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"A Soldier's Charge"

Father's Day June 15, 2014 2Tim.2:1-15


Sometimes it's hard being a dad because good role models are lacking. Society seems intent on empowering women (which is good) but the media can go overboard on this, so positive male role models are difficult to find; instead the male in a relationship is portrayed as the buffoon, a comic foil for his partner, the woman who "has it all together".

In the popular CBC series Heartland for instance, take the character of Tim, Lou & Amy's dad. He could be a positive example of mature manhood, but instead he often comes off as immature, insensitive, impulsive, and selfish; a buffoon. Ty, Peter, and Grandpa come off a little better.

This lack of male role models in society is complicated by the prevalence of broken families, where single moms try to hold things together without the benefit of a male partner present. Kids often don't have a "dad" around. Boys growing up don't make the connection in terms of what leadership looks like. A teen girl retweeted this week: "I'd rather have a guy say, 'I've made plans for us' instead of the usual, 'I don't know, whatever you wanna do.'"

Thankfully, the Apostle Paul counsels his young apprentice Timothy about some factors that contribute towards genuine leadership, as a father might advise his son. In fact he begins in 2Tim 2:1, "You then, my son..." Timothy wasn't Paul's biological son, but had accompanied Paul on several misisonary journeys, and had been put in charge by Paul at Ephesus as a sort of "lead overseer". What's the "then" refer to in "You then, my son"? It points back to chapter 1, and the grimness of their situation. The "lay of the land" is not encouraging, if you will. 1:8-12 talks about Paul's suffering for the gospel as a prisoner. In contrast to his earlier "house arrest" where he could receive visitors, this imprisonment was in a cold dark dungeon, chained like a common criminal. His friends had a hard time finding out where he was being kept (1:17); he was awaiting execution rather than hopeful of release.

As if that weren't discouraging enough, 1:15 notes, "You know that everyone in the province of Asia has deserted me, including Phygelus and Hermogenes." Perhaps these 2 were promising leadership candidates who bailed on Paul; he had no one to stay around and help with his needs, except Luke. Onesiphorus had searched hard, found him, and brought help; but for the most part, Paul was isolated, and a target for discouragement. Yet instead of despondency, here he (the prisoner) was giving Timothy (the free man) a pep talk! Yes He was in chains, but something even stronger than chains was at work.


Paul wasn't about to get stuck in the "slough of despond" because he was being pulled ahead by 3 chains. First there's the CHAIN OF COMMAND. Vv3-4 "Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs-- he wants to please his commanding officer." Soldiers operate within a hierarchy, they have flashes on their sleeves or shoulders indicating just what their "rank" is within that structure. At the top is their "Commanding Officer" or "C.O." As Paul observes, the troops under him (or her) in rank want to please their commander.

Who is Paul's "C.O."? To find out, flip back to 1:1, the "address label" if you will for 1st century correspondence, and note how Paul identifies himself as sender: "Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, according to the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus..." He includes it right there as part of his I.D.: "I'm Christ Jesus' apostle! I belong to Him."

When I served as a chaplain in the reserves of the Canadian Forces, we were issued "dog tags" that were worn around the neck by a small chain. These were stamped with our name, serial number, denomination etc.and served to identify us if we were killed. We also had name badges sewn above our breast pocket. Chaplains on their epaulets bore the honorary rank of "captain", so we knew when we met someone who should salute whom first. I appreciated having a "C.O." of our unit that I could respect: Colonel (Jim) Albury. He knew his stuff and also cared for his troops.

Paul's eyes are ever on his Commanding Officer. Pleasing Jesus is Job One as far as he's concerned. V8 "Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David.This is my gospel..." Remember Jesus Christ - focus on Him, keep Him at the forefront of your consciousness. "Raised from the dead": this is evidence of God's supernatural power; Romans 1:4 "who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord." Resurrection is God's stamp of approval upon Jesus' sacrifice as acceptable for our redemption; it marks Jesus as the Son of God He in fact is. These are the qualifications or credentials of our "C.O." Paul continues: "descended from David." Some commentators say this points to Jesus' humanity (in contrast to Gnostic heresy that was creeping into Ephesus where Timothy was in leadership); but for that Paul could have written "descended from Adam". Why "David"? Paul's highlighting Jesus' legitimate claim to Messiahship, He is "Christ" God's anointed designated leader for His people, inheriting David's throne. When the Wise Men came to King Herod, his scribes knew Bethlehem (David's town) was the place they should be looking (Mt 2:4-6; cf Jn 7:42).

