2 Timothy - Combat Guide

Authentic Believers live like Soldiers (2 Timothy 2:3-4)

Sermon Manuscript . . .

Authentic Believers Live Like Soldiers

Christians must never forget they are soldiers in a war–2 Timothy 2:3-4

Soldiering is a part of who Christians are–you are in a war and you need to be tough. The Roman soldiers of Paul’s day were the toughest, most disciplined, and most resourceful soldiers in the world. They marched 20 miles a day with 50 pounds of gear. When not in battle, they practiced for battle, plus they built roads and public buildings.

Roman soldiers were multi-talented–they threw javelins, used short swords in battle, but most could also swim across rivers and moats to get to an enemy, climb walls, shoot arrows, ride horses and operate Roman war machines. Plus, Roman soldiers were the national police force–the FBI for Rome. They maintained the peace by enforcing Roman law. Soldiers were everywhere in the empire.

Paul had known many soldiers personally, and their example was in his mind in 2 Timothy 2:3 to 4 when the apostle says to Timothy, “You, Tim, are to be a ‘soldier of Christ’.” Open your Bibles to 2 Timothy 2:3 to 4, and follow in your outline. “Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.”

A good soldier doesn’t quit because he faces a difficult task or a dangerous situation. He knows his life is expendable and he must be prepared to lay it down when required. This is part of what Paul is calling Timothy to–stay in the battle regardless Timothy.

God, in his Word, calls you here to become more soldierly. Students, you need more to be soldierly with, “Yes sir, Lord”—not, “Whatever,” or “I’ll get to it.” Young Marrieds need to develop more soldierly discipline raising kids and managing money. Those in their forties need to reject life choices which are distracting them from soldiering for Christ.

Older saints need to embrace the assignment of investing in the lower ranks and not merely looking for their next weekend pass or hanging out at the commissary. Singles need to embrace the opportunity of making a big impact for their commander during this undistracted season of life. Why? An effective soldier willingly disentangles his life in order to please his captain.

Read aloud with me what Paul calls Timothy to do in 2 Timothy 2:3 to 4, “Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.” The two major points Paul makes in the Greek text involve endurance and entanglements.

#1  Christian soldiers live with ENDURANCE  Verse 3a

Verse 3, “Suffer hardship with me as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” Theologian, expositor and reformation father, John Calvin asks his congregation, “Have you thrown away your spear?” Are you one of those believers who made a great show of valor, but now are more concerned about your comfort, convenience and safety? He says, “If you have… thrown your spear away… and are living for comfort, you’ve become effeminate in the faith.” Like in The Sandlot, “You throw like a girl!”

All true believers fight the good fight of faith. By saying that, the Lord is not asking you to represent the Prince of Peace by wounding your friends, or abusing the lost. Paul uses this metaphor of fighting, warring, soldiering, to call Timothy and every authentic Christian here to exercise the qualities of a soldier who is at war.

Paul loved this metaphor. He told Timothy to “fight the good fight” in 1 Timothy 1. He called Archippus, who hosted a church in his home, a “fellow soldier” in Philemon 2. He called Epaphroditus, the messenger to the church at Philippi, a “fellow soldier” in Philippians 2. Paul used each article of the soldier’s armament as a lesson for spiritual warfare in Ephesians 6.

The image of soldiering paints a passionate picture for each believer to pursue. What does your Captain want from you, soldier? Instant obedience to His orders, deep loyalty, rigid self-discipline, bold in speaking out and valor in defense of the truth. These qualities should characterize each one of Christ’s servants–reminding you that the path of devotion to Christ is not easy or instant, it is long and difficult.

Maturity and effective ministry requires steadfast endurance and abiding faith. To effectively flee sin and pursue Christlike character, to minister greatly, serve diligently, disciple aggressively, teach clearly–then you must have a soldier’s mentality. Marshall Foch, a French general in World War I, commanded an officer, “You must not retire, you must hold at all costs.” “Then,” said the officer, “that means we must die.” Foch answered, “Precisely!”

A soldier in warfare demands courage, commitment and sacrifice. So as Paul speaks to Timothy in chapter 2, he begins with verse 3, “Suffer hardship with me as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” Timothy, join in suffering with me. Join me in obedience. Join me in unfaltering loyalty. Join me in sacrifice and discipline.

