Faith

Living as a soldier of Jesus Christ, in NS and beyond

Raphael Yip // February 26, 2021, 3:21 pm

Writing to new recruits

Every person’s two years in National Service (NS) will be different.

No longer trapped within the confines of the education system, you’ll find yourself with a newfound independence. But if you’re not careful, you may just find yourself swept away by the current, driven away from God.

As someone who’s currently walking this mandatory path well-trodden, I hope (in my humble and limited experience) to draw out some truths from 2 Timothy 2 to help equip us as a good soldier of Jesus Christ in these two years of NS and beyond.

SUFFERING AND SINGLE-MINDEDNESS

“You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. 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 him who enlisted him as a soldier… Consider what I say, and may the Lord give you understanding in all things.” (2 Timothy 2:1-4, 7 NKJV)

In this passage, Paul uses the example of a good solder as an analogy for being a true follower of Christ: one must endure hardship (2 Timothy 2:3); suffering is inevitable.

However, Paul doesn’t claim the converse holds true – that enduring hardship always equates to being a true believer. With this distinction in mind, how can we ensure that we’re suffering right for God?

Paul elaborates in verse 4: “No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life”.

If we want to live lives devoted to pursuing Christ, we shouldn’t entangle ourselves with human pursuits contrary to God’s will for us.

Why? So that he may please Him who enlisted him as a soldier! It pleases God when we obey Him, setting our eyes single-mindedly not on earthly things but rather the heavenly things above (Colossians 3:2).

Survive and thrive: Making the most of my National Service

Compared to school, you generally won’t have to worry about things like academic stress, what to eat or what to wear.

In NS, even your accommodation is all provided for! Training is progressive, so you won’t have to worry about completing whatever’s required of you.

With this mental burden alleviated, we’re actually left with a greater capacity to focus on our relationship with Him in these two years.

Even the most mundane of days can be a precious opportunity to seek Him in prayer.

That could look like modelling God’s love in your leadership, hearing out a buddy who’s struggling or simply waking up a little earlier to spend some quiet time with God.

Even the most mundane of days can be a precious opportunity to seek Him in prayer.

Whether in muddy jungles or the office, let’s strive to be intentional in seeing God in every situation and redeem every moment for His glory (1 Corinthians 10:31).

DON’T STOP SEEKING

Entering a new season knowing little of what to expect, we all enlist harbouring certain aspirations: command school dreams, breaking your limits, a slack vocation or perhaps indifference altogether.

It’s only natural, and while all these things aren’t inherently sinful, they can become selfish idols and draw us away from God (Romans 1:21-23).

It’s an insidious risk, and I’ve seen it happen all too often to the people around me, myself included.

“Consider what I say, and may the Lord give you understanding in all things.” (2 Timothy 4:7)

So our minds need to be constantly renewed by Him (Romans 12:2). As Paul continues in verse 7, we need to be intentional in setting aside time to deeply meditate over God’s truths and seek Him in prayer.

Exercise Christ-in-me: How to keep the faith during NS

As I reflected, I saw that one of the ways God shaped my relationship with Him was through physical training (PT).

While I originally found that I was glorifying myself in my attempts to do my best for Him, I was led to see that PT was an avenue for Him to be glorified instead.

I began looking to Him in my weakness for the strength to get through every training session.

The assurance which came then brought a great measure of joy to me, as I saw how His guiding hand had been carrying me through NS in unexpected ways.

Help! I keep compromising in National Service

Perhaps you’ve already enlisted, and you’re having a difficult time.

Maybe it’s the constant outfields, a difficult superior or section mate, an existential crisis about masculinity or a habitual sin that has only gotten worse.

My prayer and challenge for you (pre-enlistees too!) is to bring all these desires and weaknesses before God in humble surrender for His glory.

It won’t be easy, neither will change happen overnight, but this is the war for eternity that we’ve been called to fight.

I’m reminded of how Jacob wrestled with God until dawn, refusing to let go until God blessed him (Genesis 32:22-29).

Would you do the same?

GUARD YOUR SPIRITUAL COMMUNITY

In verse 2, Paul prefaces his words of wisdom with a call to share them with others, that they too would be able to make disciples of their own.

While we may not be apostles like Paul, we can still build up and encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ, especially if they’re fellow NSFs.

I can’t overstate the value of having someone there to share in our sufferings and lend a listening ear.

Just as Titus’ godsent presence comforted Paul when he was struggling in Macedonia (2 Corinthians 7:5-6), one of the ways I’ve personally seen God at work has been through people speaking timely words of wisdom and comfort during the dark periods of my NS life.

In what can often be a strangely lonely season for many, NS offers a unique breeding ground for all kinds of toxic and sinful cultures to flourish (Romans 1:29-31).

It’s a lethal cocktail. Not only are we are called to be guarded against sin, we are to constantly exhort each other as well so as to avoid being captured by it (Hebrews 3:12-13).

So let’s not leave any man behind in the pursuit of holiness. Let’s spur one another on towards love and good works, till the day we can all cross the finish line together (Hebrews 10:24-25).

ETERNITY AWAITS

All of the biblical principles in this article aren’t just relevant to NS, but can be applied to other seasons in our life too.

The two years will come and go, and they will pale in the light of eternity (2 Corinthians 4:17).

While we may not be cut out to be soldiers for the SAF (1 Corinthians 12:29-30), I can say for sure that we’ve been called and chosen to be solders for God.

And if God is for us, who can be against us?

7 reasons why every church should have a ministry for NSmen

At the very beginning of the passage, Paul calls Timothy to be strong, yet his exhortation is also a reminder that our strength is ultimately not our own, but His.

It’s all grace. Blood-bought grace, which we wouldn’t have access to had He not laid down His life for us. Yet He did it anyway, that Creator and creation may be gloriously reunited with each other in perfection for eternity. 

I think that’s infinitely more worth living for than a pink or blue IC.

THINK + TALK

  1. Think of your friends who have gone through or are going through NS.
  2. Did they come out as stronger believers or did they fall away?
  3. Consider your personal walk. Which of this article’s tips might you need to apply to your own life?
  4. Know someone who’s going through NS? Send this article over and encourage them this week.