Winter was fast approaching, as Paul sat in a damp prison cell. It was not like the last time. This was no house arrest, he was not allowed visitors, and the Roman prison was anything but accommodating.
At least they had shown him a modicum of grace by allowing him some parchment, a quill and an inkwell. Paul was by no means feeling sorry for himself, he gladly bore the stripes and the chains for the cause of Christ.
He busied himself by writing, first one letter, then a second to the young man he called his beloved son Timothy, and though imprisoned he found the strength of character to be an encouragement to his student, to continue teaching and discipling him.
The memories took him back to his time in Asia, how he had persevered, preached the word, and established a church even with a death sentence hanging over his head. He remembered fondly how he had labored, and taught and discipled, he remembered all the hours and days spent exhorting those of the church of Asia, but after his departure, the mercenaries had struck.
Hot tears dampened the parchment upon which he wrote, as he relayed to Timothy something he already knew, that all those in Asia had turned away from him. Not a one was left, all his hard work scattered to the wind.
In spite of this, the tears Paul was shedding, were not tears of bitterness, nor tears of anger, they were tears of compassion and heartache. Paul wept because those of Asia had rejected truth. The spiritual mercenaries had struck, and with enticing words beguiled those whom he had built up and edified.
If spiritual mercenaries were few in number during Paul's day, in our day they have become a cottage industry. A spiritual mercenary, much like the modern day mercenaries, who sell their services to the highest bidder, are men of no particular allegiance, who will fight on the side that offers the best compensatory package.
Their only allegiance is to themselves, and the motto of the spiritual mercenary echoes the motto of the real life ones, in that they both hold to the principle, "I got to get paid."
Right or wrong, sin and righteousness, are subjective to the spiritual mercenary. They will say whatever it takes to reach their desired end. The spiritual mercenary does not care what he teaches, if at the end of the day he can cash a check, and buy a bigger house.
Another commonality of spiritual mercenaries, is that they wreak havoc wherever they go. They attempt to divide and conquer a congregation, promoting themselves rather than Christ, preaching a different gospel than that which is found in the Bible.
The tragedy, is that spiritual mercenaries are often successful, and after they've achieved their objective, they leave destruction in their wake. At heart, spiritual mercenaries are poachers, who realize that it's hard work fishing in a stream, or a river, and decide to go fishing in their neighbor's fish tank. Their message will always tickle the ears, it will always be sugar coated, and palatable because their goal is not repentance, or sanctification, their goal is a following, and more importantly that followings' tithe at the first of every month.
True shepherds weep as Paul did at the thought of their labors, time spent in prayer, in mentoring and discipling, only to have the mercenaries come in ravaging and destroying the flock they helped build.
Some often ask me why I concentrate on wolves, spiritual mercenaries, hirelings, and pharisees so much, and the answer, is because it adversely affects the sheep. People are hurting, people are looking for answers, people want to know Jesus, they are sincere in their desires, and their sincerity is exploited, they are being taken advantage of, and bled until all they are left with is an overwhelming feeling of resentment and bitterness. The resentment and bitterness extend beyond the person who deceived them, and made them empty promises, and eventualy come to include God Himself. I have met men, who want nothing to do with God, who don't want to hear of church or fellowship because they have been so wounded by mercenaries in the past.
If the mercenaries kept to themselves, if they were somehow kept isolated from the sheep, I would pay them no mind, they could go on deceiving each other and being deceived until judgment day, because many of them are beyond help, they have already been given over, their conscience seared, and the only thing driving them is the ever growing greed that is never satisfied.
The obvious truth however, is that they are not isolated, they roam among the weak, immature, and innocent, preying and feeding, preying and feeding.
I have often said that I consider myself a level headed, balanced sort of person, and few things get to me. There is perhaps a handful of things that stir my ire, and this ongoing systematic shameless manipulation and exploitation of God's children is one of those things.
I already know what some of you are thinking, that the sheep are just as guilty and as complicit for giving heed, for being beguiled by the empty words and insincere smiles, and to a certain extent I agree.
The times however are upon us, wherein the deception is so concentrated, so well focused and refined, that it is attempting to overtake and deceive, if possible, even the elect.
Flesh is still flesh, and it likes what it hears, justifying the accepting of certain teaching because it comes from men who call themselves servants of God. Couple the strength of the flesh, with the spiritual immaturity so many Christians find themselves in today, and you will begin to understand just how successful the spiritual mercenaries are.
If there is a silver lining in this dark cloud that has settled over the church, it's that the spiritual mercenaries are predictable, and easy to spot. If they talk about their homes, their cars, and their airplanes more than they talk about Jesus, if they focus more on positive affirmation and being happy with yourself rather than repenting of your sins, if within any given week they preach on 1 Kings 17 more than once, chances are very good that you are in the presence of a spiritual mercenary.
I know the words make you feel warm inside, I know you can close your eyes and almost see yourself running through your mansion, exiting through the imported teak doors, onto your own personal Olympic size pool, where a personal butler is waiting with a freshly chilled mixture of orange and strawberry juices, but my advice is to snap out of the daydream, and run. Run as fast as your legs will carry you, stick your fingers in your ears as you're trying to find an exit if you have to, do whatever it takes not to fall into the trap, not to be beguiled and deceived by the empty promises, so that a few months, or a year from now, your only companions won't be bitterness and resentment.
With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.