by BRIGADIER GENERAL DAVID WARNER, USAF (RET.)
Paul outlines three ways that Christians can adapt to a troubled culture
We answered the ringing phone awakening us at 0430 while on vacation years ago. On the other end of the line my vice wing commander quickly informs me to tear up the PCS orders I’ve had since March, orders that would have kept the Warner family in Colorado for another year. Now wide-awake, Lori and our two daughters are hanging on every single word of the one-way conversation they’re hearing. We’re to be at our new duty station in thirty days.
The impact of sudden change was overwhelming. Lori had to inform her school she wouldn’t be returning in the fall to teach. Eldest daughter, Brittney, would spend her senior year at a new high school—her third high school. And Ashley would leave behind her best friends. Uncertainty had flooded in, leaving in its wake a myriad of swirling emotions.
Such is the military life. Many of you are facing multiple layers of uncertainty and the list is endless: Where’s my next assignment? Will I make the next rank? Am I on track for the next rung of the ladder? Will my spouse find a job? What school will the kids attend? Will they find friends there? Adding to that list of uncertainties are our contemporary culture’s changes to the make-up of our military. What will the military lifestyle look like five, ten, twenty or more years down the road from the repeal of don’t ask, don’t tell and the legalization of same-sex marriage?
All this begs the question, “How do we find certainty today in an uncertain world?” Examining Philippians 4:4-9, we find Paul’s outlined three-pronged formula for the how-to of adaptation to life’s uncertainties by guarding your face, heart and mind: Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near (vv. 4-5).
Guard your face. We can tell the difference as to whether someone possesses true joy or is worried about the future. Paul tells us to rejoice in God because He is near. Do you feel God’s presence? Are you resting comfortably in His hands? If you do, your face and countenance will show it.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (vv. 6–7).
Guard your heart. Have you placed the cause of your uncertainty at the Lord’s feet? Are you thankful for where He has you and what He’s allowing you to experience? When you do this, the overwhelming sense of peace will pour over you and your heart will be free of worries.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you (vv. 8–9).
Guard your mind. What governs your thought life? Paul’s instructions are clear—don’t allow the enemy to cloud your mind with all the negativity swirling around us. Train your mind to focus on the Lord.
For the Warner family, when new orders came to us during that vacation years ago, we asked the Lord to be in every aspect of the move. Immediately His peace enveloped us despite our thousand questions about moving overseas. Though the move’s impact upon us was substantial, we laid all questions and concerns at His feet. We welcomed the change and turned our thoughts toward making the most of it, rather than becoming bitter.
Guarding your face, heart and mind all play out in OCF through our eight Spiritual Pillars. Pillars four and five address our key principles of being a “lay-led” ministry where “integrating faith and profession” is exhorted to our members. I believe the ability to shine the light of Christ effectively in the most difficult of our military careers’ situations depends upon how well we live out God’s instructions through Paul’s letter to the Philippians.
We live in a hurting world of people desperate for answers. As a Christian, you already have the answer—Christ in your heart. If you have successfully guarded your face, heart and mind, when uncertainty strikes those you lead will look to you and find comfort and confidence. And they will also be curious about the source of your peace.
In contrast to the world’s increasing uncertainty, rejoice in the Lord! Know that He is near. Don’t be anxious, but focus on Him and meditate on His Word. And you will be the light of Christ in a dark world.