Mission First

2 Timothy 2:4
4 No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.”
What is the greatest priority in your life? Some of us might say, “my spouse,” while others, “my children,” or others, “my job.” Learning to prioritize is one of the greatest lessons in life. When we learn to count, we are learning priority. The number one comes before two, which comes before three and so forth. God created the world in an orderly fashion. It probably wouldn’t have worked well to have created humanity without having a world for them to exist.
Tom Landry, former coach of the Dallas cowboys once said, “The thrill of knowing Jesus is the greatest thing that ever happened to me … I think God has put me in a very special place, and He expects me to use it to His glory in everything I do … whether coaching football or talking to the press, I’m always a Christian … Christ is first, family second and football third.” Landry was a man who had his priorities straight.
Without order, there is chaos and loss of purpose. This is true in our spiritual lives as well. The single greatest priority for the Christians life is the Great Commission. The mission at FBC is sharing Christ and building believers. In 2 Timothy 2:4, the Apostle Paul uses a metaphor of a soldier to describe the faithful Christian. He compares Christian faithfulness to a soldier who stays fully de-voted to his mission.
Paul states that “no soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits.” A soldier has one purpose: to carry out his orders. Soldiers give up civilian rights and privileges, such as living at home, being with their families on a regular basis, working a regular job, enjoying entertainment on the weekends (like going to “the game”), pursuing their own dreams and more. There are a slew of privileges that soldiers forfeit when they enlist in the military. When they agree to a contract in the military, from that point on, the mission comes first.
The same thing happens in the life of the believers. When we come to faith, we are automatically drafted for service to the King. The Pastor to early churches spread across Judea wrote the following in Hebrews 11 concerning the faith of Israel’s patriarchs: “1Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the people of old received their commendation.”
One common characteristic of the Patriarchs listed in Hebrews 11 is that they all gave up significant entitlements in their lives in order to pursue the promises given to them by God. This was a great act of faith because none of them received in this life what they were promised by God (cf. Heb. 11:39-40). They firmly attached themselves to God’s promises in this life so that they will obtain the re-ward in eternity. This is faith! Faith is a calling to give up our rights. Faith is an invitation to forsake the carnal short-lived earthly life in order to invest in our eternity.
A soldier, by faith, purposes himself to relinquish the present joys that are entitled as a civilian. He commits, by faith, to a new life mission. The Christian life is one of giving up rights and one of following our orders. Life is no longer about being “fair.” Life for the soldier is about being faithful— faithful to his governing orders.
According to the Apostle Paul’s metaphor, the reason a soldier gives up his rights and resolves to place the mission first in his life is for the reward the commendation of his commanding officer. He seeks to please his commander. The commander is the one who has the authority to adjust the soldier’s quality of life. He can make his soldier’s life harder or easier based on the soldier’s per-formance. So the solider wants to do everything he can to obtain this commander’s commendation instead of criticism.
As servants of Christ, our purpose is no longer self-glory and pleasure. Our purpose is no longer people pleasing. Our aim is now to do anything and everything to please God. When we seek God’s praise above everything else, we are putting Him first. In Christian ethics, the pleasure of God and receiving his commendation is put above everything else. It is put above our own pleasure. It is put above pleasing anyone else to whom we are related. Jesus calls us to deny ourselves and our family members in pursuit of prizing Christ above all else (cf. Matt. 16:24; Lk. 14:26).
In the Christian life, the mission comes first. That means we need to be careful of engaging in activities that hinder from mission. Keeping focused is important. That means we must keep short ac-counts with each other. We must forgive. We must aim to outdo one another in showing honor (cf. Rom. 12:10). Instead of arguing over how we might have been offended, we should give greater striving to be the one who serves the other. The calling is to pay the cost, whatever it takes, to stay focused on reaching the next person for Christ.
One of the evidences that we are faithful is that we are paying a cost in every area of our life. If we haven’t sacrificed anything, we aren’t living for Jesus. We are only living for ourselves. If you want to live for Christ, you have to put the mission first. The mission is to encourage everyone we encounter to walk toward Christ.
Put the mission first in your life. This means that we need to devote regular time to knowing and understanding what our mission is by studying God’s word. That might mean brewing some coffee daily in the morning before everyone gets up and devoting time to bible study and prayer.
Put the mission first in your relationships, whether it is with your spouse, children, friends or coworkers. When a mom gives up hours of sleep to feed her baby and change diapers, and to nurture a child, she is putting Christ first. When a wife patiently affirms her husband as she addresses his shortcomings to build him up so that he is encouraged instead of embarrassed and demoralized, she puts him first.
A husband puts the mission first by taking time to connect to his wife in meaningful conversation, living a life of integrity, being a friend to her, affirming her beauty and providing for her needs so that she is built up at the end of the day instead of in despair wondering if God cares about her needs.
When a husband comes home from work, as exhausted as he might be, and relieves his wife from the daily burdens of the household, he is putting the mission first. He does this by helping with chores, taking responsibility for admonishing and discipling his children, and by spending time with them and taking responsibility for the evening routine so that his wife can have a break— instead of sitting on the couch and flipping on the TV or going out with his buddies.
When we are at work, we put the mission first by doing our work with excellence so that we gain an honorable reputation. This means showing up on time, getting our job done, not complaining, and taking initiative to help others in their work. That will give us the platform to share Christ through both our example and our personal testimony.
Put the mission first when you join others to worship God on Sunday mornings. Come to church looking to build others up and to appreciate and affirm the service of others during worship, instead of criticizing and condemning those who are trying to serve the Lord. Look to take responsibility in places where the church is weak instead of criticizing and lamenting how the church doesn’t “meet my needs.”
Putting the mission first means that we must seek to serve others and unhitch from selfishness. It means that we don’t approach life with a “me first” attitude. If giving up your “rights” means that you win some, then pay that cost (cf. 1 Cor. 9:22). The primary concern of the soldier when he acts is what will be the effect of my actions. Will it move others to Jesus or make them run away?
Put the mission first.
In Christ,
Pastor Jeremiah