Yesterday, we talked about Paul’s relationship with his son in the faith, Timothy, and we learned that the book of 2 Timothy was the last letter the apostle wrote to his young mentee before his death. Since its sole purpose was to encourage him not to give up in his difficult ministry to the church at Ephesus, Paul urged Timothy to join him in suffering “like a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” As we unpack this analogy, it’s important to know that in the Roman Empire, soldiers were called legionaries, and their job was extremely dangerous because they were constantly fighting barbarians and other rogue attackers. In fact, when a young man signed up to join the Roman ranks, he committed to giving 25 years of his life to the cause. That meant no marriage, no family, and no outside endeavors — for a quarter of a century, he belonged to the empire. However, the flip side was that there could be great rewards for choosing this path, especially for someone who came from an impoverished family. In those days, the poor typically stayed poor, but any legionary who made it through the full term of service received both land and a pension. That said, it was conceivable for a person who started life with nothing to die wealthy and with an estate…if he survived. In truth, soldiers in that era had roughly a 60% chance of making it through 25 years, and at that, they had to be tough as nails. Nevertheless, for the one who endured, there was a great reward, and the same is true for being a soldier in the army of God.
My friend, you are the Lord’s soldier! While it may feel as if you “signed up” for something beyond your ability to endure, the truth is that your Commanding Officer is also the Savior of your soul and the Shepherd of your heart. Though He takes you down roads that test and press you, Jesus will never lead you anywhere He hasn’t been. Your loving Lord goes before you, and He makes a way through the most strenuous, trying, and taxing circumstances; the key is to remain focused and to faithfully follow His lead. As you endure your assignment unto completion, your Heavenly Father will replace your years of struggle with an imperishable eternal prize.