SBC Life Articles

A Father’s Prayer

Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand. ~ Luke 14:31

No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier. ~ 2 Timothy 2:4

Some people may wonder why Jesus and Paul used military illustrations; I do not. Son of a career army officer, one of three sons that served concurrently in Viet Nam, and soon the father of two soldiers, I believe the Christian life can best be understood from a military perspective. Recently, the family visited our oldest son, Ashley, before his deployment to Afghanistan and our youngest son's enlistment. As the visit drew to a close we gathered beside the car and prayed as a family. In that prayer I asked God to help my son to "Complete the mission, take care of his men, and to come home safe." Since that time it occurred to me that Christian leaders have the same tasks.

Complete the Mission

An army must complete the mission. Our freedom reflects a history of military sacrifices. The Continental Army suffered at Valley Forge. The issue of slavery was settled with blood. Wars have protected our nation's way of life, propelled us to world leadership, and made us a haven for the world's oppressed. As a father I would like to put "Come home safe" first on the list. Knowing the military and the price of freedom, I cannot. God has given His church a mission; win the world.

Jesus warned that discipleship had a cost. His followers would face persecution. Martyrs' blood has fueled world evangelism. From Jim Elliott to unknown believers in "closed" countries, persecution is alive and well in the modern world. Evangelism costs whether it is in our community or the world. I may loose my favorite seat, or parking place, or position if my church starts to reach the lost. The new people may have a skin tone or music style that makes me uncomfortable. It does not matter! We must complete the mission. Special operations soldiers would never think of coming back and reporting that they quit because the mission was too tough. My son will miss nine months of his daughter's first year. That's a price shared by military families. God expects us to complete the mission. That means we must get out of the safety of our walls and into a pagan world, no matter the cost.

Take Care of Your Men

An officer must take care of his men. After the completion of the mission nothing is more important than taking care of the soldiers. I once served under a company commander who was more interested in advancing his career than his unit's well being. The unit was simply his steppingstone and it reflected in the unit's morale. Unfortunately, that is not unique to the military. Many pastors forget they are under-shepherds who will one day give an accounting of their ministries. Do you have a submissive spirit? A soldier is placed in command because he has proven his ability to follow. The centurion told Jesus that he understood Jesus' authority because he was under authority and therefore exercised authority.

The effective officer knows his soldiers, trains them to complete the mission, and knows their needs. How well do you know the people that God has placed under your leadership? Do you put their well being before your own? In the midst of Jesus' passion, trial, and crucifixion He prayed for the disciples and arranged for the care of his mother. Pastor, do you know your flock? Has God placed some raw recruits under your command? What training do they need? For what ministries did God equip them? How can you help them succeed?

Sniper school is rather demanding. Most men do not complete the course. My son's battalion recently sent six men to the school. All graduated. One was the honor graduate. Their success can be credited to the preparation they received from a former sniper instructor now serving in their battalion. God often blesses pastors, deacons, and church members with young men and women just beginning their ministries. Are they better because of their time with us? How can we prepare them to succeed in the Kingdom? God expects nothing less from us.

Come Home Safe

This one is the crown jewel! For a Viet Nam veteran the Wall in Washington D.C. cuts to the bone. Standing in front of the black stone causes one to wonder why good men have to die. There is a sense of guilt, yet thankfulness. The movie Saving Private Ryan has a powerful scene which starts with the front porch of a farm house. A banner with four stars hangs in the window signifying the home has four family members in the military. The scene ends with the mother sitting down on the steps after hearing three of her sons won't be coming home. The scene grips the heart because it has recurred countless times. I grew up hearing nightly news reports of casualties.

We are again at war and every time I hear of more losses I wonder if they are young people I know. The beauty of the Christian life is that unshakeable truth that we will all come home safe. Maybe not to this life, but we will gather around the throne and rejoice with our loved ones. In First Thessalonians, chapter two, Paul reminds the believers facing persecution that they are his crown of joy. That's why the mission is so critical. The church is to go unto all the world, making disciples, touching lives in the power of the Holy Spirit. It is God's passion that the lost be found. It may cost us some discomfort, inconvenience, or even heartache, but it changes each new believer's eternity.

I am proud of my sons. Two have chosen to serve the Lord in the military, one in vocational ministry. All three are His children. It is not too hard for me to see my Father gathering all His children together and telling us, "Complete the mission; Take care of your men; and I will bring you home safe." If we do so as well, I know He will be proud of us.

    About the Author

  • William E. Brown