The main verb, “suffer hardship”, does not sound fun and it isn’t friends. It is a compound verb translated elsewhere as share my pain, take your part in suffering, accept your share of unjust evil, take your part of rough treatment, endure harshness. The word “suffer hardship” literally means “to suffer evil, to suffer trouble, and to endure injustice.”

This is the opposite of what you are being taught today. Listen friends, God is not handing out brochures, offering all kinds of fringe benefits to those who become Christians. No! God enlists you as a soldier and calls you to engage in a battle that will not end until your death or until the Lord returns. Even as Paul wrote these words, he was an embattled warrior, a prisoner of war who was sentenced to death. He would remain faithful to the end, and he wanted Timothy to show as much endurance as he did.

The very nature of soldiering involves suffering. They exercise until they think they might die. They eat whatever is served them, they sleep in foxholes, they remain in the dirt until they’re told they can leave. The lot of every believer is to endure hardships and privations–which might include persecution, imprisonment and even death.

Thankfully, Paul added in verse 3, “Suffer hardship with me.” Paul would never ask anything of Timothy he himself was not willing to endure. Paul is suffering for his faith in Christ and he invites Timothy to suffer for his faith in Christ. Not a system, not a religion–but suffer for the person who suffered and died for you.

Paul and Timothy were facing potential beatings, imprisonment and death. You might be facing embarrassment, the removal of benefits and the loss of freedoms. And the more faithful you are to sound doctrine and authorial intent teaching, the more God will bless your labor–making you a target for the evil one.

Satan will put up roadblocks and initiate rejections and provide hurtful difficulties–spiritual warfare will intensify and greater hardships will fall on you. Paul says, “Take it like a good soldier. Endure! Don’t run from battle, don’t start living like a civilian–fight the good fight as you trust in God’s control, love and wisdom.” Will you trust everything He does is for His glory and your good?

Every Christian is a soldier in the army of Christ. The Lord is your Captain. As a soldier you fight on the Lord’s side, serving under Him, remaining focused to your task, obeying His orders instantly and seeking to please Him in all things. Like a soldier, live with endurance under hardship. But in order for that to happen . . .

#2  Christian Soldiers live without ENTANGLEMENTS  Verse 3b-4

Believing soldiers must live distinctly from the normal affairs of this world. Soldiers don’t have it all, can’t do what everyone else does, nor do they love this world. James 4:4, “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”

When you’re born again, you follow Christ as your Captain–which results in you soldiers dying to self and your wants, and embracing His will and His wants. You end up leaving many things in this world which you were accustomed to. Look at verse 4–Paul directs this to Timothy in a specific sense of a pastor or supported minister–but in a general sense, to every believer. What’s He say?

Verse 4, “No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life.” An ordinary citizen is a free agent. He can make his own decisions, use his time as he desires and become involved in sports, education, business, or politics. You eat what you want, sleep when you want, go out when you want, dress the way you want and more.

A soldier, on the other hand, cannot entangle himself in anything that might interfere with his duty. He can’t say to his commanding officer, “I’m sorry, sir, but I can’t go on that hike tomorrow. I have a game with friends, then some sales calls I have to make. I really don’t want to get my shoes dirty and my wife and I are going out on a date.

His officer would smile and say, “You’re in the army now, soldier. You belong to me. You will be on that hike tomorrow–there won’t be any games for you. When I am through with you you’re gonna get dirt in every crevice. And the only call you’ll make is a call for help and you’ll stink so bad your wife will not want to stand next to you.” Christ saved you to join His army. He is a merciful, gracious Captain, but He is the Captain and commands you to obey His orders. So . . .

First  Good soldiers fulfill their DUTY  Verse 3b

Go back to verse 3, “Suffer hardship with me as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” Paul not only calls on Timothy to serve the Lord as a soldier, but as a “good soldier of Christ Jesus.” Good means noble or excellent–a soldier who does his best. A spiritual soldier does not simply do minimum duty for his Lord, but serves Him with everything he is and everything he has.

You’re a slave of Christ–you belong to Him. You obey His orders, and like a slave, you “do your work heartily, as for the Lord” (Colossians 3:23). Godly soldiers do not merely do their duty, they do their best. You don’t just usher, you put Christ on display with your words and actions. You don’t merely greet, you graciously take people to where they need to go. You don’t merely teach, you study intensely to give the meaning and theology of the text.

