The apostle Paul’s words to Timothy, who received the Lord’s calling, are emphatic concerning the undivided attention he ought to give to do the Lord’s work: “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier” (2 Timothy 2:3-4).
A full-time church worker, whom God has called into His glorious work, has the solemn duty to be loyal, dedicated like a soldier. Firstly, he must endure all kinds of hardships which he would encounter in the service of the Lord, that he may faithfully and efficiently carry out God’s work. He must be prepared to endure long hours of work (even deprivation of sleep), challenging conditions, rough treatment, loneliness, hunger, thirst, etc. If he is singleminded in his employment in the church to accomplish the maximum for the Lord’s kingdom, he will be enabled to be an overcomer of all his afflictions. Then he will be able to serve the Lord undeterred by his trials.
Secondly, the full-time church worker’s soldier-like attitude would mean that his devotion to his God-given areas of service would be full and total. A soldier in active service is totally dedicated to his nation’s army 24 hours a day, every day of the year. His health, his skills, his time are pledged to the military in which he serves. His life – all that he is — no longer accepts other pursuits of life as he has yielded himself wholly for the service of his nation’s army. A soldier can be recalled to duty from leave at any time, without notice and for any reason. His allegiance and his dedication are so complete that he is expected to put his very life on the line without question or hesitation!
Albert Barns, a commentator, while commenting on Paul’s statement that “No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life”, wrote as follows: “This is always a condition in becoming a soldier. He gives up his own business during the time for which he is enlisted and devotes himself to the service of his country. The farmer leaves his plough, and the mechanic his shop, and the merchant his store, and the student his books, and the lawyer his files, and the doctor his clinic; and neither of them expect to pursue these things while engaged in the service of their country. It would be wholly impracticable to carry on the plans of a campaign if each one of these classes should undertake to pursue his profession. So with the ministers of the gospel. It is equally improper for them to ‘entangle’ themselves with the secular business, with plans of speculation and gain, and with any purpose of worldly aggrandizement. The minister of the gospel accomplishes the design of his appointment only when he can say in sincerity, that he is not entangled with the affairs of this life.”
Every good soldier of Jesus Christ will abandon all forms of secular commitments that will distract and impede his undivided attention in fulfilling his duties. Hence, a church worker should not take on anything that will distract him from his total devotion to the Lord’s calling. He must reject all matters that are irrelevant to the Christian ministry. Extraneous undertakings would divert his attention and diminish his contribution to the work of the LORD. He who allows himself to be entangled with secular pursuits is unworthy to be a soldier of the Lord’s kingdom. He who claims to be called to full-time service should not allow anything to hinder his usefulness and achievements in the work of the Lord. A faithful servant of the Lord will be sincere and fervent in the Lord’s work. He will not merely do his minimum duty for his Lord, but rather serves Him with all that he is and with everything that he has.
When Jesus called His apostles, they left their secular professions ultimately to pursue the Lord’s calling. In Matthew 4:18–22, we read of their total abandonment of their earthly career: “And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed him. And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them. And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him” (cf. Matt 9:9; Mk 1:16-20; 2:14; Lk 5:27-28).
Pursuing secular employment, business or projects, trying to earn more money, will impede the church worker’s focus on the Lord’s work. Christ warned His apostles against such conduct. He said, “No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Luke 16:13). A church worker who is entangled in the pursuit of material gain is indeed in an unholy alliance. If he does not repent from his material pursuit immediately and turn to serve the Lord wholeheartedly, his departure from the work of the Lord is inevitable!
Church workers who openly or secretly pursue material gain will fail to give their very best to the Lord. Worse still, they will be bad examples of faith and commitment, and be unreliable and unsteady people in the work of the Lord. Their fellow workers cannot count on them when their presence and help are most needed. Neither will they be responsible and reliable co-workers. The apostle Paul wrote about a man named Demas who once co-laboured with him but eventually abandoned him – “For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world…” (2 Timothy 4:10). Sad to say, many churches and servants of God have been troubled by pastors, preachers and church workers who became distracted from the purpose of the full-time service when they began to pursue financially profitable business and enterprises!
Why would a man, who claims to have the calling and assurance from the Lord to serve Him full-time, turn again to the secular world and engage in business with it? No matter how difficult life may be, he who is called to the Lord’s work must press on with faith, patience and prayer! Let everyone who has already entered the full-time service, and anyone who desires to enter the ministry consider the words of the Lord Jesus in Luke 9:62, “No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” Let all the workers of the church take heed not to be misled by “the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches”, which will make one unfruitful (cf. Matt 13:22).
Let us all, who have entered the full-time service of the Lord in the church, cultivate the right thinking and attitude necessary to offer our utmost and the best for the high calling that we received from Him. Like Paul, let us say, “But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24). Let us commit our needs and struggles to our God who “is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8).
Nothing is more important for His servants than pleasing Him who has chosen us to be a soldier. Every servant of the Lord looks forward eagerly to the rewards that Christ will give to all His faithful and loyal servants.