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Tough Times Build More than Conquerors

By April 27, 2023No Comments

Long celebrated in television shows, films, and books, the Navy SEALS (an acronym for Sea, Air, and Land) history of death-defying missions is often stranger than fiction. The training that SEALS endure just to wear the trident is legendary.

Controlled Chaos

No one is assigned to SEALS training—they are all volunteers. The average dropout rate is between 70-85%. Once accepted, volunteers undergo physical and psychological training at the Navy Amphibious Base in Coronado, California. SEAL training includes twenty-four weeks of Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S). One former SEAL described the BUD/S regimen as “controlled chaos.”

The philosophy behind BUD/S is found on a plaque at the Navy Special Warfare Center in Coronado, “The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war.” Week four, trainees endure “hell week,” which starts at midnight and is accompanied with machine gun fire and grenade explosions. With little or no sleep each night and fatigue so extreme that many soldiers experience hallucinations, injuries, and life-threatening situations.

Constant Harassment

Admiral William H. McRaven, himself a SEAL, noted that BUD/S is “six months of long torturous runs in soft sand, midnight swims in cold water, obstacle courses, unending calisthenics, days without sleep and always being cold, wet, and miserable. It is six months of being constantly harassed by professional trained warriors who seek to find the weak of mind and body and eliminate them from ever becoming a Navy SEAL.”

Whether fighting Viet Cong in the jungles of Vietnam, hunting down terrorists in Iraq, scouring the mountains of Afghanistan, pursuing Caribbean dictators, or rescuing Americans held hostage, the SEALs succeed or die trying. Without the pain of training, the Navy SEALs could never accomplish their destiny.

More than Conquerors

The Apostle Paul was a spiritual Navy SEAL. He once gave us his job description:

“From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep;  in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren, in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness—besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches” (2 Corinthians 11:24-28).

And this list is only halfway through Paul’s ministry. Only God knows how much more he suffered to complete the calling upon his life. Earlier in this same letter, Paul expressed the purpose of his suffering,

“We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed—always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body” (2 Corinthians 4:8-11).

Hardship so that “the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.” It seemed that Paul almost reveled in suffering! He certainly wasn’t wasted by it, but rather was built up through it. He wanted more of Jesus revealed. In writing to the Romans, Paul gives us insight into the purpose of suffering,

“‘For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.’ Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:36-37).

Not unlike the Navy SEALS, we become conquerors through hardship. Suffering for the sake of suffering does no one any good. But suffering as a Jesus follower builds a love for God and conquering spirit that gives one joy. There is joy in suffering when we know it’s for the glory of God.

It is through failure, sorrow, brokenness, and mistakes made, that God forms us into more than conquerors. God is equipping us for battle and He needs well trained disciples.

The Most Beautiful People

Life is suffering. Life is malevolent. Nietzsche once said, “to live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning to the suffering.” The most beautiful people I’ve known, the most mature believers I have walked with, and the most interesting leaders I’ve met are men and women who have suffered much, failed often, and yet found their way into joy.

My mother’s best friend, Carol Ann, has lost three husbands. Her first husband died at a young age, leaving her with five children. The second, was killed by a drunk driver. Her third husband died only recently. Yet through her tragedies, she developed a ministry to grieving widows and widowers that brought life and meaning to thousands. She is now in her 90’s and one of the most joyful people I know.

I want to be more like Carol Ann. I want to be more than a conqueror in Christ. James writes, “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:2-4).

I wish there was an easier training program! But it seems that God has us suffering in this life for the purpose of patience and perfection. Let’s get over it and on with it in joy!

Pastor Steve