A Good Soldier Of Jesus
October 5th, 1958 @ 7:30 PM
Dr. W.A. Criswell
2 Timothy 2:1-7
10-5-58 7:30 p.m.
We all turn to the second letter of Paul to Timothy; Timothy, the second chapter, 2 Timothy, the second chapter. We read the first seven verses: 2 Timothy, second chapter, [verses] 1 to 7; let us all read it. We have it? Second Timothy, second chapter, [verses] 1 to 7, 2 Timothy 2:1-7. Now let us read:
Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.
Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please Him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.
And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.
The husbandman that laboreth must be first partaker of the fruits.
Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things.
[2 Timothy 2:1-7]
And the text, “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” [2 Timothy 2:3]. And the subject is A Good Soldier of Jesus Christ. We begin this message answering a question: what is a Christian?
Well, a Christian is, according to some, a spiritual dilettante. He cannot worship except in a place that has been set apart with the sprinkling of holy water, and the architecture must be correctly Gothic, or else it shocks his sensitive soul. He cannot pray without the aid of sundry gentlemen who are arrayed in attire according to the ecclesiastical fashion books for the various seasons of the year. He cannot eat except what is prescribed for him by functionaries who arrogate to themselves the ordering of all of life. And he cannot even be buried in common ground with ordinary sinners, but must be fenced off in a place by himself. That, according to some, is a Christian.
There are others who say a Christian is a theological polemicist. He is a forensic champion, he is a Scriptural hairsplitter. He goes around with a theological chip on his shoulder, daring anybody to knock it off.
Walking down the street, the street of Austin in Waco one time, a stranger came up to me, stopped me and said, “Won’t you come to our church tonight? We’re going to have a big fight.” I said, “What you going to have a big fight about?”
“Oh,” he said, “we’re going to have a big fight over the two-cup innovation.” Well, I asked him what the big fight was about because I didn’t know of the innovation of the two-cup rule, heretofore, they’d been having just one cup at the Lord’s Supper, and all of the people shared the same germs of everybody else. And somebody came up with the novel idea they were going to have two cups instead of one. Somebody arose and said, “That’s not orthodox and that’s not according to the Bible.” So they were going to have a fight that night in the church over the new innovation; to some, that is a Christian.
There are others to whom a Christian is a new day sophist. Oh, how he scintillates. He’s a news commentator, and a book reviewer, and a fence straddler, and a glad-hander all in one. He’s a magnifier of microscopic points: he looks through spiritual spyglasses and fancies he sees things, and expounds on things that are known and expounded by God alone. And he reforms Sodom and Gomorrah, and he’s in on all the things of the community life; to some, that is a Christian.
And then to others, a Christian is a positive thinker, bless his triumphant soul! This man is a Christian. He sleeps through the existence of his life in absolute and perfect serenity. He drinks great drafts of peace of mind, soothing syrup, the elixir of how to make friends and influence people. Ah, good! He lives in a state of unperturbation and ecclesiastical hibernation while the world’s on fire and souls are falling into hell.
Now, I don’t want somebody coming to me next week and say, “Preacher, I went home and looked up in the dictionary, and there’s no such a word as unperturbation. I’ve already looked it up. There’s no such word, but I’m using it just the same. A Christian, a positive thinker; “Everyday in every way, I’m getting better and better.” A Christian, triumphant, victorious, living on the sunny side of life, in perfect calm and serenity; he is a Christian.
There was one of those positive thinkers who’s training his butler how to begin the day. And when the butler came in with his little tray of coffee on one side, newspaper on the other side, why, he trained his butler to say, “Good morning, sir. It is a beautiful morning. It is eight o’clock. The sun is shining bright and fair, and the people are well and happy.” And the man would reply, “That is right. I know it. I know everything. It is eight o’clock in the morning. The sun is shining bright and beautiful, and the people are well and happy.”
