“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 Timothy 2:3,4.

This week many had a holiday from work to celebrate Veterans Day. My dad was a World War II veteran and served in the U.S. Navy.

Growing up in the hills of Virginia he never learned to swim or had any opportunity to learn as his dad, my grandfather, took him out of school when he was in the third grade to work cutting pulp wood to help support the growing family of 10 children.

My father would never talk about his experience in the Navy. We only know two things that he would mention: it took two petty officers to throw him into a pool of water in boot camp and was told to sink or swim; luckily he did. A ship that he was on in the Pacific was sunk by a Japanese torpedo and he lost all of his personal articles and clothes.

In the little country church where I grew up we always had two flags on the dais: the American flag and the Christian flag. Every day in school we would say the pledge to the American flag and in the summer during Vacation Bible School we would say the pledge to the American flag and the Christian flag.

I like saying the pledge to both flags. They represent two types of freedom. The pledge to the American flag reminds me of the sacrifice that literally thousands of men and women have made in order for us to have the freedoms that we experience daily.

Someone wrote: It is the VETERAN, not the preacher, who has given us freedom of religion.

It is the VETERAN, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press.

It is the VETERAN, not the poet, who has given us the freedom of speech.

It is the VETERAN, not the campus organizer, who has given us the freedom to assemble.

It is the VETERAN, not the lawyer, who has given us the right to a fair trail.

It is the VETERAN, not the politician, who has given us the right to vote.

It is the VETERAN, who salutes the flag, who serves under the flag.

The pledge to the Christian flag reminds me of a different freedom: I pledge allegiance to the Christian flag and to the Savior for whose Kingdom it stands, one Savior, crucified, risen and coming again, with life and liberty to all who believe.

In his book, “Be Faithful,” Warren Wiersbe reminds us that a Christian soldier is willing to endure hardness. Ministry is not an easy job. It requires spiritual endurance. A Christian soldier avoids the empty things of this world that will distract from the faith. Our Commander is none other than the Lord Jesus Himself. Our purpose is to bring honor and glory to Him, not ourselves.

The apostle Paul wrote these words while bound to a Roman soldier 24 hours a day, seven days a week. But the Word of God was not bound and through the apostles’ writing untold millions, down through the ages, have enlisted in the Lord’s Army.

Anyone who has served in the military knows that to fail in ones duty or to not follow the commanding officer’s instructions, subjects one to serious consequences. They must be devoted to their duty.

Serving Christ is also hard work, requiring total commitment. Unless Christians are totally dedicated to the Lord and committed to His work, the channels through which the Holy Spirit wants to work will be clogged and atrophied. Paul said in Philippians 3:8: “I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord....”

There are two types of freedom embodied in two flags. Thanks to the veterans who have served to preserve our political freedoms, which allow us to freely worship our Creator Who gives us that greater freedom we all so desperately need.

Emmett Murphy is a retired Christian pastor.