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No Greater Love - h

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Scriptures: 2 Timothy 2:1-4, 2 Samuel 23:8-17, Luke 9:57-62

"You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others. Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs—he wants to please his commanding officer. Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules. The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this." (2 Timothy 2:1-7, NIV)

[1]

Introduction:

Most of us have aspired to be soldiers at some point in our lives.  A good imagination is a wonderul thing.

Someone once asked me, "if you could be any person in the world, who would it be?"  To which I responded without hesitation, "my eleven-year-old son."

My boy's life is one where the less pleasant elements of reality rarely intrude.  His eyes unfocused, his mouth emitting sound effects, he drifts around in serene oblivion, almost never concerned about anything.

Last Saturday I interrupted his reverie and asked him to check to see if the mail had arrived.  He responded agreeably enough, though it took several reminders before he actually was out the door.  I went to the window to observe his progress.  He made a strong start, striding purposefully toward the mailbox at the end of our driveway.  Then something caught his eye and he stopped, frowning.  He bent over and picked it up:  a stick.  It fit into his hand like a Colt pistol, and he swiveled, eyeing the trees for enemies.  He spotted a couple and dove for cover, firing as he rolled.  Airplanes swooped down and he switched to ground-to-air mode, jubilating when the missiles hit their targets.  He spoke into his radio and did something to his forehead, probably putting on his night vision goggles.  I lost sight of him as he snaked around the corner of the house.

Half an hour later he tromped in, exuberant over his military victory.  I stopped him in the hallway.  "Did you get the mail?"

He stared at me blankly, and I wondered whether he even knew who I was.

"You were going out to get the mail," I reminded him.

His focus cleared.  "Oh, yeah." 

"Did you get it?"

His expression indicated he wasn't sure.

"Why don't you try again," I suggested.

Back out the door.  I winced as he glanced at a tree branch, but he didn't appear tempted.  His eyes acquired radar lock on the mailbox, and I sighed

in relief.

Lying next to the mailbox was a football which had drifted there at the end of a neighborhood game a few weeks ago.  He scooped the ball up in his arms and swerved, dodging tackles.  Touchdown!  I put my hands on my hips and watched him toss the ball into the air, calling for a fair catch.  First down.  He took the ball, fading back, out of the pocket and in trouble.  I shook my head as I was treated to the spectacle of my son sacking himself for an eight-yard loss.  He jumped up and shook his finger, urging his blockers to stop the blitz.  They seemed to heed his admonitions on the next play he rolled left and threw right, a fantastic pass which found him wide open thirty yards downfield.  He trotted into the end zone and gave the crowd a mile-high salute. 

When I checked back at half-time to see who was winning, mankind was on the brink.  The football was jammed up inside his shirt, and he was struggling forward on his knees, looking like a soldier crawling through the desert.  He had pulled the lawn mower out of the garage, and as he fell toward it, gasping, he pulled the sacred pigskin from his shirt and, with the last reserves of his strength, touched it to the engine.  He died, but civilization was saved by his heroic efforts. 

No word on whether, with this triumph, mail would be delivered.

I met him at the door, pierced through his fog, and asked him to get the mail.  He agreed in such as fashion as to indicate this was the first he'd heard of the subject.  There was a skip in his step as he headed down the driveway, and he was making so much progress so quickly I felt my hopes growing, particularly when he reached out and actually touched the mailbox.

Alas, he was only stopping to talk to it.  Conferring in low tones, he nodded, squinting into the distance.  He raised the mail flag, igniting the retrorockets strapped to his back.  He throttled to full power and then dropped the flag, firing off into space with his arms outstretched like Superman.

He was nowhere in sight when, half an hour later, I went out to get the mail.

Bruce Cameron - Cameron Column

What does it take to be a good soldier?

1.   He must be able to endure hardship without turning back.

q      Off to camp we go. The first thing that we do to new recruits is to put them through boot camp.  We purposefully push them beyond their limits of endurance. 

General George Patton was a man who believed strongly that a well disciplined soldier would not only win the war, but would reach new heights of achievement.  He said that to be a good soldier, a man must have discipline, self respect, pride in his unit and in his country, a high sense of duty and obligation to his comrades and his superiors, and self confidence born of demonstrated ability

When the great day of battle comes, remember your training, and remember above all that speed and vigor of attack are the sure roads to success.  And you must succeed, for to retreat is as cowardly as it is fatal.

    Americans do not "surrender!"

It was the only time throughout World War II that Patton used the word, "surrender" in any of his orders to his troops.

What keeps people focused during this time?  It is the desire to become a soldier.  On the one hand we recruit them and then we try to disqualify them?  Is that what we are doing?  It would be better never to become a soldier than to become one and to fail the ultimate test.  That would be a person’s willingness to give their very life for the Savior.  If they cannot endure through the course of life then they would never really be called a soldier.  What good is a soldier who will  not give his/her life?  What good is the person who opts for surrender in order to save their own life while jeopardizing the lives of those who we fight for?

How do we prepare people for hardship without pain or discomfort?