That went on and it went on and it went on. And the fellow came in and went through that same positive thinking, “Good morning, sir. It is eight o’clock in the morning. The sun is bright and beautiful, and the people are well and happy.” And the fellow replied, “That’s right. That’s right. I know everything. I know that. It is eight o’clock in the morning. The sun is shining bright and beautiful, and the people are well and happy.” And the butler finally said, “But, sir, that’s a big lie. It’s four o’clock in the afternoon. It’s raining cats and dogs outside, and there’s an insurrection going on in the streets!”
I don’t see it. Man, man, this world is the most unmitigated, turned around, messed up, fouled up planet that I think human heart could imagine and human ingenuity could devise. And to go around with your head up, saying, “Everything’s all right,” smiling like a Cheshire cat, all of that stuff—brother, it’s just not that way. There’s a war going on! And when you get the idea that a Christian is one of these newfangled psychiatrists, walking around with a smile, everything is fine, “We’re going to overcome all of these evils and darknesses and powers by positive thinking.” Man, you got another thinking coming! That’s not what it is to be a Christian. A Christian is not a spiritual fop, a connoisseur of music and millinery. A Christian is not an ecclesiastic gourmand who lives on the fat and marrow of the land. A Christian is not a spiritual, scriptural hairsplitter. And he’s not a slumberer while the war is going on.
Paul said a Christian is a soldier in a battle and in a war! [Ephesians 6:10-18]. He’s in the smoke, and he’s in the fire, and he’s in the flood. He’s in the combat, he’s in the war, his garments are rolled in blood. His sword is hacked, his armor is dented, his shield is bruised. He hears the call of the trumpet. He hears the cry of the anguished. He sees the fallen and the dying. He’s in a mortal contention with the enemy of Christ, with the host of hell and the legions of Satan.
And the Lord God was pleased to leave the war to us! And the whole thing is at stake and in our hands; the crown of Jesus, the gospel of the Son of God, the victory of the host of heaven. We are His soldiers, and we are fighting in the war, “Thou, my son, be a good soldier of Jesus Christ” [2 Timothy 2:3]. Now, he didn’t say, “Be just a common, ordinary soldier.” He said, “Be a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” That would mean, we are to be doubly devoted and doubly committed to the great Captain and our Savior, the Lord Jesus; He whose name is Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God [Isaiah 9:6].
One of the men, several of the men overheard David say, “Oh, for a drink of the water from the well by the gate of Bethlehem” [2 Samuel 23:15]. And those soldiers were so committed to David, so devoted, loved him so much, that just overhearing that wish, they went through the enemy lines. They risked their lives; they brought back a draft of water from the well which is by the gate of Bethlehem [2 Samuel 23:16]. Loving, devoted to our great Commander, the Lord Jesus. Not ashamed to name Him anywhere; standing up for His cause in the office, on the street, in a circle of friends, in a house, in a home, and a business, anywhere! Faithful and loyal to our great Lord and Captain, a good soldier of Jesus Christ. A good soldier of Jesus Christ, an obedient one, reading the great commissions of our Lord.
It is not for us to follow traditions, or church teachings, or opinions of men, or even these that our parents believed: we are to follow the great words and the explicit orders of our great Captain and Leader, the Commander Christ Jesus; good soldiers of Jesus Christ [2 Timothy 2:3], doing what He says, just as He says it, following the explicit commandments of the Lord as He gave them, fearlessly, unafraid.
When the word came, “Go to the rescue,” the men said, “But if we go, we’ll not come back alive.” And the captain replied, “Our orders never said anything about coming back alive. They said, “Go to the rescue!”
Obedient to the great commandments and great commissions of our Captain, the good soldier of Jesus Christ [2 Timothy 2:3]; one that reaches out for victory for our Lord; trophies of grace to lay at His feet, crowns and laurels to bestow upon Him. Taking His flag and His banner and planting it on the highest hill, a good soldier of Jesus Christ, one who perseveres. We’re not fighting just to win a skirmish or a battle, but a war; and that war is as age-long as sin and death, and as meaningful as the grace of God that reaches up to eternity.
A battle to fight and a fulmine strong
And the bugles’ haughty cry.
