by Molly Audiss

II Timothy 2:3 Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.”

The teenage boy who lives down the street from me just left a few weeks ago for boot camp.  I have been thinking about him, wondering how he is doing.  I can only guess that he falls into his bunk each night exhausted, having worked harder than ever before in his young life.  He is probably being pushed to the limit all the time, and learning to go farther and endure more than he ever thought possible.  This summer is no picnic for him.  I look forward to seeing him again; I know that he will be different- more mature, more confident than the high school kid he was when he left home.  The next time we meet, he will have changed into a man.

Those officers at boot camp will probably not be very nice to my young friend.  They are not trying to make his life happy or easy.  Just the opposite; those men are deliberately making life difficult for the new recruits in order to turn them into soldiers.  Those boys who got off the bus as recent high school grads will graduate from boot camp with an understanding of warfare.  They will have become soldiers in just 10 weeks.  That, no doubt, is a painful, but necessary process.  No 18 –year-old athlete/prankster/goofball is ready for the battlefield.  There must be officers who care enough about those young men that they are willing to make their lives exceedingly uncomfortable now in order to save their lives when they go to fight in war.  Hence-boot camp.

I believe that our life on earth is a “boot camp” for heaven.  No, heaven is not a battlefield or a war, but it is the place where we will live with an eternal, holy God forever and ever.  We are not naturally equipped to know how to live for God as we should, and, I believe that our earthly lives are practice for our heavenly ministry.

The Holy Spirit is the commanding officer at boot camp.  He daily instructs us and trains us to learn how to praise, obey, love, and serve, and trust.  He prompts us to go against our own desires to do what is pleasing to the Lord.  It is not easy; often it is very difficult as He pushes us to the limit of conquering the sin and pride in our lives.  He loves us enough to stretch us farther than we think we can grow in wisdom and knowledge, grace and truth.  He tests us each and every day, revealing our weaknesses, challenging our decision to live for Christ, testing our sincerity.

He does all of this out of love, knowing that …our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; (II Cor 4:17).  He wants us to graduate from boot camp as mature, confident soldiers, able to stand before the Lord at the judgment seat, and hear… “Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.” (Matthew 25:23)

My neighbor knew for a long time that he wanted to be in the Army.  He knew when he signed up that boot camp was not going to be fun.  He anticipated the fact that the officers were going to be very tough and that life was going to be difficult for awhile.  He knew all this, yet he looked forward to joining the Army.  He wanted to be a soldier.

If you are serious about serving God, you will pay a price to serve Him.  Just like boot camp separates the men from the boys, Jesus Christ will bring trials into your life to make sure you really, really want to be used by Him.

I am not talking here about the Christianity that goes to church once a week, then lives like the world the rest of the week.  The service I am speaking about is the burning desire in your heart to serve God and be used by Him.  Not everyone feels that way about the Lord.  If you ask Christ to use you, and to fit you to His image, then you are asking for boot camp.  My pastor says that God never uses a man greatly until He hurts him deeply.

“What?!  No, thanks.  I don’t mean that I want trials, problems, and burdens.  I only meant that I wanted to be a good Christian and love everybody and have a nice comfortable life, with a nice family, lots of friends, and a nice, pretty church to attend on Sundays.”

Well, that is a general picture of American Christianity, but it is not the level of Christ-likeness that the Lord most desires for His Children.  Jesus Christ was brutally murdered; that is true Christianity.  He will expect His children to also go through hardship in order to fit them to the image of His Son.  It makes a parent proud when there is a striking resemblance of themselves in their children.  (“Oh, look!  Junior is the spittin’ image of his dad!)  When you get to heaven, don’t you want people to see the resemblance of your Father in You?  I do.  I want to resemble Christ, my elder brother, and I want to resemble my Heavenly Father.

Life on earth is so brief compared to eternity.  It is no longer than a 10-week boot camp.  Don’t waste this time living a life of ease, in pursuit of material things.  Be courageous and ask the Lord to use you and change you.  Be warned, you are asking for trials- expect them, knowing that “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”  (Phil 4:13)  Recruits know that boot camp is hard, but they look ahead to the honor of wearing the uniform, being true soldiers.

Of course, life on earth as a Christian is not all about having it tough and never having anything nice, and being hated by everyone.  No!  “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights” James 1:17a  The Lord is generous and kind.  The Christian life is wonderful.  I have a wonderful family, a great church, and many great friends.  God gives me so many things I don’t deserve.  What I am saying it that, for those of you who have that burning desire inside you to do great things for God, to be more than average, to have your life count for what truly matters, then God will have to put you through the fire before He can use you to your greatest potential.  It is painful, and you will never get past it completely, as there are more trials along the way as your relationship deepens with Christ.  But boot camp can be endured as you “press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 3:14), because your commanding officer (the Holy Spirit) is with you all the way, making you into the soldier you want to be.

Go ahead, sign on, and allow the Lord to make you into something more than you ever thought possible for His service.  Boot camp only lasts a short time, and you will have all of eternity to be glad you “endured hardness as a good soldier.”