You don’t merely give, you give over and above. You don’t merely parent, you train, demonstrate, invest into your children for Christ. Like you, Timothy has been rescued by Christ, forgiven by Christ, transformed by Christ, and now belongs to Christ. And like you, Timothy has a special place to be on duty. Timothy has been blessed to man a strategic outpost in the Christian world.

Ephesus is located on an important highway and the church in Ephesus is a key center for the work of the Gospel in the first century. Timothy is stationed at this post of honor as Paul’s handpicked representative–and as a soldier, Timothy is on watch. Remember verse 14 of chapter 1? “Be on guard,” Tim. There can be no thought of falling asleep, doing only the easy job, surrendering, or just getting by–the good soldier of Christ Jesus will do his best, which includes . . .

Second  Good soldiers DISENTANGLE themselves from other distractions  Verse 4a

Verse 4, “No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life.” A soldier in active service does not have a 9 to 5 job, or merely a 60- or 70-hour work week. He is a soldier 24 hours a day, every day of the year. His body, health, skills, and time–all that he is belong to the military in which he serves.

Even when on leave, he is subject to recall at any time without notice, for any reason. Whenever ordered into dangerous duty, he’s expected to put his very life on the line without question or hesitation. Consequently, a soldier is separated from his normal environment so he will not entangle himself in the affairs of everyday life.

Soldiers called to duty are completely severed from the normal affairs of civilian life. A soldier does not become entangled in things that would be a hindrance to his single-minded devotion to gladly follow the commands of his leader. Paul is telling Timothy, “And you, as a soldier of Christ, do not let anything in your life distract you from obeying and pleasing Christ, your Commander, even though doing so may involve suffering or hardship.”

Verse 4, “No soldier in active service entangles himself.” Entangle is best translated to become involved, to get mixed up in, to tie oneself up with. John Calvin says, “The condition of military discipline is such, that as soon as a soldier has enrolled himself under a general, he leaves his house and all his affairs, and thinks of nothing but war; and in like manner, in order that we may be wholly devoted to Christ, we must be free from all the entanglements of this world.”

Entangle himself” literally means to weave. Paul is saying, “Do not get tangled up into things, woven into commitments, agreeing to participate in things which will keep you from your duty to obey your commander. “ We know we are not supposed to be tied up, involved in, or mixed up in sin–but Paul is also describing choices that are not necessarily wrong in themselves, but choices which keep you from your duty as a believer–as a good soldier.

In the Christian race talked about next week in verse 5, the writer of Hebrews says in 12:1, ”Let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” Notice it’s sins which entangle, and encumbrances—literally, weights that trip you up in your race. In other words, don’t let sin entangle you and don’t let non-sinful choices entangle you either.

Soldiers have to give up many freedoms in order to be ready to do battle. Christian soldiers have to give up freedoms and privileges in order to do spiritual battle. Should your kids do sports that keep them from attending church? Should you get the cabin at the lake, when it requires you to spend so much time there? Should you commit to that program which will enslave you to earthly, not heavenly, things? Should you entangle yourself in debt, with hobbies, in activities or anything which keeps you from giving your best to Christ?

It is not that a soldier should have no contact at all with his former friends or previous commitments, but he is not to become caught up and enmeshed in them. Those things are irrelevant to his soldiering and are always subject to being relinquished. In the same way, a good soldier of Christ refuses to allow earthly matters to interfere with fulfilling his duty to his Lord and His Lord’s heavenly priorities.

Many Christians, leaders and churches have been undermined by concerns or activities that are innocent in themselves, but have been allowed to crowd out the primary purpose of serving Jesus Christ by proclaiming the Gospel, teaching His Word, discipling the saints, training men, shepherding the flock and planting churches–the G’s and E’s, the priorities.

Calvin adds, “Everyone who wishes to fight under Christ must relinquish all the hindrances and employments of the world, and devote himself unreservedly to the warfare.” Perhaps in verse 4 Paul is referring to the Roman code of Theodosius, which states, “We forbid men engaged in military service to engage in civilian occupations.” Regardless, Paul’s spiritual application is clear. “A good soldier of Christ Jesus” has single-minded devotion to Jesus Christ as his Captain.

Singlemindedness is the ability to focus so sharply you can shut everything out when necessary. Singlemindedness is the key to success in virtually every area of life. It is also the key to freedom, joy and a happy life in Christ. Paul said it this way to the Philippians, “Forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13 to 14). Paul was passionate.

