So who didn't play with G.I. Joe when he was a kid? At least when I was growing up, the plan was set: little soldiers for boys and Barbies for girls, right? Nothing wrong of course with little girls occasionally staging battles with the green army men and little boys sporadically visiting the Barbie beach house (as Ken, right?) to check out the latest shopping spree. But in general - soldiers for boys and dolls for girls back in the day.
I guess the 'day' has changed over the years. Suddenly somehow G.I. Joe became the bad guys in some circles, and the attempted G.I. Jane (military Barbie) didn't go over so well - must've intimidated Ken too much?
But wait! Hitting the big time screen with big time actors/actresses is none other than G.I. Joe! Apparently there has been enough interest to dump millions of dollars into a theatrical interpretation of the scenarios we used to play out in the backyard and on the living room floor.
And even if you weren't into all that military stuff, you have to admit that there is something compelling about people fighting for a cause, no matter what the cost.
In other words, I believe we are hard-wired to be a 'soldier' in the sense of anyone fighting for something worth, well, fighting for. There are soldiers for sports for victory on the field. There are soldiers for academics for the triumph of scholarships and admittance into great schools. And there are soldiers who go to work and take care of kids every day just to make the world a better place.
But wait a minute…where did the G.I. Christians go? Nothing wrong with other causes, but if no one ever told you, when you trusted Christ, you enlisted in a branch of service. Listen to the words of the Apostle Paul as he writes to his friend Timothy:
Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. Soldiers don't get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them (2 Timothy 2:3-4).
Fairly straightforward, wouldn't you agree? As Christians, we are clearly called soldiers because we were definitely 'enlisted' or recruited by Jesus Christ. In other words, when we signed up for salvation, we were inducted into a lifetime of service for His cause.
Oh, we can choose to be lousy soldiers. I've seen plenty. During my military service in the Air Force, I knew lots of folks who gave lip service to their commitment, but on the inside they were about as much a soldier as Ken in the beach house. They weren't serious about the threat and the importance of the cause, and they were very lucky that no serious battles came their way.
How about you? Are you getting 'tied up' in the affairs of civilian life? Paul says that there are Christians who forget that all the stuff and the drama of day-to-day life is just that: stuff and drama. It detracts and distracts us from our real purpose, which is to fight the spiritual battles and champion the spiritual causes that come our way every day.
You know people that need to be prayed for…are you praying? You have friends who might spend an eternity apart from Christ…are you sharing the gospel? You have an enemy who is firing round after round of depression, anxiety, despair, and destructive temptation your way…are you putting on the protective gear for your soul?
Perhaps you've never thought of yourself as a G.I. Christian and you wouldn't be the only one. But I hope now that you take your recruitment and calling seriously, because if those who don't are missing a seriously amazing opportunity to be victors, overcomers, and champions for the Lord Jesus Christ.
So how can we be a good soldier for the One the Bible calls 'the Captain of our salvation'? (Hebrews 2:10). That will mean different things for different people, but as a former soldier, I can say there are three very key elements:
First, be ready for the fight at any time. During my service in the Air Force, I had a bag packed at all times sitting in my closet, because at any time I could be called anywhere in the world if stuff went down. Now, my 'bag' is a readiness for a spiritual battle that could escalate without warning.
Second, resolve to not be distracted. Sure, enjoy that full life that Christ has granted you, but don't let the enemy use that to sidetrack you from being a soldier. There are real G.I. s in Iraq and Afghanistan right now who are playing soccer with kids or jamming out on iPods, but don't think for a minute that they aren't totally focused on what is going on around them.
Finally, a good soldier is of good courage. He/she refuses to be overtaken by fear and discouragement, because the cause is worth fighting - and even worth dying - for. As a Christian, you have an unlimited resource of strength through prayer and the pages of the Bible. And most of all, you have the power of God Himself living inside you through the Holy Spirit.
G.I. Christian…soldier up!
Flashpoint: Ignite Into Action
Ask your friends if they ever want/wanted to be a soldier and what causes they think are worth fighting for. Use that as an opportunity to bring up the ultimate cause to which every Christian is called (serving Christ each and every day) and the difference that has made in your life. Pray for an opportunity for that conversation to be a bridge to share the gospel.
Accelerant: Feed the Fire
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints (Ephesians 6:10-18).
For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).
For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day-and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing (2 Timothy 4:6-8).