Peter proclaimed His CO's credentials definitively at Pentecost: "Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ." (Ac 2:36) Paul uses parallel language - raised from the dead (Lord), descended from David (Christ/Messiah).

For a soldier to desert is to break a solemn oath of loyalty to one's sovereign (in the case of the CF, the Queen), and to the whole chain-of-command including one's immediate CO. When Jihadists in Iraq overran the city of Mosul this past week, it's reported some local police and soldiers abandoned their posts rather than resist the insurgents. That's shameful, and the prime minister warned there would be consequences. Vv12b-13 "If we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself." A question to ask ourselves (perhaps men in particular, with whatever leadership responsibilities we have, our own personal chains-of-command): "What factors or situations tempt me to 'desert' or 'disown' Jesus? To get over-involved in 'civilian affairs' (everyday affairs NRSV; lit.affairs of life) in a way that diverts my attention and loyalty from Jesus my 'Commanding Officer'?"

So that's the "Chain of Command". We find a second "chain" in v2, the "Chain of Communication": "And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others." How many layers or 'generations' of hearers does that list? "The things YOU (Timothy) have heard ME (Paul) say...entrust to RELIABLE MEN (layer 3) who will also be qualified to teach OTHERS (layer 4)." So there are four links or generations in this particular chain of communication. And don't forget before Paul there was Barnabas, who courageously stepped up and introduced this former persecutor to the church after his conversion (Acts 9:27), and later went to Tarsus to find him and bring him to help teach the church at Antioch (Acts 11:25f). Now YOU are part of this 'chain of communication'! Who's your "Barnabas" that shared the Good News with you? Who's your "Timothy" to whom you are passing on the message, helping shape their life in Christian ways?

Discipleship is "life-on-life", often over the long haul. Here's a secular example: the daughter of a former prof of mine from Guelph this week tweeted, "Proud moment today as I watched my "Little Sister" graduate from Conestoga College.It was a great match made by Big Sisters 11 years ago." Think of all the opportunities for contact and sharing and guiding over 11 years!

On page 8 in the PK devotional book Men of Honour, Steve Hahn's 27-year-old daughter Kendra reflects on the role her dad played in her faith life. "Seeing how my dad loves me gives me a glimpse of how much my Heavenly Father loves me.My dad loves me during the good times and the bad times. My dad loves me for who I am not what I have to offer him.My dad loves me with a fierceness and a depth that only a father can love his child. It is in this that I am able to better understand the way God loves me...My relationship with my dad has played a big role in understanding my relationship with God, in knowing how much I am loved and that I am worthy of that love." Doing so, her dad was forging another link in that chain of communication.

Chain of command; of communication; a third chain that keeps pulling Paul forward is the Chain of Commiseration and Comfort. V9 "[This is my gospel] for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal." Paul was suffering, literally chained up in a cold dungeon, awaiting execution for no crime other than professing Jesus as King. It was unfair, unjust. A question here for us would be: "How are YOU being put upon / disadvantaged on account of the gospel? What hardships are you facing - apart from, of course, any painful consequences of your own sinful actions in the past?" What unjust suffering do you have to deal with? How is your association with Christ making trouble for you? It's a chain of suffering, commiseration, sharing with others who've suffered for Christ in the past and globally today.

I call it "chain of commiseration and comfort": Paul sees his suffering not as purposeless or meaningless, but there's a point to it, a purpose. In our suffering, we discover God's comfort helping us endure it; then afterwards, we can share His comfort with others who are suffering. 2Cor 1:3-7 "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows...If we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer...We know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort." See? It's a chain - you're not left alone in your suffering: it becomes a way of relating to and strengthening other believers.


I want to park just a little longer on this last chain, the chain of suffering (or 'commiseration and comfort'). Three times in this passage Paul talks about ENDURANCE. It seems key to being what he calls "a good soldier". V3 "Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus." Literally, "Share in suffering with us..." As also in 1:3, "But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God..."

Then in v10, "Therefore I ENDURE everything for the sake of the elect..." and v12 "If we ENDURE, we will also reign with Him." What's going to give us guts to endure, strength to "stick it out" when we're suffering?

V3 because it's our leader's example - "like a good soldier of Jesus Christ." Jesus suffered for us, leaving us an example: 1Peter 2:21 "To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps."

