What is the difference between a soldier and a mercenary? Soldiers, in their most noble form, are warriors who serve out of a deep love for their country and fellow countrymen. Mercenaries on the other hand work for the highest bidder. They don’t care about causes, right or wrong, or who gets hurt in the process of achieving their mission of getting a paycheck.

Why do I bring this up? Because this is also the difference between a Jesus-follower who serves regardless of the outcome of their circumstances and a person who chooses to serve a deity, person (including self), or profession solely based on who promises the biggest payout in life.

There are several types of Christian mercenary mindsets: Bargainers, Earners, and When-God statements are examples. I have been guilty of being counted among them during my journey with Jesus.

“The Bargainers”

Consider for a moment those who attempt to bargain with God. “If you’ll do this for me, then I’ll turn my life around and serve you.” Bargainers only offer service to God IF He’ll do what they want Him to do.

“The Earners”

Then, there are “Earners,” people who live a life of faithfulness. Right up to the moment when they decide that they’ve done their part in serving God, but they aren’t seeing the results they expected. They decide that He’s not living up to His part in providing whatever it is their heart truly desires. They think they’ve earned something from God that He’s withholding from them unfairly. At this point, they abandon God and go after what they think God is keeping from them.

I speak from experience when I say this often leads to disastrous results.

“When God”

Do you know people who use logic statements like “When God heals me, then I’ll believe”? This mindset says that God must first prove Himself worthy of our trust, faith, and loyalty before we even think about seeking Him. Never mind that we’re living in a lifestyle that is in complete opposition to God’s kingdom. We expect Him to bless us before we deign to acknowledge Him.

These are all mercenary mindsets that prove that our loyalty goes to the highest bidder. The one who can bring us success, wealth, health, and the good life.

The problem is that God offers the Good Life to all of us. He’s already paid the price. His grace is free, His mercy without limit, and His love is sweeter than any worldly prize.

Soldiers who offer their allegiance without condition can expect God to show up and show off in the most amazing ways. But even if He doesn’t and even before He does, these soldiers are praising God and trusting Him with their lives. This does not mean there will be no trials, no sickness, no financial struggles. But it does mean that God’s provision will always lead us to victory, healing, and treasures we could never image.

Let’s take a look at three true soldiers of God.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Daniel 3)

You may have heard this story before. These three men were among the wisest in the kingdom of King Nebuchadnezzar. These soldiers of God refused to bow before a golden statue of the king, and when they were confronted, they responded with boldness and faith.

“The God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But EVEN IF HE DOES NOT (emphasis mine), we ant you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

Now that’s a statement of faith! God will save us but even if He doesn’t, we still choose Him over all other gods.

For their faithfulness, they were bound and thrown into the fiery furnace. The king’s soldiers who threw them in died because of the intense heat. But to the amazement of the king, he looked and saw four men walking around in the furnace. The fourth man was “like a son of the gods.”

The king called the men out and they didn’t even smell of smoke. The king then praised the God who saved them…all glory to God. 

Notice that the men faced hardship, the displeasure of their king, and death. They not only faced it but lived through what must have been an anxiety filled experience of being bound by soldiers, carried toward a blazing hot furnace, watching as the doors were opened, and witnessing the death of those who tossed them in. They were not spared the experience of the fire. But they were welcomed in the middle of the trial by Jesus who walked through the fire with them and kept them from harm.

They didn’t know the outcome until they were in the furnace. They didn’t bargain with God, they didn’t claim that they had earned the right to escape the flames, they didn’t say when God saves me from this trial, then I’ll worship Him.

They lived in faithful service to their true King and were willing to put their lives on the line to honor Him in life or in death.

This story challenges me. Am I a true soldier of God? Do I serve Him for what I think I will gain or do I serve Him from a place of love and trust.  I like to believe the latter. I truly believe I am a soldier, but like most of you, I haven’t been tested to this point.

Friend, we don’t have to wait until we are faced with death. Choosing God is an everyday occurrence. Our daily lives matter. The small things matter. Serve God now, learn to love Him for who He is not what He can do for us. If we do this, then when something major happens that requires intense faith, we’ll have a sure foundation to say, “I believe God will rescue me from this. But even if He doesn’t, I’ll still worship Him.”

May daily steps of faith spark great acts of worship.