Serving With Distinction


Passage: 2 Tim 2:3-4
This morning I would like to begin with a story about the sacrifice it takes to gain the Congressional Medal of Honor. This is the story of Private Joseph Cicchetti:

Private first class, US Army, Company A. 148th Infantry, 37th Infantry Division. Place and Date: South Manila, Luzon, Philippine Islands, 9 February 1945.
He was with troops assaulting the first important line of enemy defenses. The Japanese had converted the partially destroyed Manila Gas works and adjacent buildings into a formidable system of mutually supporting strongpoints from which they were concentrating machinegun, mortar, and heavy artillery fire on the American forces. Casualties rapidly mounted, and the medical aid men, finding it increasingly difficult to evacuate the wounded, called for volunteer litter bearers. PFC Cicchetti immediately responded, organized a litter team and skillfully led it for more than 4 hours in rescuing 14 wounded men, constantly passing back and forth over a 400 yard route which was the impact area for a tremendous volume of the most intense enemy fire. On 1 return trip the path was blocked by machinegun fire, but Pfc. Cicchetti deliberately exposed himself to draw the automatic fire which he neutralized with his own rifle while ordering the rest of the team to rush past to safety with the wounded. While gallantly continuing his work, he noticed a group of wounded and helpless soldiers some distance away and ran to their rescue although the enemy fire had increased to new fury. As he approached the casualties, he was struck in the head by a shell fragment, but with complete disregard for his gaping wound he continued to his comrades, lifted 1 and carried him on his shoulders 50 yards to safety. He then collapsed and died. By his skilled leadership, indomitable will, and dauntless courage, Pfc. Cicchetti saved the lives of many of his fellow soldiers at the cost of his own.

On Memorial Day we specifically remember the sacrifice of our men and women in uniform most especially those that have paid the ultimate price. The day extends back to the Civil war, and we remember the many thousands of soldiers that have died to protect this country. They have served with distinction.
Turn in your Bibles this morning to the second chapter of second Timothy " verses 3-4 where we are called to serve as a soldier " to serve with distinction.
Paul writes,
"Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier." (2 Ti 2:3-4, NASB95).
Do you remember singing that song in Sunday School years ago"¦? "I may never march in the infantry, shoot the artillery, fly o'er the enemy"¦ but I'm in the Lord's Army! "Yes Sir!" I'm in the Lord's army! "Yes Sir!"
It wouldn't hurt to start thinking of ourselves as soldiers in the Army of the Lord. We are here for one purpose, to gather recruits at all costs. And here are the marching orders that Paul gives to Timothy in the second chapter of second Timothy. He primarily says three things here:
"Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier." (2 Ti 2:3-4, NASB95).
First he says, "Suffer with me"¦"

Suffer

He's asking Timothy to be disciplined enough to be more than willing to suffer, but to actually get busy about the ministry of God which will, without fail, cause you to suffer.
In the Greek, the phrase, "Suffer together with me" is one word that gives the idea of "join me and we'll suffer together" as we serve Christ.
It's a hard fact for a soldier that the road to victory is paved with blood and it very well may be his own. The same is true for you and me in service to Christ. Paul reminds Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:12, "… all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted," (2 Ti 3:12, ESV)
Suffering is not easy, but if we are going to serve God " we will suffer. What are the causes of the suffering? When a soldier enters the combat zone, he does so knowing that he risks personal injury, even death. He endures hard labor both physically and mentally. The trials confronting a soldier in any age are as similar and yet as disparate as the situations and battles in which he is found.
Are you ready to pay the price of suffering in order to follow Jesus? I'm not talking about enduring Arthritis or any other sickness. You can be sick without being holy. It has nothing to do with following Jesus. I'm not talking about enduring hard financial problems in this world caused by the random difficulties of life. I'm talking about paying the price of suffering, in the flesh " in the mind " and in the spirit that is caused by making a decision of obedience to Jesus Christ which causes negative consequences in this world.
Join with me in suffering hardship for Christ. But there is another necessity: Separation.

Separate

"No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life…"
We get too easily involved in civilian (or rather unchristian) affairs. How much of our lives are absorbed in vain pursuits which have no positive impact on eternity?
Certain things are necessary and many are even good. God gives skills and therefore Jobs that we might have the wherewithal to eat and dress and live in homes. God grants the pleasures of the arts that we might create, or enjoy them. I'm not talking about a need to live the spartan life of a monk. Every good gift comes from God.
What I'm talking about is the need to separate ourselves from the junk rather than the treasures of this life.
Let me just offer you a quick rule of thumb for determining what is worthwhile and what is not. In just three words you can determine if the pursuits and passions you spend your life on are godly or godless. Just ask the question "Would Jesus Approve?"
That brings me to the final task for serving with distinction….

Seek God's pleasure

Watch a little girl sitting on the porch with her father. He leans forward on his elbows, and as she watches him she does the same, he sighs and she sighs. He coughs and she coughs. Every movement he makes she copies, for no other reason, than that she wants to please him and to be like him.
Let me ask you this question. Do you truly desire to please Jesus? Are you willing to go through hardship for him? Are you in love with Jesus? Does pleasing him capitalize your thoughts?
What happens when God's pleasure becomes the focus of your life? You begin to make decisions that take you away from Sin rather than towards it. You begin to spend your money, your time, your energies in ways that please Him " and you begin to discover in doing so that you have enough money to bring contentment, enough time to accomplish what God calls you to, and enough energy to accomplish what He calls you to do.
And above all things you'll discover God's pleasure from your service to Him.
Serve him well, endure hardship, Separate from ungodliness and the day will come when you will be presented with an eternal medal of honor. That will pale though in comparison though to hearing your commanding officer say, "Well done Soldier! Well Done!"
AMEN.