Another "why" to endure hardship is found in v10: "Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory." The apostle endures hardship for the sake of the elect, God's chosen ones, that they may be saved from God's wrath AND obtain eternal glory hereafter in heaven. That's a lot at stake! Were Paul to call it quits and pack it in, that might cause some he had preached to to question his genuineness, whether he was just a fake; his faith couldn't take the heat. Dads - you have little sets of eyes watching you! Endure hardship for their sake, lest your wavering cause them to doubt.

And v12 "If we ENDURE, we will also reign with Him." We hang in there when the going gets tough because we have the promise, the privilege, the honour, and the hope of reigning with Christ. Rev 5:10 "You have made them [redeemed people] to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth."

So that's WHY we endure hardship - our leader's example, for the sake of those who come after, and for hope of reigning with Christ. What about HOW to endure hardship?

Paul beings this chapter with a charge to Timothy to "be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus." So, GRACE makes us strong, helps us endure. Paul expands on this back in 1:8b-9 "But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God [there's the strength - the power], who has saved us and called us to a holy life-- not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace.This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time..." Reflect and meditate on the immense GRACE God has shown you by sending Jesus to die in your stead, to be your personal Saviour, to destroy death and bring "life and immortality to light" expressly for you! (1:10) Mother Teresa began her days serving the poor and dying of Calcutta by meditating on Christ's sacramental elements. There she found strength in His grace.

Another secret to finding strength to endure hardship is in 2:9; note the end of the verse - "for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God's word is not chained." The message of the gospel cannot be held back or confined even by prison. How many converts did Paul make among the palace guard when he'd previously been under house arrest and had a rotation of guards as captive audience? (Php 1:13) See also 2:15 "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth."

The image is that of correctly dividing, cutting straight, like cutting a pizza or pie in equal slices. God's messenger / worker doesn't play acrobatics with Scripture but "deals straight". Not like the Gnostic heretics who got sidetracked into what v14 calls "quarreling about words". God's word is powerful and we need to handle it correctly, honestly, plainly. Hebrews 4:12 "Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart." With something so sharp and powerful, you'd better learn to cut straight! Treasuring His promises at your core really helps in times of testing. His word becomes bedrock by which the Holy Spirit bolsters YOUR spirit.


Where can we find endurance when trials come? James echoes Paul's experience - James 1:2-4 "My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing." God promises He's using our trials and testings to produce endurance, and through endurance, maturity and completeness.

In Portraits of Courage, Dave & Jan Dravecky (Dave's a former all-star pitcher) share the story of David Gordon, a Jewish man who in December 1996 was diagnosed with adenocarcinoma, a cancer which soon spread to his liver, lungs, pancreas, and bones. Doctors told him he had 6 months to live (he died in May 1998); surgery wasn't an option, and chemotherapy might not be effective. Because of massive tumours in his lower spine and right hip, he'd be confined to a wheelchair. Mr Gordon experienced panic and fear; courage seemed out of reach. He wrote, "You feel lost with no way out."

His sister Rosanne, who'd had multiple problems of her own, tried to convince him Christ was the only way to escape his predicament. At first Mr Gordon checked out books on cancer, then considered and rejected the idea of suicide. Then he took his sister's advice. He wrote: "I opened the New Testament and began to explore the Scriptures. Many passages spoke powerfully to me, but what stood out most were the promises God seemed to be making. The more I read, the more I saw what God wanted to do for me. He was telling me I would be OK no matter what! And all God wanted from me was my faith and a genuine relationship with Himself.

"I discovered that the 11th chapter of Hebrews starts out by asking, "What is faith?" then in the 2nd verse answers its own question: "Faith is the confident assurance that what we hope for will happen." At last I understood clearly what that passage means. It isn't the end result that matters, as much as the faith we display in our walk with Christ. That is where peace comes from, not in seeing some particular end result. The firm belief that I am not alone carries me from day to day with all the strength I need...

"God is so filled with unconditional love for us that He'll take us any way He can get us - any time, any place - right up to the moment of our death.What a beautiful truth about a perfect love! Because I now bask in that perfect love, I can take whatever life throws at me...

"And I am not scared.I recently postponed a treatment to attend a youth group meeting of high school students who wanted to know what it's like to have a relationship with Christ while realizing you're soon going to die.That therapy was much more important to me than medication.I feel God's pleasure when I tell my story, and I know He will keep me alive long enough to do what I am here to do."

Mr Gordon got into right relationship with the Chain of Command through trusting Jesus. He discovered the Chain of Commiseration and Comfort despite a terminal illness. And he found joy in the Chain of Communication, sharing with others his story - how knowing Jesus helps us realize we'll "be OK no matter what"! Let's pray.