WONDERFUL THING IN THIS PASSAGE – People and forces around us are constantly pulling us in the different directions they think we ought to go. We can get so tangled up in webs of expectations that we can’t make much progress in any direction.
One of the appeals of military life is that it simplifies all that. After you enlist, it no longer matters what your friends, your family, or even you yourself want. The only expectations that matter anymore are those of your commanding officer. He’s the only one you have to please. The Christian life is meant to be that simple. Paul invites Timothy and us to join him in living it that way:
“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 NASB).
Some ancient military structures were different than ours. An officer was granted a commission, and he was responsible to recruit or draft a company of men to lead. In the best circumstances, admiration for their commander and personal loyalty to him played a large part in their effectiveness as a fighting force. That’s a picture of Jesus’ recruitment of us.
Military life always involves a degree of hardship. It’s not a life of leisure but of purpose. A platoon always has a mission to accomplish, a hill to take. As Christ’s soldiers, our mission is to expand His Kingdom: we are to recruit other soldiers who will recruit even more soldiers. Paul explains it in the preceding verse: “What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, commit to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2).
This is what pleases our Commander. He is concerned with our everyday life, but He knows that we easily become so entangled in its demands and complexities that we forget our mission. We forget Whom we serve.
WONDERFUL THING IN LIFE – You can’t please everyone. Trying will pull you apart. One of the most important decisions we can make is whom to please. If we don’t make that decision on purpose, we’ll default to pleasing the loudest voice or the latest voice. Or we’ll be persuaded by the most cunning voice that plays to our fears or desires. God urges us to make a deliberate, calculated decision: “Choose for yourselves today whom you will serve” (Josh. 24:15).
I pick Jesus. I first made that conscious choice in 1976 when I was bombarded by conflicting pressures from all sides: family, friends, church, and self. I finally prayed, “Lord, if You’ll let me please You, I won’t try to please anyone else.” I’ve prayed that prayer a thousand times since. He’s welcomed and answered it every time. I prayed it this afternoon.
Here’s why it works: Everyone knows what they want, but God alone knows what they need – precisely what is best for them. He’s not likely to explain all that to me, and I couldn’t understand it anyway. But He will tell me what to DO, especially when my only desire is to please Him. My part is to listen to His orders (written in His Word and spoken by His Spirit), trust that He knows what He’s doing, and obey. It’s a great way of getting untangled.