- Safety Nets

- Physical Conditioning

- Emotional Conditioning

- Simulation

- Combat Training

- Survival Training

q      The pain that you submit yourself to lessens the pain that you have no control over.  Pain that is inflicted for the purpose of building your endurance is what we need to submit to. The pain that you submit yourself to lessens the pain that you have no control over.  There are folks who never submit themselves to anything that exists beyond there comfort zone.  That notion in itself is a nauseating one.  When is the last time that you agreed to do something that took you out of your comfort zone?  Do you think that people who say “Yes” find it easier than you do? There is always hope in this world as long as there is breath.  There is no more conflict beyond this world

q      Somewhere there has to be a change in thinking. Somewhere there has to be a change in thinking.  It has to move away from wanting to escape our current set of circumstances to learning how to use every disadvantage to my advantage.  To ruling your body beyond pain.  You must learn to rule over the physical and the emotional.  To see spiritual reality.  There are so many times when I am tempted to say things that I would live to regret and times when I sacrifice my sense of dignity in order to prevent further complicating situations that God will have to handle on his own.  Will my response benefit or hurt other things around me?

2.   He must keep himself from being involved in civilian affairs.

q      The concept of “serving God” means to be at his disposal.  I think that we struggle with this idea.  That means that if we are enlisted men and women that for the entire period of our lifetime, God is free to alter, activate change our orders according to His plan.  When we cease to be available we are no longer in God’s army. To be woven into the fabric of human affairs.  The concept of “serving God” means to be at his disposal.  To call you to do whatever he pleases.  Is he free today to ask anything of you?  Could you say to him, “Anything you ask Lord?”  How can we expect to find reality in Christian living if reality for us is defined by our circumstances.

For example:  God wants me to leave my vocation and to go into the ministry.  Every soldier of Christ needs to be ready to respond to that call.  Because of our entanglements we are not free to do that.  We have bills to pay, houses to sell, children to raise, property to care for.  Remember the parable?

What do you do when you are no longer available to God?

q      We live in the “me first” generation. 

 

Luke 9:57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go." 58 Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head." 59 He said to another man, "Follow me."  But the man replied, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father."  60 Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God."  61 Still another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family." 62 Jesus replied, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God."

q      People struggle to find spiritual reality.  Basically because we try to define spiritual by our physical circumstances.

q      We need to develop a plan to extricate ourselves. Back away from certain commitments.  - gain a clear understanding of the chains that bind you.  - develop a plan

3.   He must have a desire to please his commanding officer.

A bunch of recruits were having a written examination, and when one of them was asked why he wasn't working, he replied, "Sir, I have neither paper nor pencil."

"Well!" exclaimed the instructor, "what would you think of a soldier who went into battle with neither rifle nor ammunition?"

The recruit thought for a moment, and then answered, "I'd think he was an officer, sir.":

Unfortunately, too many Christians today think they are officers" in God's army and have no need of the Spirit's weapons.

Don't underestimate the enemy!

2Samuel 23:8 These are the names of David's mighty men:

 

    Josheb-Basshebeth, a Tahkemonite, was chief of the Three; he raised his spear against eight hundred men, whom he killed in one encounter.

 

9  Next to him was Eleazar son of Dodai the Ahohite. As one of the three mighty men, he was with David when they taunted the Philistines gathered at Pas Dammim for battle. Then the men of Israel retreated, [10] but he stood his ground and struck down the Philistines till his hand grew tired and froze to the sword. The LORD brought about a great victory that day. The troops returned to Eleazar, but only to strip the dead.

 

11 Next to him was Shammah son of Agee the Hararite. When the Philistines banded together at a place where there was a field full of lentils, Israel's troops fled from them. [12] But Shammah took his stand in the middle of the field. He defended it and struck the Philistines down, and the LORD brought about a great victory.

 

13 During harvest time, three of the thirty chief men came down to David at the cave of Adullam, while a band of Philistines was encamped in the Valley of Rephaim. [14] At that time David was in the stronghold, and the Philistine garrison was at Bethlehem. [15] David longed for water and said, "Oh, that someone would get me a drink of water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem!" [16] So the three mighty men broke through the Philistine lines, drew water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem and carried it back to David. But he refused to drink it; instead, he poured it out before the LORD. [17] "Far be it from me, O LORD, to do this!" he said. "Is it not the blood of men who went at the risk of their lives?" And David would not drink it.

 

Such were the exploits of the three mighty men.

Have you ever done anything that put yourself at risk just to please the commanding officer.  There are times when we do foolhardy things in our lives just because we want to please God.  They make no sense whatsoever from a lateral perspective.  However, from a vertical perspective they say something loud and clear.  They say “I love you” to God.

Do you think every so often that we could stand a little more of this?  I do.

Has God been asking you lately or even hinting about His pleasure?  David just mentioned something that he wanted and that was all that it took to set the Three off.

o       He has been speaking to you lately about giving?

o       Getting more involved?

o       Want to witness to someone?

o       Lead a small group?

(Bring Master Corporal LeBlanc to the platform briefly near the end of the service.)

I love thy church, O God;

Her walls before me stand;

But please excuse my absence, Lord;

This bed is simply grand!

A charge to keep I have;

A God to glorify;

But Lord, don't ask for cash from me;

The glory comes to high.

Am I a soldier of the cross,

A follower of the Lamb?

Yes!  Though I seldom pray or pay,

I still insist I am.

Must Jesus bear the cross alone,

And all the world go free?

No!  Others, Lord, should do their part,

But please don't count on me.

Praise God from who all blessings flow;

Praise him, all creatures here below!

Oh, loud my hymns of praise I bring,

Because It doesn't cost to sing!


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[1] The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

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