“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 Timothy 2:4
A young man decides to try horseback riding, even though he has had no lessons or prior experience. He mounts the horse, unassisted, and the horse immediately springs into motion. It gallops along at a steady and rhythmic pace, but he begins to slip from the saddle. In terror, he grabs for the horse’s mane, but cannot seem to get a firm grip. He tries to throw his arms around the horse’s neck, but he slides down the side of the horse anyway. The horse gallops along, seemingly impervious to its slipping rider. Finally, giving up his frail grip, the young man attempts to leap away from the horse and throw himself to safety. Unfortunately, his foot became entangled in the stirrup, he is now at the mercy of the horse’s pounding hooves as his head is struck against the ground over and over. As his head is battered against the ground, he is mere moments away from unconsciousness when to his great fortune, Stan, the Wal-Mart greeter, sees him and unplugs the horse.
The moral of the story? Beware of entanglements! What if he had been riding a real horse? Now the Apostle Paul is not addressing such silly things as riding a mechanical horse in a department store! He is addressing real life and the reality of debilitating entanglements that hinder our ability to serve the Lord. Entanglements are things in our lives that we encounter that can sabotage our efforts to serve the Lord in our personal lives, families, and in the church. There are several categories of entanglements about which we should be aware.
First, there are the entanglements which the Apostle Peter calls “the defilements of this world.” In 2 Peter 2:20 we read, “For if after they have escaped the defilements of the word by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state is worse for them than the first.” This first category of entanglements is sinful in nature. They are called the defilements of this world. They could be anything that tempts you to give yourself over to your own selfish desires for money, sex, power, prestige, etc. Of course the Lord Jesus can, by His grace, disentangle you from whatever defilement may have a grip on your soul. He can set us free from those sinful things in this world that threaten to entangle us and side-line us.
Second, and closely related is what the writer of Hebrews calls “besetting sins.” In Hebrews 12:1 we read, “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin that so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…” What is in mind here is some sin that has become habitual in our lives so that it is exercising a controlling influence. It “besets” us, or easily surrounds us, and thus is entangling, and impedes our progress. If there is any sin like this in your life it will slow you down, or trip you up. You can become so entangled by it that you are unable to move forward and make progress. Again, the Lord Jesus, by His grace, by His Word and Spirit can break the power of sin in your life and set you free from this entanglement.
The third category of entanglement is more subtle. It is not like the previous two categories in so far as it does not involve things that are necessarily sinful. This is what the Apostle Paul is addressing in 2 Timothy 2:4 when he says, “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.” Here what threatens to entangle is called “the affairs of everyday life.” These are things that are common to all, and engaged by all. The affairs of everyday life are things like working, eating, drinking, caring for children, going to Walmart, sleeping, exercising, recreational activities, etc. While these things are not sinful in and of themselves, they can at time be entangling. If we are not vigilant, as we are pursuing these affairs of everyday life, we may become so entangled by them that they squeeze out the pursuit of that One who has enlisted us as soldiers in His army! It should be our desire to keep our lives disentangled so that we may pursue the goal of pleasing the Lord in all that we do. You and I can become so busy doing “good” things that we neglect the pursuit of our relationship with Jesus! We can become so entangled that we become like Martha in Luke 10, who was “distracted with all her preparations.” In verses 41-42 Jesus said to her, 41“Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; 42but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”
In this life we are often living at a frenetic pace, filling up ever last second with so many pursuits that we rarely take time for the good part. May the Lord help us all to slow down, disentangle ourselves, and be about the business of seeking to please our King.