In the American military, the Rangers are to the Army what the Seals are to the Navy, both of them elite, specially trained fighting forces. Most serious soldiers covet wearing the Ranger patch, but the fact is that two-thirds who undertake the training do not make it to the end. The training is grueling: food and sleep deprivation while performing physically and mentally demanding missions under a variety of adverse weather conditions not limited to extreme cold and heat. These soldiers are on their own in the wild for weeks on end with no reprovisioning and no time off. Those who graduate have an iron-clad resolve to persevere through any hardship regardless. They don’t accept excuses and don’t allow pity parties, but meet difficulties with the admonition, “Ranger up!”
I believe that is what Paul was saying to his protégé, Timothy, in 2 Timothy 2:3-6. “Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. 5 Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules. 6 The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops.” This hard truth was meant to be instructive and encouraging in promoting the gospel of Jesus.
Most Christians in the United States have never really known what it is to suffer for Jesus’ sake, but times are changing. Cancel culture encourages manipulation, threats, and retaliation for not adhering to popular lies that permit people to live self-gratifying, immoral lives. Truth is replaced with these lies repeated ad nauseum until the masses believe them. The saddest part is that the new-found “freedoms” are actually destroying lives – the same lives that Jesus came to save. It would appear Paul’s words are just as appropriate today, as in his time.
The Lord is looking for those who will take a stand for truth with the resoluteness of knowing Jesus as the Way, the Truth, and the Life. The price for this determination usually comes via difficult personal trials and painful testing. Jesus’ grace and mercy that has led these spiritual soldiers to overcome the lusts of the flesh and the deceitfulness of sin is the same He extends towards all people. His heart breaks for those who participate in self-destructive behaviors and beliefs that are contrary to His Word. His soldiers adhere to His Word (compete according to the rules), determined not to be thrown off-course by rationalizations or enticements, but to be Jesus’ conduits to give away the blessings they have received. They do not rely on their own intellect or good ideas, but upon His Word, directed by the Holy Spirit, who Jesus promised would lead us into all truth. That is the only way to abundant life in Jesus now, and later, eternal life with the Father (John 10:10).
Being God’s voice of truth in today’s world can feel daunting and thankless. But there is a remarkable reciprocity in giving ourselves away for the cause of Christ. Just as the farmer receives food from his labor, our faith grows from sharing God’s word. “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17 NKJV) Experiencing victory in overcoming obstacles within ourselves assures us that nothing comes our way that Jesus is not equipped to handle. Such knowledge strengthens us to snap to attention at the command to “Ranger up” for we have experienced God’s secret weapon. Notably, our Commander in Chief “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us.” (Ephesians 3:20). Who would not want that?