Fit for the Fight

I’ve always been a big fan of the Navy Seals. From raw recruits the SEAL team members evolve into possibly the most elite fighting force in the world. They train relentlessly, push the limits of physical, mental, and emotional endurance and, in the process, form bonds that last a lifetime. There is a reason that they are called “SEAL teams.” Most of the disciplines that they must master are team exercises.

And then there’s Hell Week. A grueling 5.5 days, the continuous training ultimately determines who has the ability and mindset to endure.

Trainees are constantly in motion; constantly cold, hungry, and wet. Mud is everywhere–it covers uniforms, hands, and faces. Sand burns eyes and chafes raw skin. Medical personnel standby for emergencies and then monitor the exhausted trainees. Sleep is fleeting–a mere three to four hours granted near the conclusion of the week. The trainees consume up to 7,000 calories a day and still lose weight.

Their inner voice mimics the BUD/S instructor pacing the line of waterlogged men with his bullhorn. “If you quit now you could go get a room at one of those luxury hotels down the beach and do nothing but sleep for an entire day!” Throughout Hell Week, BUD/S instructors continually remind candidates that they can “Drop-On-Request” (DOR) any time they feel they can’t go on by simply ringing a shiny brass bell that hangs prominently within the camp for all to see.

“The belief that BUD/S is about physical strength is a common misconception. Actually, it’s 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical,” said a BUD/S instructor at the San Diego facility. “(Candidates) just decide that they are too cold, too sandy, too sore or too wet to go on. It’s their minds that give up on them, not their bodies.”

“Whaddaya think? All you have to do is get up and go smack the heck out of that shiny, brass bell. You KNOW you want to. …”

It is not the physical trials of Hell Week that are difficult so much as its duration: a continual 132 hours of physical labor and huge emotional stress.

So I was thinking that there are some similarities between Navy Seals and followers of Christ. I’d like to cover five of them.

1. The Seal shows amazing endurance and grit

Seals have phenomenal endurance and grit; they demonstrate it on the battlefield and in their training. Theirs comes from within, from sheer willpower, mental toughness, and determination. Just becoming a Navy Seal requires extreme levels of physical, emotional, and mental strength.

Christ followers have a definite advantage here. We can demonstrate the same levels of strength, determination, and grit, but our power to do so comes from outside us. Scripture promises as much in Hebrews 13:5b-6; Isaiah 40:28-31.  The power provided to a faithful disciple of Christ by God through the Holy Spirit is immensely more powerful than the power that a Seal can generate. (Romans 5:3,4) How else can you understand the countless examples of courage under persecution—even persecution to death? How else do you explain the countless stories of faithful lives led, of disciples who maintained their integrity no matter what the devil threw at them? (James 1:12) How else do you explain the examples of miraculous rescues and healings, both from Scripture and even today? (Hebrews12:1) “Endurance is not just the ability to bear a hard thing, but to turn it into glory.” Philip Yancey

So while we admire the endurance and grit of the Navy Seals, the advantage here goes to the disciple of Christ.

2. The Seal overly prepares. (Neh. 8:13; Psalms 119:91-105)

A Seal team never wants to be surprised so they train relentlessly, and they rehearse all possible scenarios. In the heat of battle, the goal is to instinctively make the correct decision because they already trained for it. A disciple does the same. God has graciously given us His Word in the 66 books of the Holy Bible. As we study His word daily and meditate on it, we become more and more equipped to face whatever may come our way, whether the daily difficulties of life, the occasional crisis that comes to all of us, direct spiritual warfare, or even persecution. How do I remember it all, you ask? (John 14:25-26).

A Seal trains relentlessly to become expert in each of the disciplines he must master—from underwater swimming and diving, to marksmanship, to survival training, and hand to hand combat. What if we put that same effort into our Bible study and training?? What if we committed to mastering the spiritual disciplines?? What if we become determined to become experts in handling God’s Word?? Would that change our approach? “Spectacular achievement is always preceded by unspectacular preparation.” Robert H. Schuller

The Seal must overly prepare in order to successfully meet any challenge, and so must the disciple of Christ. The difference is that we are promised the Holy Spirit as Helper. We still put in the work, and when we need to call upon the things we have studied and prepared for, He will not let us down.

3. A Seal knows the enemy and defines victory

A Navy Seal team is always crystal clear about who the enemy is and, in any given mission, they have defined victory—the end result of the mission. Anything less is unacceptable. They have studied the enemy to such a degree that they know his routines, his habits, his allies. Armed with this knowledge, they can predict where he is likely to strike next and prepare accordingly. As they prepare to engage the enemy, they know exactly what victory will look like—safely rescuing a prisoner, capturing a known terrorist, or driving the enemy out of an occupied city, for example.

Likewise, the disciple knows the enemy. Peter identified him for us (1Peter 5:8:). The disciple knows Satan’s tactics, that he has appeared as a serpent to an unsuspecting Eve, that he sometimes appears as an angel of light, that he attacks our weaknesses, and that he doubles his efforts just when we think we are spiritually the strongest. The disciple also has defined what victory looks like. He knows that victory is standing firm against the devil (Ephesians 6:10-18). That is how the disciple gains the victory. The disciple also knows about the final victory over Satan (Rev. 20:10).

4. Team is paramount

In the world of Navy Seals, team is everything. The various Seal squads are officially called teams. It was Seal Team Six who planned and executed the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden. There are no single-man operations. Every Seal is part of the team. He fully trusts his life to the other team members, and they trust theirs to him. Every man has his role and responsibilities. His job is to execute them flawlessly, knowing that his teammates are doing the same.

The bonds of a SEAL team are forged by doing life together–training, drilling, getting to know each other intimately. The bonds forged by a band of Christian disciples develop in much the same way by doing life together—worshipping and serving together, becoming intimately familiar with each other’s lives of victories, challenges, blessings, and sorrows.

The life of a Christ follower should also be one of team. Scripture makes no allowance for a lone Christian. For us, the concept of team is also vital. Our overarching team is the universal body of Christians, and our specific team is our local church. Maybe we should call ourselves SEAL Team Ridgeland. Each of us has our own role to play, and we know that, as each of us does so, the entire church body thrives and is able to complete its God-given mission. Today, perhaps more so than at any point in recent history, our church “team” must be a healthy one. We must be willing to trust our spiritual lives to one another. We treasure the unique gifts, abilities, and voice that each team member contributes. Our unity and teamwork should shine so brightly that visitors and outsiders see it, admire it, and are drawn to be part of it (Acts 2:44-45; 1 Cor. 12:24b-26).

5. No casualties are left behind

A mark of the Seals is that they leave no team member on the battlefield. All of the team members, including those killed or injured, are carried from the field of battle. The wounded are treated quickly and with all available medical expertise. They either retire with honors or recover enough to rejoin the team.

Should a disciple not act similarly? When one of our team is injured on the battlefield, how do we respond? When we observe or sense that a team member is hurting or dealing with a devastating life event, how do we respond? If someone has been hurt or offended, by us or another, do we come alongside them? When someone dear to us misses a Sunday service or other event, are we concerned enough to reach out?  (Heb. 3:13;1 Thess. 5:11-14). When someone confides his/her struggles with you, and you say “I’ll be praying for you,” DO YOU?

I believe that Satan wants nothing more than to take out God’s people one by one. He can be successful if we leave our wounded on the battlefield. So let’s, each one of us, resolve to do all we can to insure we have a strong, healthy, vibrant, and Godly team. We will leave no one on the field of battle!

I plan to spend time this week in examining myself and see how I measure up in these five areas. Will you join me?

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