A few weeks ago Pastor Eddie Florentino used an illustration for affliction that really stuck with me and has been a source of encouragement to me over the last few weeks. The passage for that morning was Hebrews 12: 4-11:
4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”
7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
While walking us through the text from Proverbs quoted in Hebrews during Pray Meeting, Pastor Eddie asked if we expected Navy SEALs to get easy training? Do we expect their training to be hard or just a walk in the park?
Well, the obvious answer is we expect their training to not only be hard, but the hardest. These men are supposed to be the elite of the elite. They are supposed to make all our other soldiers look like guys hanging out for the weekend. No soldier should have it easy in basic training. To make it easy on them is to do them a disservice because it leaves them open to attack when they go to war. The better trained our soldiers are the better chances they have of surviving and coming home to their families. (You should always worry if the standards of training are being lowered. That means someone is not getting the training they need. That puts them and everyone around them in danger.) The Navy Seals and all our other special forces should, and do, have training that makes basic look easy. We should hold them to a high standard and we should expect lots of men to be unable to cut it. If just anyone can make it through Navy SEAL training than we have a problem.
So what does this have to do with affliction and why did it stick with me?
It says in Hebrews that our affliction is God’s disciplining and training for us. It is how God molds us and makes us into his children. This world, in some ways, is our boot camp, our basic training, and God uses trials and and sufferings to get us in shape.
Yet for some reason we always complain that our “training” isn’t easy. Why oh why am I suffering?? We moan and complain when the Bible makes it very clear that God is perfecting us. You see that? Perfecting! I don’t know about you, but that seems like something that would require a lot of work. Perfection isn’t easy.
For six months, I’ve been struggling with health issue, and yet when I put my mind on them as training, as my spiritual boot camp, I find them much easier to bear with hope. I have hope in my trials because I know God is using them to make me a better soldier.
See, I’ve read Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell (one of my top 10 favorite books) and American Sniper by Chris Kyle. Through their books, I have gained a very small understanding of what our Navy SEALs do in their training. I have vicariously experienced the mental and physical strength needed to survive to become a SEAL through their stories. Pastor Eddie’s illustration really struck home with me. I truly felt like Captain America in the picture above. I got that reference. It made many things click into place in my head. Their training is hard for a reason and our training by God is hard for a reason. It made my trials logical because I understood they were God’s work in my heart. God is not perfecting everyone. But, He is perfecting His people and that means my life is going to be a struggle, a battle, filled with trials and afflictions, because He loves me and isn’t going to leave me to myself.
That, my dear brothers and sisters, is hope!
The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are here to make me more Christ-like, not give me an easy life, and just like a Navy SEAL, I’m in for a world of hurt. Not because instructors or God is mean. No. Quite the opposite. The instructors what to make sure each SEAL is the best he can be so that he survives and helps bring everyone home. There is a point to the suffering the SEALs endure in their training. There is a point to my trials and suffering. God is loosening my grip on this world, making me holy, and teaching me about Himself. One day, He will bring me home.
We are being trained. That is a hope-filled thought.
I may never have gotten to be a Navy SEAL in this life (that’s another blog post for another day) but, God is training me as a soldier of the Lord in a much bigger war with a much greater Captain.