A Good Soldier of Christ Jesus

by Mike Ratliff

Συγκακοπάθησον ὡς καλὸς στρατιώτης Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ. (2 Timothy 2:3 NA27)

Take your part in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. (a personal translation of 2 Timothy 2:3 from the NA27 Greek text)

My son and daughter gave me a Kindle for my birthday. Yes, I know my birthday is not until October, but since we are scattered all over this country, we are preparing to celebrate my wife’s birthday, which was in June, my son’s birthday, which is in August, and my birthday, which is in October this up coming weekend. One of the first books I downloaded onto it and have been reading ever since is the biography of John Bunyan. I have been sorely tempted lately by our enemy into despairing of this ministry. Why? This happens as my focus goes inward and with that always comes a sense of my sinfulness and unworthiness to even be called a Christian. I look at those whom God uses to feed me spiritually and I see how small I am. How can God use one such as I? Two things have helped me through this. As I read of Bunyan’s early Christian walk, it soon became apparent that there were some parallels with how God is using not only me, but many others like me in these dark times. The well educated and those with large ministries are more often then not the ones who are on the road to apostasy just as in Bunyan’s day. Bunyan was barely educated and his only education in theology was from the Word of God and sitting at the feet of his pastor. God raised him up to do a mighty work in the Church, but it was one that involved much suffering. The second came as I watched this video.

Σὺ οὖν, τέκνον μου, ἐνδυναμοῦ ἐν τῇ χάριτι τῇ ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ, καὶ ἃ ἤκουσας παρ᾽ ἐμοῦ διὰ πολλῶν μαρτύρων, ταῦτα παράθου πιστοῖς ἀνθρώποις, οἵτινες ἱκανοὶ ἔσονται καὶ ἑτέρους διδάξαι. Συγκακοπάθησον ὡς καλὸς στρατιώτης Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ. οὐδεὶς στρατευόμενος ἐμπλέκεται ταῖς τοῦ βίου πραγματείαις, ἵνα τῷ στρατολογήσαντι ἀρέσῃ. ἐὰν δὲ καὶ ἀθλῇ τις, οὐ στεφανοῦται ἐὰν μὴ νομίμως ἀθλήσῃ. τὸν κοπιῶντα γεωργὸν δεῖ πρῶτον τῶν καρπῶν μεταλαμβάνειν. νόει ὃ λέγω· δώσει γάρ σοι ὁ κύριος σύνεσιν ἐν πᾶσιν. (2 Timothy 2:1-7 NA27)

You therefore my child be empowered in the grace in Christ Jesus and what things you heard from me through many witnesses, these things commit to trustworthy men who will also be qualified to teach others. Take your part in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier is entangled with the affairs of civilian life that he may please the one who enlisted him. Also, if anyone competes as an athlete, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is necessary for the hard working farmer to be the first to partake of the fruits. Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in all things. (a personal translation of 2 Timothy 2:1-7 from the NA27 Greek text)

This is not a call for Christians to withdraw from the secular to pursue the spiritual. Instead, Paul is warning Christians to not allow anything, even good things, to distract them from their ministries. Our flesh loves the things that will distract us from what God has for us to do. The Word is full of warnings that true joy is found in none of them, no matter how much pleasure they may bring to the flesh. This suffering we are called to take our part as good soldiers is a metaphor of the Christian life as warfare against this evil world system, the believer’s own sinful human nature, and Satan himself. This type of commitment will be in direct conflict with the world, will result in its hostility, and can bring about persecution in extreme cases.

I was a long distance runner for many years in my late 20’s into my late 40’s. I was no sprinter, but neither was a marathoner. No, I ran in those middle distance races. However, this still required training runs nearly every day as well as eating right and getting the right amount of rest et cetera. When racing, we had to follow the course. There were no short cuts allowed. There was no pushing or shoving in order to pass others. Also, in order for your effort to be counted, you had to enter the race. You had to pay the fee and have your name entered in and have a number pinned to your shirt. The analogy for us as Christians in this walk and in our ministries is that we must obey the Word of God in the pursuit of spiritual victory. The Word of God is the arbiter in all things. It is above all things and that includes all opinions especially human philosophy.

The analogy of the hard working farmer is very clear. Ancient farmers worked long hours of backbreaking labor under all kinds of conditions with the hope of a good harvest. The analogy for us is to work through the temptations, sufferings, and attacks, et cetera laboring intensely with the view to the spiritual harvest.

Μνημόνευε Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν ἐγηγερμένον ἐκ νεκρῶν, ἐκ σπέρματος Δαυίδ, κατὰ τὸ εὐαγγέλιόν μου, ἐν ᾧ κακοπαθῶ μέχρι δεσμῶν ὡς κακοῦργος, ἀλλὰ ὁ λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ οὐ δέδεται· διὰ τοῦτο πάντα ὑπομένω διὰ τοὺς ἐκλεκτούς, ἵνα καὶ αὐτοὶ σωτηρίας τύχωσιν τῆς ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ μετὰ δόξης αἰωνίου. πιστὸς ὁ λόγος· εἰ γὰρ συναπεθάνομεν, καὶ συζήσομεν· εἰ ὑπομένομεν, καὶ συμβασιλεύσομεν· εἰ ἀρνησόμεθα, κἀκεῖνος ἀρνήσεται ἡμᾶς· εἰ ἀπιστοῦμεν, ἐκεῖνος πιστὸς μένει, ἀρνήσασθαι γὰρ ἑαυτὸν οὐ δύναται. (2 Timothy 2:8-13 NA27)

