by CPT Bryan Groves, USA
Ambassadorship is skillfully and independently accomplishing vital tasks in a foreign land on behalf of, and in accordance with, the general guidance of a distant Sovereign.
For Christians, this is the very essence of our life on earth. God is our Sovereign and our citizenship is in heaven, but we are commissioned to be His ambassadors and to carry His message of reconciliation to the world (2 Corinthians 5:18-20, Philippians 3:20, Matthew 28:18-20).
One facet of godly ambassadorship and of message carrying is godly living. Living a God-honoring life is even more difficult when separated from one’s normal Christian “life-support” structure: Sunday School, Chapel/Church, a weekly Bible study, a weekly or daily accountability partner, and so on.
I didn’t fully realize what a difference these events made in my personal walk with the Lord until I went nearly four months in Iraq without them. I had only occasional, encouraging phone calls to family and to my Christian brother, Jonathan Shine, a fellow commander and believer of like heart.
I found that my individual walk with the Lord suffered. I saw that God truly made us to be relational creatures. Hence, one of the natural effects of time spent with other Christians (whether realized at the time or not) is an increased ability to withstand temptation and walk victoriously in the Christian life.
Because a robust Christian support network is often not available on deployments, godly ambassadorship during these times requires intentional vision and endurance.
There are also other factors that cause godly ambassadorship on deployment to be more difficult: an increased operational tempo, less sleep, irregular eating habits, more demands/stress, and less alone time for spiritual quiet times. All these dynamics wear on one’s emotional and spiritual health. If purposeful steps are not taken to counter this situation, a person’s spiritual world/foundations can truly be rocked.
As military leaders, we go to great lengths to ensure adequate preparation for each mission, as well as consideration of various contingencies. We put in place “triggers” that cause us to execute the operation at a certain time. We develop a medical evacuation plan in the event we take casualties; we plan for actions on contact, for vehicle breakdowns, for redundant communication methods, for follow-on objectives, and for a quick reaction force to bail us out if we encounter an enemy force greater than ourselves.
My experiences during my Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) deployment demonstrated to me that I needed to invest a similar level of detail and passion in my execution of SPIRITUAL planning (1 Timothy 4:7-8).
Make no mistake, physical and military training must be done to accomplish the mission, to establish our credibility as professional warriors, and to give the men entrusted to our care the best chance for survival. We must also train as ambassadors with similar vigor. Following our spiritual pre-deployment training and planning, we must then follow through during the deployment itself.
As we seek to train for godliness and prepare for spiritually dry times, it is good to start with assumptions about the nature of the spiritual environment at our projected deployed location. After my Iraq experience, I decided to make the following spiritual assumptions for my Bosnia deployment:
There will be:
- No Chapel.
- No OCF or weekly Bible study.
- No other Christians in my immediate proximity.
I will have:
- A high OPTEMPO.
- A non-regular work schedule.
- Limited time alone for personal devotions.
- More temptations than normal.
- A primitive support structure-spiritually and logistically.
- Less (or irregular) sleep/food than normal.
- Less exercise time than normal.
- Less time for hobbies/diversions.
These assumptions then became the contingencies, just as in a military operation, for which I sought God’s guidance on how best to prepare.
I asked God how I could be a godly ambassador despite factors that make it difficult to follow Him. While what follows is not an exhaustive list and may not fit every situation, God revealed a number of things that I can do to better prepare for and execute a Spiritual Battle Plan while deployed.
Maintaining a Personal, Daily Quiet Time involving:
- A manageable, yet daily intake of God’s Word.
- Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication (ACTS). Also, make your prayer list realistic: split it into multiple parts and pray over one section per day.
- Ask God questions about your military leadership and everything on your heart; it reminds us to listen. When He answers it enables us to see His relevance in the practical aspects of our life.
- Capture God’s answers to prayer and His revelations of truth (Proverbs 29:18). This is how we actively listen, pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17), grow, and demonstrate to God that we can be trusted as faithful stewards of His insights.
Additional, Intentional Steps toward Spiritual Preparedness and Maintenance:
- Pray for and seek out Christian fellowship (in any form).
- Email prayer requests to family and friends. Lean on them.
- Take advantage of Technology.
- Listen often to Christian music (MP3 Players, etc).
- Use the Web to listen to Christian radio.
- Have someone send recorded sermons and listen to a few minutes of them here and there, as you get ready for bed or have time.
- Have pastors and Bible study leaders send their notes to you.
- Plan ahead for long distance accountability (Proverbs 27:17).
- Reevaluate your walk weekly and plan your next week’s QT schedule.
- Use unexpected “free time” with short “bursts” of the Word.
- Participate in and/or lead a Bible study (when God provides other Christians in your area).
- Use your spiritual gifts; we grow when we do (1 Timothy 4:14).
- Make no provision for the flesh (Romans 13:14)
- Take care of your personal needs (sleep is crucial).
- Sneak a few minutes of relaxation when possible.
- Exercise as regularly as possible.
Some of my assumptions regarding my deployment to Bosnia have, thankfully, not been true thus far. I have been blessed with a Christian brother and with a weekly church group.
However, God is still providing opportunities for my spiritual growth through the implementation of these measures. I am thankful for His provision and for the Christian brothers and sisters from my home base in Germany through whom it comes.