“You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” 2 Timothy 2:3
It might be easy for us to incorrectly apply this verse if we do not take it in context. The previous two verses set the context and the following verse gives us application.
The context is that we are recipients of God’s grace in Christ Jesus (v 1). We have received the gift of eternal life in Jesus Christ but it is not a gift for us only. It is for the whole world (John 3:16; 1 John 2:2). Having received such a gift Paul expects that our reasonable service is to be faithful in telling others that they too may be recipients of the same gift. This will require “hardship.” Jesus expects that we will suffer the hardship of persecution because we go in His name (John 15:20). He has sent us into the world to make disciples of Himself (Matthew 28:19-20) and Paul expresses that in verse two in this passage.
Mature men, faithful to Jesus Christ, will disciple and teach spiritually younger men who demonstrate faithfulness to Christ. In this context Paul writes that such mature faithful men will persevere and endure as a soldier does in the heat of battle. He won’t retreat no matter how great the hardship. Those who retreat in the face of persecution or hardship demonstrate that they are not faithful soldiers of Christ (Luke 14:25-27). They are chocolate soldiers who melt away when the heat comes. That we are chocolate soldiers is perhaps confirmed by the fact that we do not sing songs like “Soldiers of Christ Arise” and Onward, Christian Soldiers” anymore. We are focussed more on self preservation than conquering the enemy.
In verse four Paul gives one reason chocolate soldiers melt away. They have a priority greater than serving Jesus Christ. They are too much in love with this world and seek to please themselves rather than pleasing the Lord Jesus. Paul writes that Christians are “enlisted” in Christ’s army (v 4). When we surrendered to Jesus Christ He enlisted us in His army to serve and please Him. The benefits of citizenship oblige us to protect that citizenship.
We live in a world made up of many spectators and few participants. It is similar on the battle field these days. A few men are fighting but multitudes watch on television and make comments of praise or criticism. This is not how the Lord intended His church to be. All who have received His grace gift of eternal life are enlisted to turn away from the affairs of this life and to serve Him in His affairs; that is, making disciples regardless of the heat of battle. No chocolate soldiers in Christ’s church, please!