Imagine if you overheard two people talking about life. They were both tired. One complained and complained about how much things didn’t go the way she wanted. She was forced to get up early to go to work. People screamed at her. She had to do exercises. The other person somewhat liked it. There was real camaraderie among the people where they lived. Yet, she, too, didn’t like that life wasn’t what she expected. She didn’t know why so many things happened that caused her pain, even if she did seem to get stronger because she trained so much.
What difference would it make if you were to walk up to these two people talking and say, “I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation. Did you know that you’re in a boot camp? You’re in the Army: this is Basic Combat Training. Did you know that the reason why you’re going through all this stuff is because people are trying to get you prepared for battle?”
See what a difference proper context and perspective can make? It’s like that about our lives. If you’re like me, so often I think back on my life and think, “This is not what I thought my life would be like,” or “I never dreamt that life would include those events.” And because we have certain expectations, when they are not met, we protest; and can ignore what God really wants us to be or do.
Christians understand that life isn’t about being made happy. God never intended that our lives should be spent in the pursuit of happiness. Morever, God is not morally responsible to make sure that we always get what we want. We are not God’s pets. If we have false expectations of God and of Church, we’ll always be unhappy. God is trying to get us trained for godliness. We’re in a boot camp. Church is NOT a hospice, but a hospital, attempting to heal and transform wounded people who go out and get to work. Church is NOT a cruise ship, but a battleship, part of the “struggle…against the rulers, against the powers, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens” (Eph. 6:12 NET).
In the Army, Basic Combat Training is broken into three parts. In Phase I, recruits are constantly monitored and corrected. All that they knew before is to be stripped away. You make a horrible soldier in battle if you can’t let go of your former way of doing things. In Phase II, recruits begin getting acquainted with various weapons. You make a horrible soldier in battle if you don’t know how to use the appropriate tools properly. In Phase III, recruits increase their physical training and are equipped in Field Training Exercises. You make a horrible soldier in battle if you don’t have endurance, and don’t know how to operate in the field with other soldiers. As it says on one source online, “Upon completion of Basic Combat Training, a recruit is now a soldier, and has developed skills to operate in a combat environment, as a basic rifleman and to perform his or her MOS-specific duties under fire.”
Sister- or brother-in-Christ, you and I are supposed to be training for the kingdom of God. Where are you in the training? Which Phase are you in? Whether we like it or not, this life involves spiritual struggle (e.g., Eph. 6:12; 1 Tim. 4:10; Heb. 12:4).We have so many ways to grow and train for the life God intends for us to live: are you taking advantage of them? Or, do you still think that life is about your own pursuits? There is no way that you’re growing in your discipleship the way you could if you’re not committed to reading Scripture, praying, praising, serving, building relationships with other disciples, and telling people about Jesus. Like a good soldier, we need to let go of our former life (e.g., Eph. 4:22-24). We need to have a great understanding of the proper tools of discipleship (e.g., Acts 2:42). We need to build endurance in our faith (e.g., Heb. 10:36; James 1:2-4), and learn how to equip others alongside ourselves (e.g., Rom. 15:2; 1 Thess. 5:11). Where are you in the training?
When the challenges of life come, are you prepared? When God wants to use you in someone’s life or in some new task, are you ready? When Satan attacks you and wants you to give up, are you ready? When you feel overwhelmed by responsibilities, are you ready? When your past haunts you with guilt, are you ready? When you meet Jesus face-to-face, are you ready?
Just like Paul told Timothy: “Take your share of suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one in military service gets entangled in matters of everyday life; otherwise he will not please the one who recruited him” (2 Tim. 2:3-4 NET).
Don’t give up. Boot camp isn’t always fun…but so what? It was never intended to be a vacation. It was intended to make great soldiers.