The following is an excerpt from our new Core booklet, Called to War: The Christian and the Military. Learn more and request your free copy here.
God’s word provides consolation for those who are called to the military. This isn’t because America is a promised land or because we advance the kingdom of God through force of arms. Rather, we find comfort from those who lived lives of perpetual warfare and who took refuge in the wings of the living God (Ps. 91).
Take the apostle Paul, for example. He faced endless hardships, as he recounted:
Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?(2 Cor. 11:23–29)
Notice all the times that he mentions danger. He was constantly on the front lines, so to speak. But he didn’t shrink back. Why? He said, “But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24). He braved the dangers of this world because to him, to live was Christ and to die was gain (Phil. 1:21).
Danger is the default for the Christian, not the exception. Like Abel before Cain, the world will bring their hatred of God to bear against those who belong to him (Gen. 4). How do we, like Paul, stand before such hostility? I find Paul’s words to Timothy particularly helpful here:
Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. The saying is trustworthy, for:
If we have died with him, we will also live with him;(2 Tim. 2:8–13)
if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
if we are faithless, he remains faithful—
for he cannot deny himself.
This passage isn’t simply about persecution. Paul’s suffering encompasses everything from his own sin to all that Satan and the world can do to him. But he’s not deterred. Why? Because, unlike Paul, the word of God is not chained. God’s gracious love and power continue to overflow the earth, even as we’re overwhelmed in the process. Therefore, we endure. We endure because he is faithful.
Overcoming Our Adversary
And this literally brings us to the crux of the matter. Jesus was born into a world that was hostile to him. He was born into the dark of night and there would be no room in either the inns or hearts of man to accommodate him. He contended with Satan—without food, but with the word of God—for forty days, and unlike Adam and all who came after him, he overcame our wicked adversary (Luke 4).
While Satan continually afflicted Jesus throughout his earthly ministry, there was perhaps no greater contest than when Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:39–46). Even as he instructed the disciples to pray that they might not enter temptation (and submit to the tempter), he was in agony within his very soul. The Greek term for “agony” refers to a great contest or battle. This was the final chance to deter Christ from his cross, and while Jesus—in his perfect humanity—recoiled at the thought of God’s wrath, he committed himself to the purest act of sacrificial obedience known to history: “Not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).
He engaged in this great battle against Satan to undo the harm done by our vanquished head, Adam, in the Garden of Eden. Jesus prevailed in the strength of the Spirit to overcome our adversary so that we can rest in the power of his might when we must contend with him as well (Eph. 6:10–20). He leads us in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake (Ps. 23). He will not fail. And one day, Jesus will put sin, death, and Satan underneath his feet, and we’ll know that we have not suffered in vain (1 Cor. 15; Rev. 19).
Christ’s Victory and Your Calling
When you enter the military, you enter a culture that’s very different from the one in which you were raised. In some ways, this will challenge you and your faith in Jesus. It will test your loyalty to Christ, identity in Christ, and morality. But it can also affirm your faith in subtle and prolific ways. It upholds the value of community, sacrifice, hope, and redemption. These concepts are not made complete in military culture, but they are shadows of some of the most important features of the Christian life.
In the military—like anywhere else—you must strive to live in your identity in Christ and rest in the good fight waged by your Savior that culminated in the cross. If your faith is in Jesus, you not only have an endless source of joy when you’re in “the suck,” but you’ll find unprecedented opportunities to talk about Jesus with people who are open to hearing about him. Our faith rarely finds its footing in comfort. But when we’re drawn outside of our comfort zones, we find that Jesus is all we need.