“You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” (2 Timothy chapter 2, verse 3).
For the last several years I’ve noticed that as it gets closer to a new year there is this particular “request” that many persons – Christians and unbelievers alike – will post and share on their social media pages. The request is that God will take them off the strong soldiers list for the coming year. Memes have been created and persons have made videos jokingly depicting themselves making a phone call to God asking Him to not include them on His strongest soldiers list.
I suspect that this stems from a quote that says “God gives His hardest battles to His strongest soldiers”.
But is this true?
Notice that I said quote and not scripture.
The Bible tells us that we ought to endure hardship or hardness, depending on the translation you are reading from, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. But did it actually say that in order to experience hardship we must have already been qualified as good soldiers?
Consider my servant
I am not at all suggesting that it is not possible that the Lord will indeed allow us to face some situations because He knows we will endure. Job knows a thing or two about this. He lost his health, his wealth and his family. He was probably close to losing his mind. And the Lord sat on His throne and watched it happen.
Most of us know the story well and so we know that it was God who first mentioned Job to satan and not the other way around. It could be said that Job got a hard battle. And he came through with flying colours. So much so, that the Lord not only restored to him that which he had lost, He multiplied it for his steadfast faithfulness.
Job, however, was only one of many persons in scripture who had to endure hardship and the stories are not necessarily parallel.
Building the soldier
The Bible tells us of a young shepherd who kept his father’s sheep and had the unfortunate experience of having a lion and a bear try to steal from his father’s flock. This young man could have lamented and bemoaned his position, because, let’s face it, who aside from probably Samson in his heyday, would relish the idea of having to confront a lion or a bear?
But he took on the fiercest of beasts and he did what he needed to do to carry out his assignment which was to take good care of his father’s sheep. I doubt that he knew that he would soon have to draw on that experience and the same courage it took to take on a lion and win and go out and defend his nation from a battle-hardened warrior who was multiple times his size.
This young shepherd had the confidence that although this warrior’s armour weighed more than he did he could take him on in battle. So David went out to face Goliath. This giant of a man who put fear into the hearts of the strongest soldiers in Israel and the king of Israel was not able to shake David.
The fact is, all the while David was tending to his father’s sheep and coming up against those challenges, he was being conditioned by his heavenly Father for a battle he could not have anticipated. But he did not despise the training. Therefore he, being confident that the God who delivered him from the paws and jaws of a lion and a bear could deliver Israel from their enemies, took his sling and a stone and squared up against sword, shield and spear and won.
I want you to consider that when David had to fight those predators, he was not a strong soldier. But God was building the mental toughness, the courage, the faith, the physical and spiritual strength that David would someday need.
Hardships are not necessarily to be considered a sign that you are tough and strong enough to bear it. Consider that some hardships are meant to develop something in you that you will need when the true hard battles come.
Actions and consequences
What happens then, when the hardships you are enduring have absolutely nothing to do with you being a strong soldier but everything to do with you being sinful?
I want us to consider, that it is not that we are the strongest soldiers and God keeps giving us the hardest battles day after day and year after year. It is that sometimes we are disobedient and we continue to go against God’s word, thinking that we know better or His standards just don’t work for us.
So, in time, we find ourselves reaping the consequences of our actions. And instead of holding ourselves accountable and going to God with a repentant heart and asking for mercy and help, we have the audacity to declare ourselves God’s strong soldiers and assume that we are facing challenges because the Lord is pleased with us.
Some of us are not even in God’s army. And while some may be in His army, we are not on active duty so we are not even available to be deployed to fight simple battles let alone hard ones.
Compare and contrast David’s actions in 1 Samuel chapter 17 with those of 2 Samuel chapters 11 and 12. Also take note of his reaction to the Lord’s response to his actions.
My challenge to all of us is to consider carefully how we accuse the Lord when faced with undesirable circumstances of our own doing and that we lose the hypocrisy and carefully introspect because while we may think we are being sent on a battlefield, our rightful place may actually be at the seat of mercy.
Natasha Young is an accountant and mother of one from the land of wood and water (Jamaica) in the West Indies who feels like she has missed her true calling which was to have become a teacher, or writer/director (or all of the above!). She is the only person she knows who works with numbers everyday but had English as a favourite subject in school. The most used app on her phone is Kindle so you know what that means. She is a lover of music and can oftentimes be heard belting on the top of her voice even though singing is not a talent of hers. But ultimately, she is just a sinner saved by grace who believes we all have a responsibility to use our gifts for the growth of God’s people and His glory.