31: Assignments, Promotions, Retention

IN THIS CHAPTER

God works in the lives of His adopted children during the years they wear the uniform and are within the military community. Military life may yield promotions and good assignments, but we will also experience non-promotions and assignment locations we didn’t see coming. In good times and in bad, we always grow, change, and are made into Christ-like servants learning to trust God’s provision. Having served in the military will impact us and the people we serve with for the rest of our lives.

GOD IS ALWAYS RIGHT

All promotions and assignments come from the hand of God … even non-promotions (Daniel 4:17, 25, 34-35). God must be acknowledged as sovereign over every part of His creation; otherwise, He becomes a God of man’s limited imagination.

In the book of Job, God teaches that even in pain we are not to insist on being right and demand that God explain His purposes to us, lest we accuse Him of doing wrong. “Will you even put me in the wrong? Will you condemn me that you may be in the right” (Job 40:8)? Since God is good and cannot do wrong, in every circumstance we get to practice worshiping God before, during, and after promotion or assignment notifications, whether we are happy with the notification or not. We learn to say with Job, “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore, I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:5-7). God has put His treasure of the gospel in jars of clay (us), “to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Corinthians 4:7).

SEEK COUNSEL

Most of us wrestle with decisions that impact our career path, the next assignment, deployment, and so on. Seek counsel from Scripture and from fellow believers, especially from those who have walked with God longer than you. This kind of Christian elder can help you sort out selfish motives from real desires to glorify God. Your daily study of Scripture will do more than anything else to expose the motives of your heart, “For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

When looking back in time, you will see that every assignment was right for you (and your family). Therefore, you can be confident today that you are exactly where God has directed your steps. For couples and families, it is good to prioritize your marriage and family whenever you have the option to live and work together in the same location. Many who separated themselves for a year of school, or for a “family optional” assignment later regretted the time that was lost for the sake of perceived stability or professional advancement.

PROMOTIONS

Promotions to a higher rank mean a pay increase, a service commitment, and increased responsibility. As a steward of resources, then, you have been entrusted with much on behalf of the nation, but more importantly, you will give an answer to God for how His talents are used (Matthew 25:14-30). Steward your wealth, people, and time for His glory. Flee any desire to seek promotion for personal gain, identity, or sense of security. We labor in God’s field, doing our work unto Him, and we focus on the task of leading men and women of the military community for the good of our nation and for their good welfare.

ENTERING GOD’S REST

Study James 4:13-17 as part of a Scriptural diet for decision-making and knowing God’s rest, meditating on the implication of being “a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” Draw near to Him in confidence that our time on earth is short, and our time in uniform will probably be shorter than our time on earth. Our declaration of “if the Lord wills” is not a trite phrase, it is a statement of who God is. He is the one who determines our steps (Proverbs 16:9). Christian officers are to be godly integrated leaders at home, TDY/TAD, and deployed, so regularly ask God for the wisdom to know the thing(s) you are to prioritize and focus on, lest you sin against Him in pursuing your own self-justified ends. 

Serving in the military provides an opportunity to live out your presence as salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16). You carry the gospel with you on land, at sea, or in the air. Understanding this purpose should increase your eagerness to willingly volunteer for difficult tasks or duties. Who better to serve in hard places than the one who has good news dwelling within? Lean into opportunities rather than standing by as a reluctant participant. Expect that God will stretch you, that He will close doors that are not timely or appropriate, and that you will be further developed as His servant.

IDENTITY AT SEPARATION OR RETIREMENT

We conclude this section by pondering two possible outcomes resulting from military service. The first outcome is that of a Christian leader ending the years of uniformed service more humble because of the trials faced, better equipped for future work among the nations of the world, and more aware of strengths and weaknesses as a result of leaning into the joint team. A different and worse outcome would be a Christian leader leaving uniform with regret, retaining pride, having self-focused confidence, or maybe harboring bitterness—all because their hard work didn’t achieve the promotions sought, the affirmation of a military system is lost, or there remains a self-confidence in physical or mental abilities. To desire the first outcome requires us to increasingly know God while being aware of the threats to our spiritual health that come with professional military service (Proverbs 21:1-5).

One risk is finding personal worth among a wonderful cohort of fast-charging, high-performing individuals. Rejoice in the camaraderie brought about by shared experiences and endured hardships, but keep in mind that you are a pilgrim on earth, eager for an eternity in God’s presence. Your identity is that of an adopted child of God, gifted with abilities He gave you to develop so that later in life these same skills will be used for the good of a new community. 

Another danger comes when our motivation for serving becomes corrupted by wrong expectations or a sense of entitlement with special privileges. There is no rank when we leave the service. Practice humility and gratitude now, denying yourself privileges that don’t enable you to do your job better. You are to “be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people” (Titus 3:1-2). You can accept the affirmation that comes from annual evaluations, awards, and reports without placing confidence in such recognition. There may be a day when you get passed over or leave the military before you want to. Trust God’s daily provision, enter His rest, and allow Him to make all things right.

Expect that there will be a day when you will serve the church using some of the wisdom and skills learned in uniform. Know that you will leave the military changed. If you face hard times in uniform, if you persevere through days that are beyond your ability, and if you fail at a professional task or requirement, then be glad you will not have the same arrogance, pride, self-reliance, and biases you possessed upon entry. Even your understanding of Scripture and your view of the church will mature as you regularly study and meditate on God’s Word. 

We learn to appreciate the various expressions of Christ’s church as we are exposed to diverse people who are brothers and sisters in Christ who also hold fast to the core truths of the Christian gospel. We become more humble, appreciative, and compassionate when working with believers from other denominational backgrounds. We are members of Christ’s church who are learning to live on mission until all the sheep of our Shepherd’s flock hear the good news and are brought from every nation, and then the end will come (Matthew 24:14).