Editor’s Note: This is the first of a two-part column by Rev. Tim Burton. The second part will publised on Friday, July 28.
When we read Paul’s second letter to Timothy, we find it was the last letter that Paul would write. He was near unto death and he wanted to encourage and exhort young Timothy to remain a faithful soldier of the cross. In the second chapter we find that Paul gets right to the message at hand when he shares with Timothy seven characteristics of a faithful soldier of the cross.
Characteristic one: A soldier of the cross must be saved. In verse one we see the phrase, “in Christ Jesus.” This shows that a faithful soldier will have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. A soldier will recognize they are lost in sin and they have a need for a savior. Jesus paid the sin debt that all of us owed and to be saved we must accept Jesus as our substitute, redeemer and savior. We find Paul was saying if you are to be a faithful soldier you must be saved.
Characteristic two: A soldier of the cross must be strong. In verse one we also see the word “strong.” It gives us a picture of a soldier that is faithful, will be strong in different aspects of their lives. Strong in faith, as we place our trust in the Lord to help us through any and every situation we encounter through life. Strong in prayer, as we seek to pray without ceasing, to help us know what our commander-in-chief expects from our lives. Strong in determination, to be like Daniel who purposed in his heart not to defile himself with the sinful temptations of the world. We must be strong in the Lord to remain faithful soldiers.
Characteristic three: A soldier of the cross must be willing to lead others to Jesus Christ. In verse two Paul tells Timothy that he needs to be a witness that will teach others about a faithful walk with the Lord. Today, so many people say, “I can’t be a witness for the Lord or teach others because I don’t know very much about the Bible.”
Everyone can tell others about what Jesus has done for them in their lives, which is our authority. The Bible also teaches us that if we are weak in the scriptures, then study the Word so we can give an answer for the faith we have in Jesus. We must be willing to lead others to know Jesus Christ in a personal relationship.
Characteristic four: A soldier of the cross must endure hardness. In verse three Paul reminds Timothy that living a Christian life in this sinful would will not be easy. The world will try to convince us that we are old fashioned and intolerant people who just want to pass judgment on others. The world will try to convince us that what the Bible calls sin is no longer sin because we live in the 21st century, but sin is still sin.
What was wrong in the past is still wrong today. We must stand true to the Word of God and never compromise the truths of the faith so we can be good soldiers of the cross.
We have looked at four of Paul’s characteristics of a faithful soldier of the cross. (Next week we will look at the last two) The challenge goes out to all of us: to be the most faithful soldier we can be for the Lord by being saved, being strong, leading others to Jesus and enduring the hardness of living faithful for the Lord.
The question is, would Jesus say of your life that you are a faithful soldier?
Rev. Tim Burton is minister of Flippin Memorial Baptist Church.