A fight for the right, be it short or long,
Where a man must win or die.
In the American Revised Version of 1901, that word there is translated, “Thou therefore endure hardship with me, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” [2 Timothy 2:3]. Endure hardship with me, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. The man who wrote that appeal was in prison. He had the sentence of death as he faced an execution. And he writes to the young son, Timothy, “Endure hardship with me” [2 Timothy 2:3].
How many times had he been in prison? How many times had he been beaten with rods? How many times had he suffered? [2 Corinthians 11:23-27]. But he doesn’t write, “Oh, Timothy, I have had a hard time. But I hope that it will be easier for you.” He never refers to it. The thought never enters his mind. But he writes instead, “Thou therefore, my son, Timothy, endure hardness [with me], as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” [2 Timothy 2:3].
Why, I have been overwhelmed by some of our leaders coming to me and saying, “Pastor thus and such, they quit. And thus and such, he has resigned. And thus and such, they have turned aside.” Why, I can’t believe it. Man, man, you don’t ever get out of this war! You don’t ever quit, you don’t ever resign! You may take another place, you may fill in a gap over here on another wing or on another side, but you don’t ever get rid of this battle and this war. We’re in it until we die, and our children are in it, and our children’s children are in it, until the end of the way. “Endure hardness [with me], as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” [2 Timothy 2:3].
If you were in a port and two ships came in from opposite directions, one from this way, one from the other way, and this ship came in from this way, and it had sailed on placid seas, seas of glass under fair sky, not a ripple on the bosom of the deep, and it sailed into port, but this ship had been battered by massive waves. Its superstructure had been destroyed, and it was battered and beat and dented by the fury of the sea. Tell me, if you had a medal to pin on one of the captains, which one would you choose? “Endure hardness [with me], as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” [2 Timothy 2:3].
In the Boston shipyards where I spent a day with a chaplain who is the chaplain of a squadron—and the squadron of destroyers was brought into the Boston shipyards to be overhauled in order to be sent to the Eastern Mediterranean—the chaplain said to me, he said, “Preacher, which one of these battleships do you want to see and do you want to look at, and go in and look at all of its insides and outside? Which one do you want to see?” I said, “Do you have a ship that’s been in the war and is beat and patched?” He said, “I surely do.” I said, “That’s the one that I want to see!” And he took me to it; one of those destroyers that had been shelled and almost sunk, and four or five times was reported as having been sunk. And I went all through it, and everywhere and all over it were marks of conflict and battle and war, “That’s the ship I want to see,” a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
When I was ordained, there was an old gentleman there by the name of Nunn, old Brother Nunn, he owned the Amarillo News. Had a little goatee, distinguished-looking man, one of the finest Christian deacons you could ever know. When they ordained me and I stood there at the front and the people came by and shook hands with me, that old gentleman said to me, he said, “Son, I hope life for you is a primrose path, but if it is, your life will be worthless.”
That’s the God’s truth! If all of your life is taken up in things easy, in things soft, living in the luxury of the land and no war, no battle, no fight, no sacrifice, no going all out for God, your life, “may all of your days follow a primrose path, but it will be worthless.” Man, if we don’t have a big program around here to challenge every drop of strength and every ounce of energy of this church, let’s get one! Let’s get one. If we’re not in the heat of this battle, up to our ears in this war, let’s get in it! Let’s declare war against hell, and against Satan, and against all of the powers that bring and damn and drag our people down to the bottom of the dark pit. Let’s lift our people up. Let’s win them to the Lord. Let’s teach them the Word of God. Let’s get in the fight as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. What is that old song?
Am I a soldier of the cross,
A follower of the Lamb?
Must I be carried to the skies
On flowery beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize
And sailed through bloody seas?
Surely I must fight if I would reign,
Increase my courage, Lord.
I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain,
Supported by Thy Word.
