“No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.” 2 Tim 4:2
Are you entangled? Are you able, at a moment’s notice, to respond to the call to war? I remember that one Scout camp I was on as a kid, the Gulf War was going on. Two of our leaders were on call to go to war as volunteers. If that happened, camp would have to stop, because there wouldn’t be enough leaders. I saw them both in a new light after that. They had a different life; they responded to a higher call.
The idea of being a soldier is clearly a metaphor, but it is the heart attitude that wins through that Paul is interested in. In the previous verse the concept of a ‘soldier’ for Christ is introduced, and then it’s developed fully in this verse. The next verse moves onto the idea of an athlete, picked up elsewhere in Paul, but reinforces that being a soldier is a metaphor only. We should not view ourselves at war; this is simply an analogy for our relationship with the Master. Currently, I’m finding disciple and master a useful paradigm for my walk.
From this verse we learn:
1st, that we are engaged in ‘warfare’
2nd, that we are to stay clear of the affairs of this life
3rd, that our calling is to please the Lord
4th, that we are always engaged in this warfare
This is one of those verses that says more on the surface than any unpacking of the Greek will do. However, the same word for ‘please’ is used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament where it says that Enoch ‘walked with God’, in Genesis 5:22. So much so, that God just took him out of the world.
Matthew Henry, that superb devotional commentator on Scripture, says on the start of this chapter:
As our trials increase, we need to grow stronger in that which is good; our faith stronger, our resolution stronger, our love to God and Christ stronger. This is opposed to our being strong in our own strength. All Christians, but especially ministers, must be faithful to their Captain, and resolute in his cause. The great care of a Christian must be to please Christ. We are to strive to get the mastery of our lusts and corruptions, but we cannot expect the prize unless we observe the laws. We must take care that we do good in a right manner, that our good may not be spoken evil of. Some who are active, spend their zeal about outward forms and doubtful disputations. But those who strive lawfully shall be crowned at last. If we would partake the fruits, we must labour; if we would gain the prize, we must run the race. We must do the will of God, before we receive the promises, for which reason we have need of patience. Together with our prayers for others, that the Lord would give them understanding in all things, we must exhort and stir them up to consider what they hear or read.
We do have to look inside ourselves and ask if we are going to obey the call. We must be honest. In Deut 20:5-7 it picks out several points that might – perfectly acceptable though they are in themselves – distract us. Buying a new house, setting up a business, being engaged to be married, or equally being fearful about the task. The instructions to commanders were to send these men home, rather than expect them to fight, because their hearts would not be in it
There is an old Whiteheart song that went: “His heart was always in it. His heart was always in it each step of the way.” “If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they are at the beginning.” 1 Pet 2:20. These are people who have followed their own desires rather than seeking the Father’s will.
Does this make you feel disqualified? Then labour, today, to be qualified. That is to say, allow the Holy Spirit to search and soften your heart, and make your overwhelming desire the urge to please Father, at all costs. Jesus obeyed the call. We can do no less.