This week we celebrate Veteran's Day here in the United States of America. It is a day set aside to honor our men and women who have served in the armed forces of our nation. Originally known as Armistice Day, the holiday was created to remember the Armistice agreement signed between Kaiser Wilhelm's German Army commanders and the leaders of the Allied Forces, which brought an end to World War I. The truce was signed 90 years ago this week on November 11, 1918, on the "eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month".
In 1954, President Eisenhower signed the proclamation which changed the name of the holiday to Veteran's Day, honoring veterans of all wars - not just World War I.
We will be taking time to honor our veterans in our worship service this morning at Westmoreland Baptist Church. My message today, entitled "The Qualities of a Good Soldier", will use the Veteran's Day theme to draw parallels between the qualities of a member of the military service, and those of us who are "soldiers of the cross". The Biblical text comes from 2 Timothy 2: 3-4 where the Apostle Paul writes to the young pastor Timothy. Paul writes, "You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier".
When we think about the qualities that make a good soldier - we should apply them to our lifestyle as a disciplined follower of Jesus Christ.
A Good Soldier is a Follower! This implies a relationship. Paul refers to us as being enlisted as soldiers for Jesus Christ. It also implies an soldier's understanding of rank. Each of us have our own place in formation. We understand our tasks. There are some who are under our responsibility and there are those who are over us. This also implies rule. We understand that in the service, we are called to follow orders. Jesus said, "If you love me, keep my commandments" (John 14:15).
A Good Soldier is Faithful. He must exhibit patience. Paul reminds us that we "must endure hardship as a good soldier. That patience comes from understanding our priorities. Our first priority is to "please the one who enlisted us". The soldier must then practice these principles of honor.
A Good Soldier is Familiar. He is familiar with the sound of the commander's voice. He knows those who outrank him and he follows their orders implicitly. He is also is familiar with the use of his weapon. Today's military has many sophisticated weapon systems but in the first century weapons of warfare were pretty basic. So is the equipment for the Christian Soldier. The Bible indicates our weaponry in the spiritual warfare in which we are enlisted. The whole armor of God starts with being gird about with Truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the Gospel footwear, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. (Ephesians 6: 10-18). The Christian Soldier is also familiar with the strategy of the enemy and the strength of his comrades. We must be aware of the enemy and his strategy (2 Cor. 11:14 and 1 Peter 5:8-9). Like the military soldier, the Christian Soldier should be linked closely with his comrades in arms. We work as a unit, and in the heat of battle, no one should ever be left behind.
The Good Soldier is a Fighter. Our first General Order was, "I am an American fighting man. I am prepared to give my life for my country". A good soldier is determined to win the battle. He is driven by his devotion to his country and his commitment to following the orders of his superior officers. He is dedicated to the cause. Are we truly determined, dedicated, and driven in our service to our Lord? He deserves no less!
The Good Soldier is a Finisher. When my father joined the Navy in World War II, his agreed term of service was "for the duration, plus six months". He knew he would not be putting down his arms until the conflict was over. The good soldier has the resolve to finish the work. He has reason to do so. The primary reason is because it is his duty, but another great reason for finishing well is his reward. This is the reward of a job well done. Often medals and ribbons are given the military man for his service and valor. There is a special reward that the Christian Soldier can expect at the end of the war. Paul puts it this way in 2 Timothy 4: 7-8, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge shall give me on that day, and not to me only, but to all those who love His appearing."
Have you enlisted? Are you a Good Soldier for the Lord? The pay may not put you in the top tax bracket, but the retirement plan and benefits are "out of this world"!