[“Am I A Soldier of the Cross,” Isaac Watts]
A good soldier of Jesus Christ. “Preacher, got a place on the line where somebody needs to stand faithful? Give it to me. Got a place in that organization where somebody needs to pay a price? Give it to me. Got a place in that ministry down there where somebody needs to fight for the Lord? Assign it to me! Let me take this hill. Let me take this union. Let me have this class. Let me have this battalion. Let me have this squad. Put me over there where the shells are bursting and the shrapnel is falling and where the swords are sharpest and keen. Put me there where the cannons are roaring and the smoke and the fire and the thunder of battle are all around me.” Get in it up to your ears; a good soldier of Jesus Christ [2 Timothy 2:3].
“But you don’t understand, preacher, I’ve got a favorite TV program on Sunday night.” “But you don’t understand, preacher, I have to stand in line too long at the cafeteria.” }But you don’t understand, preacher, I’ve got entertaining to do.” “You don’t understand, preacher, I’ve got all of these other little old inconsequentials to take up my time in life.”
Oh, forget them! A good soldier of Jesus Christ, volunteer! There’s a place for you, for you, for you, all along the line, with little children, with teenagers, with adults, in the morning, in the evening, in the afternoon, every day in the week. Do what you can, all that you can. “Endure hardness [with me] as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” [2 Timothy 2:3].
Now, may I say a brief word of encouragement to us? In this church there are examples of apostolic order and devotion that I read about in books. But I never thought I’d live to see it. In this congregation tonight are God’s men and women, who shall shine as the stars forever and ever [Daniel 12:3]. God bless the faithful soldiers of Jesus Christ, who man the posts and stand in the firing line in this church.
Ah, that I could really encourage you, no one of us is standing alone. Sometimes you may think it, sometimes discouragement falls upon you as though it might be true. I see weariness in your face and discouragement in your eyes. And once in a while, I hear the word, “I think I’ll quit. I think I’ll quit.” Ah, fellow! Up and down that line there are soldiers standing faithful like a bridge of stars!
Just like Robert E. Lee, looking out over the field of battle, pointing to T. J. Jackson, “Look at him standing there like a stone wall.”
“Stone wall?” They said. “Stone wall? That’s Stonewall Jackson!” And the name stayed with him and has and will forever.
“Wherefore seeing we are compassed about with so great a crowd of witnesses” [Hebrews 12:1], let us stand faithful in the line. Don’t you quit. Don’t you give up, don’t you be discouraged Up and down that battle line, there are a host of men and women, young people, children, who are faithful to our Lord, winning the battle for Jesus our Savior. May I encourage you? You’re never forgot, never, never. The great Lord of the line, the great Captain of our salvation, the great Father in glory looks upon us, and He never forgets us.
The white prince out there, fighting for his father the king, sent words saying, “Send me reinforcements.” And the king, who was intently watching his son and watching the sway of the battle, sent word back to his white prince, saying, “Tell my son I’m too wise a king not to send enforcements when he needs them, and I’m too good a father not to send them out of the love of my heart.”
Don’t you think we’re forgot. We are in the eye of our Father God in every moment of this war and this conflict, and He remembers us. He looks upon us, and what help we need, He will send it. What strength we lack, He will give it.
Every victory that God sees is essential for us, He will bestow it upon us if we are good soldiers of Jesus Christ. And some of these days, bless His name, some of these days, think what it will be to share in that final and ultimate victory!
Lift up your heads, O ye gates;
And be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors;
And the King of glory will come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The Lord strong and mighty,
The Lord, mighty in battle—
He is the King of glory—
Lift up your heads, O ye gates;
And be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors;
And the King of glory will come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The Lord of hosts—
the God of the battle—
He is the King of glory.
We’re not going to lose. We can’t lose. They’re not going to win, they can’t win. The battle belongs to the children of God. And the victory ultimately is his whose Lord and King reigns over us, the Jesus Jehovah whom we serve.
