When a young Timothy personally responded by faith to the truth of Christ that he had learned from his mother and grandmother, did he realize then that his name was added to the ranks of a large and decorated force? Surely by the time Timothy received his last known letter from Paul he was well aware of the parallels of Paul’s metaphor we find today in chapter 2: “Thou therefore endure hardness [or share in suffering], as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2Ti 2:3).[1] Among other roles and responsibilities, Timothy and Paul were also soldiers. The same is true for all who have trusted Christ, enlisted from around the globe, found on different fronts and facing varied challenges: we are soldiers. While our mental picture created by the metaphor may be different than what Timothy “saw,” there are certainly consistent characteristics found in soldiers of every age. And these are not found just in any soldier but in “a good soldier of Jesus Christ.”

Along with this short word picture, we are given insights that are helpful in rising to the call and challenge of such a duty. Paul mentions a soldier in the context of the hardness or suffering experienced for Christ and truth. One close look at Paul and anyone would realize he knew something of conflict. Opposition and obstacles to Christian living vary greatly among believers, but all are engaged in the conflict. It only takes an honest reply or observation based on scriptural truth for tension to rise in a conversation and metaphorical battle lines to be drawn. Others face actual persecution because of their commitment and stand for Jesus Christ. Sometimes it is challenge enough just to stand, especially against “the wiles [or schemes] of the devil” (Eph 6:11). Yet Paul reveals that there are great unseen forces opposing believers when he writes of our wrestling “against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (v12). There is also the daily personal fight against the flesh and the incessant skirmishes from insurgent forces found as close as our own hearts. How a person endures and stands in the face of opposition reveals, among other things, the type of soldier they are. A “good soldier” will endure and stand. A “good soldier” will not be entangled with things that hinder their stand or service. A “good soldier” is conscious that their actions and efforts are for the approval of the One who has called them into service. The eye of faith fixed on our Commander and His commendation can strengthen the resolve, dedication, feet and hands of each soldier to the service and challenges at hand; and it is our heart’s desire that we might be good soldiers. It’s no wonder Paul begins this chapter and subject with this: “Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2Ti 2:1). With divine presence and resources, a good soldier of Jesus Christ need never stand alone.

In Ephesians 6, Paul outlines another resource and signature characteristic of any soldier: a proper set of armor. David, though a youth, was willing to face Goliath, but he was not confident to challenge the giant with Saul’s armor. Though he eventually went with less, he went with armaments suited for his particular skill. David fought a great foe but faced him on his own terms. He went with confidence in the name and honor of God and with experience gained from previous personal conflicts. No wonder he is described by others as “a mighty valiant man, and a man of war” (1Sa 16:18). We too have armor, which Paul describes to three different assemblies. He tells the believers in Rome that it is “armor of light”; to those in Corinth he calls it “armor of righteousness”; and to the Ephesian believers it is the “armor of God.” These descriptions suggest where true protection and experience are forged. Yet to each group Paul also instructs believers to engage the presence and power of a divine person, as David did. This is emphasized to the Ephesians before the well-known list of armor: “Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might” (6:10). And Paul follows the complete list of armor with the call to pray, “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit” (v18). A singular good soldier is not a complete force but is aware of the company of reinforcements.

Before Paul encourages Timothy “as a good soldier,” he reminds all of us that others will be called to receive and stand for the truth (2Ti 2:2). Though Timothy may feel or appear to stand alone at times, he is part of a larger force, which can strengthen a soldier’s heart. David was a man of war, and even he relied on the encouragements of the mighty men who were drawn to him. The descriptions of these mighty men found in 1 Chronicles 11 and 12 highlight more characteristics to be found in a good soldier. Rarely do we find the singular word “soldier” in our Bible, but more often “soldiers” in the plural. Even our Lord, who will return to earth in great power and majesty and by Himself with a word destroy all the opposing forces of the kings of the earth, will also have His armies following from heaven. It’s thrilling to imagine that coming day, and it’s important to remember we stand with others who are committed to this same and singular Captain of the host of the Lord, the King of kings and Lord of lords. We are not just soldiers, but good soldiers reflecting the greatness and glory of the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.

While some may understandably feel inexperienced or unsuited for military service, each believer has been chosen, equipped and called up to the honor of service for our risen Lord Jesus Christ. We are not alone, but are among the honored ranks of the Lord of hosts. How encouraged we would all be if we could see the rows of heaven’s forces that serve Christ today. Though we may feel we are at times standing outnumbered against insidious forces, we can be strong in the Lord and know that He is standing with us wherever our service or mission leads. God give us the grace and strength to be able to stand like David, Paul, Timothy and many others, and be able to say, “I have fought a good fight” (2Ti 4:7). Oh, that we might be found standing!

[1] Bible quotations in this article are from the KJV.