Single-minded devotion to a sport or a cause is what it takes to be great. In earthly matters, that kind of focus can turn you into a machine or worse. But when passionate, single-minded devotion is directed at the perfect Christ, whose commands are saturated with perfect love, wisdom and our highest good–then you can become what you ought to become . . . more like your Captain.

But as a soldier, you must purposely pursue a single-minded focus on Christ and willingly join with His followers in suffering hardship like good soldiers of your Lord. Verse 4, “No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life.” Listen to what the Greek word affairs actually means to discover if you have affairs you are entangled in. Affairs refers to preoccupation, pursuits, or undertakings.

Here is what Paul is saying–are you preoccupied with anything other than Christ? Are you pursuing anything or anyone else? Are you committed to undertakings that keep you from or distract you from Christ in intimate worship or His Bride, the Church of people He’s redeemed, or His work, the ministry He has given you for His glory and your good? This is nothing new, but it is a serious issue that must be repented of in your heart.

Jesus recognized the need for disentanglement and called each of His every day followers to become single-minded soldiers. In Luke 9:57-62, “Jesus said, ‘Follow Me.’ But he said, ‘Permit me first to go and bury my father.’ But He said to him, ‘Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.’ And another also said, ‘I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.’”

In the parable of the soils in Matthew 13:22, Jesus identifies false believers whose non-saving faith is manifested by their distraction with worldly affairs. “The one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.

There are many who profess Christ, but do not possess Christ. There is no such thing as a worldly Christian, or a carnal Christian, or a marginal Christian. They do not exist. Any so-called Christian who behaves in that manner is either a believer waiting to be spanked, or a make-believer awaiting eternal torment.

Christians must not be distracted by the normal affairs of everyday life in such a way that they cannot or do not give themselves wholeheartedly to their commander and follow his orders. This passage does not teach Timothy, or any other minister, to withdraw from everyday life–but that you and I should not let the many distractions or choices of this world keep us from worshiping and serving our Great Commander first. Not only does Paul tell Timothy that an effective soldier willingly disentangles his life, but he does so in order to please his Captain.

Third  Good soldiers seek to please the DESIRE of their commander  Verse 4b

Verse 4b, “So that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.” A good soldier also has a genuine desire to please the one who enlisted him as a soldier. A Christian’s deepest desire is to please the Lord Jesus Christ, his Commander in Chief, his Captain, his Savior, his sacrifice, his substitution–the one who enlisted him.

Second Corinthians 5:15, “He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.” Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”

It is impossible to serve two commanders in chief, just as Matthew 6:24 clearly states, “It is impossible to serve two masters.” The authentic Christian’s greatest hope is to be rewarded for loyal service and to hear his Master say, Matthew 25:21, “Well done, good and faithful slave; you were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things, enter into the joy of your master.” A genuine Christian wants to please his Lord.

In verse 4, the idea of “please the one”, means to satisfy, to be wholly at the disposal of, to win the approval of and to keep in favor with. Each one of you is trying to please someone–it is part of human nature. There are three choices, and right now, you can tell me which one you’re trying to please. Ready? Just three options of pleasing–you live to please 1) yourself, 2) others, or 3) God.

Those who call themselves Christians, but live to please themselves only, are in trouble. Pleasing self over God is a bad marker–it’s a sign of self-deception, a sign of phony faith. But Christians do battle with being man-pleasers. Many Christians succumb to that temptation and become more concerned about pleasing their fellow workers, their neighbors, and their friends than about pleasing the Lord.

And for the same reason, many pastors fall into the trap of wanting to please their congregations or their communities, more than to please the Lord. That desire inevitably leads to spiritual decline, because pleasing the world, including worldly Christians, demands compromise of God’s truth and the erosion of personal holiness.

Paul tells you as you mature, you will overcome man-pleasing. Galatians 1:10, “If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.” But why should you please only Christ? Paul’s answer is awesome–do you see it in verse 4? Because Christ is the one who saved you, He’s the one who awakened you from the dead, and He’s the one who put you in His army. You didn’t join up–you were drafted. “He may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.”

