Off to Boot Camp – A Personal Letter on the occasion of my nephew Clayton going to basic training with the Marines. This letter is to him and shared on the blog for anyone else who can benefit from it.
We, your family and friends, are so proud of you as you begin your new military career. It takes a brave and courageous person to volunteer to protect the people and the Constitution of the United States. As you begin this incredible journey, we want you to know that we support you and admire your willingness.
Sacrifice is a term that is often used either sparingly, because not many people are willing to do it, or carelessly, because what many consider sacrifice truly isn’t. However, thank you for your sacrifice! As you begin on the first day of boot camp, you choose to give up many personal freedoms in order to serve sacrificially for all of us. We enjoy relative freedom every day while you choose to limit your freedom for the sake of military order and structure. We get to choose where and when we get up, what we eat, where we go, what we do, with whom we spend time, and when we go to bed. Whereas, your sacrifice does not begin on a battlefield; but rather, it begins every day when you do not get to make those same personal choices.
There are a few key verses that I want to remind you of as you begin this new journey.
1 Corinthians 10:31
Whether therefore you eat or drink or whatsoever you do, do all to the glory of God.
Although there will be times you feel like you have no choices, there is always a moment-by-moment choice you must make throughout your day. That is, you must in every decision of your day decide whether or not you are going to use that moment and that decision for the glory of God. In other words, you have to decide, regardless if it is in your thoughts, your attitude, your motivation, your words, or your actions, will I honor God? Does this response to my current circumstances point people to the worthiness of Jesus Christ? (Also consider 2 Corinthians 5:9)
1 Corinthians 10:13
No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
The good news is this…God’s grace is yours every step of the way. God is for you and is faithful in every moment of pressure. Regardless of what pressure-filled circumstance you face (temptation), God provides you grace that is up to the challenge. There is enough grace to ensure that you do not have to sin. Grace guarantees that you can bear up through the pressure without sinning. How exciting to know that God limits the pressure and maximizes the grace so that in every circumstance this is true, which is why Paul calls these pressures “common to man.”
13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.
16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. 18 Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.
In those moments when you are tempted to sin, never forget the problem lies within you at the “desire” level. Quickly remind yourself that desire not dealt with biblically – which means you will want to repent, ask God for forgiveness, and recognize God’s grace to help you through the pressure – will bring sin, and sin ultimately brings destruction. You do not want to walk down that path. Ask God for wisdom to help you respond to the pressure-filled circumstance so that you grow and change in Christ (cf. James 1:2-5; Romans 8:28-29).
I am a companion of all who fear You,
And of those who keep Your precepts.
The people you choose to hang around as friends matter. The psalmist – probably Daniel – had two standards for friendships. First, the friend had to fear God, which means to stand in awe of Him, trust Him, recognize He is in control, and respect Him. This is the first and most important standard as you begin to make friends. The second is similar and really flows out of the first…only make those people your friends who obey God’s commands. These two standards will provide you the kinds of friends like Daniel’s three friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.
8 My son, hear the instruction of your father,
And do not forsake the law of your mother;
9 For they will be a graceful ornament on your head,
And chains about your neck.
10 My son, if sinners entice you,
Do not consent.
. . . . . .
15 My son, do not walk in the way with them,
Keep your foot from their path;
16 For their feet run to evil,
And they make haste to shed blood.
Pay special attention so that you are not living for attention, acceptance, or favor from others. There will be those who desire to do what is unwise, foolish, and who lack a desire to honor God in everything. They will either have never learned or have soon forgotten what Solomon teaches. However, God’s way is to remember the Word of God and apply it diligently (cf. James 1:21-27). Do not walk with those who refuse to follow God and obey Him. Instead, recall what you have learned, pay attention to those around you and their path, and make decisions for yourself.
But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself…
Daniel determined to honor God and not the king. He was willing with his friends to follow God over anyone or anything else. He and his three Hebrew friends were away from home, away from their place of worship, away from their other friends, and away from their family. Yet, they still chose to do what God desired more than what the king demanded. They wisely dealt with their superiors and with other peer pressure around them to choose God over everything else.
7 “…Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. 8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
When Joshua had a hard people to lead, an incredibly difficult task to do, and big shoes to fill, God told him to be courageous. He challenged Him to stick with His Word without turning to the left hand or the right hand. Do what God commands and rest assured that God never leaves him or forsakes him. Just as God promised never to leave Joshua, so also Christ promises to never leave you or forsake you too (cf. Matthew 28:20). There is never a time or place when Christ is not with you.
27 Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, …
5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.
Finally, strive to live every moment with one thing in mind – live worthy of the Gospel. Live for Jesus. He is worth all your effort. As He is holy, you strive to lovingly be holy too. He provides you the strength to live for Him. Jesus is your example. In every moment, He considered what God wanted Him to do, and He lived for the honor of God, even to death on the cross. So as you go about every day, living moment-by-moment, live with one thing as your goal: living worthy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
There are so many more verses I could share. These are a good starting place. Remember them. Write them on the table of your heart. When you face pressure like you have never faced before, just know that God is for you, Jesus is with you, and the Holy Spirit provides you the strength to get through it. The Gospel is worth it. Your testimony matters to God, to the other Christians that observe you, and to those around you who need Jesus as their Savior as well.
We love you and are proud of you. You do not just go with our support; you go with our love. And most importantly, you go with Christ’s love.
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