men and women, I couldn't help but think of how they illustrate a message about what it means to be a member of God's army.
The first thing that came to mind was that the moment the men and women serving our country enlisted, they became the property of the United States Military. Before the ink has even dried, they are expected to live according to the rules established by the branch they have enlisted to serve in. At this point, they have done nothing to prove they are a soldier and certainly have no idea what awaits them as they prepare for boot camp, but, nonetheless, they are soldiers.
The same is true of Christianity. When people recognize and repent their sins to God, they acknowledge that the way they have been living is not how God created them to live. They know they need to be enlisted in His army rather than continue living the way they had been. This means that they relinquish ownership of their life and ask God to be the Lord of their lives. As Paul says to the church in Galatia, "It is no longer I who lives, but Christ who lives in me."
Secondly, as military members begin their military journey, they will be asked to do things that push them beyond physical limits they would go willingly. This takes the person from who they once were to how they are expected to be. This process is painstaking; only some make it through the boot camp. Whether the person has the right motives and capability to be a soldier is shown through this time.
One of the greatest misconceptions about Christianity is that life gets better once a person puts their faith in Jesus Christ. Although a person is now fully equipped with the Holy Spirit to lead and guide them and have the assurance of eternal hope, the remainder of a believer's life is a form of a boot camp. Through the trials and tribulations of a person's life, the opportunity to leave their old self behind and grow into their new identity in Christ is offered. This gleaning process shows the difference between those who truly live for Christ and those who have half-hearted faith.
Lastly, and sadly, the military points out that not everyone finishes the task that they started. Some never finish well, whether it be because they didn't make it through basic training or they made choices that led to them being dishonorably discharged. Unfortunately, these men and women either could not rise to the expectations of the military, or they willfully chose to disregard the oath that they took. Either way, they no longer have the right to wear the uniform of a United States military member.
It breaks my heart to write about the reality that some in the church haven't finished the race that they have started. At one point, they recognized their desperate need for Christ; however, they chose to leave their oath to God for many reasons. For some, they never loved Jesus. They just wanted to get rid of what was painful in their lives or to be assured they wouldn't go to hell. Others wanted Jesus, but not as much as they wanted to live out their pride. Either way, unless they choose to change the direction of their lives, they will never hear Jesus say, "Well done, good and faithful servant."
I hope we are all serving God to the best of our abilities. I hope we prioritize Him because we realize that we are His workmanship and are best when we give Him control. Undoubtedly, one of the most difficult choices a person ever makes is to be an entirely devoted Christian. Like those military men and women we celebrate on Veteran's Day, those fighting the good fight for Jesus are worth celebrating.