It is the captain/general who has the authority to conscript men for the army. In our modern system, the conscriptor and the captain are not the same men. In the modern army, the one who signed you up and the one who commands you are not the same men. But in the Lord’s army, the one who conscripted you and the one who leads you is the same Lord/Captain–the God-man, Jesus Christ chose you before time. Then in time He called you. You, who were dead, were made alive and immediately given a commission in the Lord’s army–He is the one who enlisted you as a soldier.

You were actually fighting for the mass murderer and vile liar, Satan Himself. Yet God changed your heart so you now fight for truth, the Gospel, eternity and the true God. He enlisted you and let you serve in His army. Read verses 3 and 4 again. Are you willing to endure and avoid entanglements? Are you willing to do your duty, disentangle yourself, and desire to please the one who did everything for you?

Then obey verses 3 and 4–read it aloud. “Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.” Make some choices today–an effective soldier willingly disentangles his life in order to please his captain.

#1  Good things are not necessarily the BEST things

Are you being obedient to your commander in all things? Are you pursuing the best things, or have you entangled yourself in temporary things? Untangle yourself from the temporary, plan to neglect those things which are not eternal, and involve yourself in biblical priorities and heavenly things. An effective soldier willingly disentangles his life in order to please his captain.

It is nice to have a yard which is a nice testimony. But it doesn’t mean you invest every day on your yard, think about your yard, or spend all for your yard. Your yard will burn—and so will cars, hobbies, pictures, crafts, TV, computers, video games, movies, your job, your clothes and all sports. They will all burn.

And yes, you still have to pay bills, live life and love your family. But the path of blessing and the path of the soldier is to focus your life to please your Lord.

#2  The path to maturity and ministry is LONG AND DIFFICULT–not instant or easy

No one grows mature in a day, a month or a single year. If you admire a man or woman of God, ask them about the battles they fought in order to get there. Maturing in Christ is long and difficult, a battle–never instant nor easy. Stay at it!

#3  Investing into others is a WAR–never give up and stay focused

The context of this passage is verses 1 to 2–train men. If you’re discipling your children, shepherding a flock, investing into students, discipling adults or training men for ministry, Paul reminds you it is war–a battle, a painful struggle. Never give up. Stay focused on your goal to see them grow to come to Christ or become like Christ.

#4  Stop listening to the REBELS who tell you to live for yourself

The biggest lie in the church today is that you can live for yourself and for Christ. If you believe that, then you still belong to the Father of all lies. Reject his rebellion and submit to Christ in repentance and faith. Surrender to love, to truth, to freedom, to holiness, to Heaven and to life. Cry out to Christ to open your heart and grant you abundant life now and eternal life forever. Submit to the Captain of your soul. Let’s pray.

About Chris Mueller

Chris is the teaching pastor at Faith Bible Church - Murrieta.


  1. Patricia Berry on July 4, 2020 at 2:55 pm

    Thank you. As today’s challenges continue to grow-reminding myself with this reading brings peace and hope as I focus on my duties as a soldier for Jesus Christ my Lord and Savior.

  2. Davetta on March 2, 2021 at 11:34 am

    This article is simply clear. Well written and easily understood. All praises to God, the Chief Commander.

  3. HEIDI MARINO on May 16, 2021 at 9:50 am

    Thank you for this! Immensely helpful in understanding how to apply this verse to life.

  4. Anthony Johnson on January 26, 2022 at 11:04 am

    I thank you for explaining 2Timothy 2:3-4 l in my heart believe it was right on target ,praise our Wonderful Lord Jesus

  5. Jackline on April 15, 2022 at 10:16 am

    Thank you for sharing ,am much blessed with the word of God,be blessed

  6. David L. Gannaban on May 3, 2022 at 6:33 pm

    I so much blessed in this teaching
    Thank you Lord.

  7. Sharon on July 6, 2022 at 7:08 pm


  8. Favour Elochukwu on July 12, 2023 at 7:14 pm

    By the grace of God I really thank God for this passage s
    I really understand it clearly
    I want to go into prayers now

  9. Sally on August 4, 2023 at 3:11 pm

    I do think that there is a difference between fanaticism and a Christian. Some liar complete sight of empathy and become narcissistic believing that they are superior to others. To me that is is not religion but delusion

  10. Sally on August 4, 2023 at 3:12 pm

    I do think that there is a difference between fanaticism and a Christian. Some lose complete sight of empathy and become narcissistic believing that they are superior to others. To me that is is not religion but delusion

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