I could not help but think as I prepared this sermon, and put in that last part—encouragement, encouragement—I could not help but think of a symbolism that Paul used in his Corinthian letter, when he followed the imagery of the great Roman triumph, winding its way with wagons and wagons and wagon trains of booty and plunder and prey, coming up finally to the head of the Capitoline Hill [2 Corinthians 2:14-17]. And there, finally, riding up in his chariot, with his enemies chained to his wheels, standing conqueror, and he gives to his soldiers their reward for their faithfulness in the campaign. And to this one, and to this one, and to this one, and to this one, calling them by name–Julius Caesar knew the name of every man in his army–riding in triumph up to the top of the Capitoline Hill, there standing on the steps of the temple of Jupiter, giving to his faithful soldiers the rewards of their campaigns.
Paul uses that imagery, so I can use it as I try to think of that great and ultimate victory which shall come to God’s people by and by, when He is Lord of the earth and King of all creation, visible, personally present, and His people are gathered before Him–the bēma, the judgment scene of Jesus Christ—and He gives to His soldiers the rewards of their efforts [2 Corinthians 5:10; 1 Corinthians 3:11-15].
O Lord, I don’t want it be said of me in that day, “He was a coward and was afraid. And he got tired, and he quit. And he put his sword aside, and he hid.” Ah, Lord, until I drop, until Satan cuts me down, until disease or death wastes away the force and vigor of my body—and I can’t see, and I can’t hear, and I can’t walk, and I can’t preach, and I can’t work—until then, Lord, help me to be a good soldier of Jesus Christ: working, stand by the stocks [2 Timothy 2:3].
You know, I would like for a little while not to be the paid preacher of this church. I’d like to be a layman in this church. I’d like to do that just to show myself that I’d be faithful to a task down here, whatever it was, just because I love God and want to serve in the army of Jesus Christ [2 Timothy 2:3]. That class, that union, that assignment, that task, faithful unto death [Revelation 2:10], at a sacrifice, at a price, at a cost, I’ll know, but the great Captain of the Lord’s host [Joshua 5:14], look upon us and find us faithful: “Endure hardship with me, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” [2 Timothy 2:3]. I’d rather live the next ten or fifteen years all out for God than to live twenty or thirty years. supinely, pusillanimously, indolently, indifferently, just seeing the days pass and no cost, no sacrifice, no blood, no sweat, no tears, no effort, no all-out. I’d rather fight. I’d rather be in the war. I’d rather work. I’d rather try.
God, help my fellow soldiers to be that way! Give me a place in the line, and there I’ll stand faithful unto death. Endure hardness with me, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. Lord, help me to have more strength, and more power, and more ableness, more acumen, more wisdom, more understanding, more devotion, more consecration, more everything, Lord, that would please Thee and advance Thy cause and Thy kingdom in the earth. Endure hardship with me, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ [2 Timothy 2:3].
Now let’s face this new year, God bless us. Let’s face this new year with the most triumphant, victorious, giving of ourselves to God of any church, of any people that the Lord ever had in this earth and expect great things from God. Look for great victories from God! And the Lord won’t let us down. He doesn’t forget. He watches the line of battle. He is our King. He leads us all. He is just looking for good soldiers that He can bless and reward and commend—you, endure hardship with me, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ [2 Timothy 2:3].
Now we sing our song of appeal, and while we sing it, somebody to enroll in the army; you come and stand by me. Somebody to put his name on the list, in the roll, you come and stand by me. A family to put their life with us in this appeal for the Lord, you come and stand by me. In this balcony around, this great throng of people on this lower floor, anywhere, somebody you, somebody you, put on the uniform of Jesus Christ and stand by me. “Here I am, preacher, and here I come. God can have me, all the energy of my life, all the ableness of which I am capable, my soul and heart; here I am and here I come.”
Stand by me, a good soldier of Jesus Christ [2 Timothy 2:3]. Would you come? Would you make it now? “I decide for Him, and here I am, and here I stand,” into that aisle and down here to the front, in these stairwells at the front and the back, down these stairwells and to the front., “Here I am and here I come, a soldier, a volunteer for Jesus Christ.” Would you make it now? While we stand and while we sing.