Remember Jesus Christ, having been raised from the dead, of the seed of David, according to the Gospel I preach, for which I suffer even to the point of imprisonment as an evildoer, but the Word of God has not been bound. Therefore, all things I endure because of the elect , that they also may obtain salvation in Christ Jesus with Eternal Glory. The saying is trustworthy, for ‘If we died with Him, we will also live with Him;’ ‘If we endure, we will also reign with Him;’ ‘If we deny Him, He will also deny us;’ ‘If we are unfaithful, He remains faithful’—for He cannot deny Himself. (a personal translation of 2 Timothy 2:8-13 from the NA27 Greek text)

When I began this ministry in 2006, it was amazing how many there were involved on the Internet doing very similar things. Over time, however, God has sifted, purified, and separated putting all of us through refining processes so that there is not that many of us left. Some whom I counted as friends back then have faded away.  Others true colors were revealed and, sadly, have shown all the signs of apostasy. On the other hand, there is a solid core of brothers and sisters who have come through these refining fires intact and have even grown more in Christ. I am older and feebler than when I started, but my faith is much more free of dross and my focus is only on Christ not this world or what others may think of this ministry or me. As I lamented earlier, I was not discouraged about my place in the world or the visible church. I care little to nothing about either. No, my desire is to remain faithful until my time here is done. If God can use a man like John Bunyan the way he did, he most certainly can use someone like you or I.

Soli Deo Gloria!

12 thoughts on “A Good Soldier of Christ Jesus

  1. Hi Mike, all I want to say is that I am going to pray for you. I want you to know how much the Lord has used you to bring so much truth into my life. And I thank God that I stumbled upon your blog. I know that this is not the most eloquent reply but I hope that it lifts you up.

  2. Mike, thank you for sharing with us the steps of your journey…It has been so much encouragement for me for a long time!
    My prayer for you will be continuing..that the Lord will keep you ever faithful… and use you, as He has been doing to build up His body…in often hidden ways!

  3. Hi Mike, I read your post,daily! I appreciate your translations, shedding new light and deeper meaning on God’s Word. I refer many to your ministry, it is foundational!! I will continue to pray for you!

  4. Hi Mike, apologies my computer is doing some weird things and posted my last comment all by itself…
    I am glad you are still here and I so enjoyed this post.

    I think that as long as we think we are of use, we are probably really a stumbling block as our focus is still on ourselves. It is when we realise like Mike Farese said something similar about his own life, that without God we are nothing and have nothing and can really do nothing in our own strength and have to be completely dependent on Him. He is echoing Oswald and others of a similar understanding. That is why we can carry on whether people agree or like what we have to say or not and whether we get comments or not. We need only the leading and approval of the Lord.
    Bless you as you continue along His way
    Steph

  5. Hello again Michael. I’ve chosen this morning to play catch up with your posts the last 6) as I’ve been busy working on finishing one of my own- this one only 4800+ words. Obviously you have a greater ability to be concise than I do. I enjoyed the recent posts and the comments that followed, Mickey had me laughing and crying at the same time with more than one of his comments. In light of his family and their sufferings, they should be commended for continuing to reach out to others in their own time of need.
    I can identify with the occasional despair that affects all who carry both the name and heart of our Lord Jesus. After years of being thwarted (thankfully) by God from self-made ministry, I have often found myself without the thing I thought would give me purpose in life. It often seemed to be further exasperated by not having the resource of a home or the help of a likeminded wife or a friend or two of kindred spirit. At times this leads to the practice or abuse of various hobbies that can quickly double as a painkiller in the midst of the sadness, lonliness etc. Despite God in His providence often using these times for His names sake, I know too well they can prolong or distract me from His calling upon my life. This would include encouraging the body of Christ to pursue what Paul said to Timothy in the passage you quote as well as (holding firmly to the traditions, 1 Corinthians 11:2), we have no other practice, 1 Corinthians 11:16), stand firm and hold to the traditions you were taught, 2 Thessalonians 2:15. What was Timothy called to remind these believers of? Was it not what Paul called…my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere and in every ekklesia (1 Corinthians 4:16, 17).
    What exemplifies a good soldier? Is it merely an individual with a correct gospel or one willing to suffer? What if one teaches the gospel rightly and yet fails entirely to exemplify in practice…proper conduct in the household of God, which is the ekklesia of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth. (1 Timothy 3:15) It appears that until Timothy first understood the above, his message would not be supported in practice. Paul was saying that there was a consistency to the gospel message and how that message was to be practiced among believers. It did not vary from one ekklesia to another. Despite this, men everywhere continue to neglect Paul’s ways (which he equates to the Lord’s commandment in 1 Corinthians 14:37) and continue to promote the traditions of men through “church.” I do not understand why anyone would be surprised or disturbed by churches becoming apostate as they are not, nor have ever been the proper expression of what Jesus said He would build. May our Lord hasten the ability of many more to see this.
    When God opened the eyes of a blind man, he did not immediately consult with flesh and blood, join a religious institution or start a ministry. Oddly enough, he did what was most sensible instead- he simply followed the one that had supernaturally altered the course and perspective of his life. Now why on earth would anyone want to complicate that or encourage others to do so?

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