I was recruited to the army in April. I’ve learnt so much during my Basic Military Training (BMT) that I’ve found His sustaining grace shines most clearly in times of trial.
In the daytime, there are stars in the heavens
But they only shine at night
And the deeper that I go into darkness
The more I see their radiant light
The lyrics of this song “In the Valley” became especially true during my field camp while I was living in the jungle and saw the stars at night.
I want to share three lessons I’ve picked up from my BMT experience.
1. ABSOLUTE OBEDIENCE
One of the biggest changes I had to adapt to was having to listen to my commanders almost absolutely. It wasn’t about my will or pleasure, but my obedience. I just had to push myself to do it.
But when I reflected on the amount of effort I put in to obey my commanders, I realised I haven’t put in half of that effort to obey Christ.
The word “Christ” is not the surname of Jesus. It means the anointed one. To the Jews, this would be a figure like David who was an anointed king. It was a title of authority.
To call Jesus “Christ” is like saying, King Jesus.
In the army, this is the equivalent to the president who has the highest authority.
My National Service (NS) experience has made me reflect on whether I’ve taken his commands lightly. Do I put in the same effort to obey my King?
Brothers and sisters, how much do you care about what the King of the universe has said? What will you do if He gives you a command?
“…All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
2. COLLECTIVE RESPONSIBILITY
I also learnt about collective responsibility. When one person in our platoon made a mistake, all of us would be punished.
In the army, “force prep” requires laying out everything in your bag in a standardised order. Those who finished earlier would actually help those were slower without being asked to. It was almost spontaneous.
Throughout my BMT journey, we looked out for one another and suffered with one another.
It made me think about what the apostle Paul said: “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together.” (1 Corinthians 12:26 ESV)
He also said this: “Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.” (2 Timothy 2:3-4 ESV)
I was mind-blown by these verses.
As I was training to be a soldier and learning about how to help one another, the Bible was telling me to do likewise in church.
I remember hardly caring about the prayer requests in our weekly bulletin since they were unrelated to me.
It made me think: As a Church, how united are we compared to the army? Are we indifferent to the plight of people in our congregation?
The final thing I learnt in NS is humility.
I come from what people consider a top school, so I’ve been told that I’m smart and the cream of the crop.
But it was only in the army that I started to realise how proud I was.
As a recruit, I did not know much and I needed to ask questions. When I made mistakes, I was punished for them.
I was no longer the leader. I no longer had a say. It was not about my experience.
The greater objective of the army is to protect the independence and sovereignty of our nation. I am part of the force.
I learnt how vulnerable we are and how we’re serving this great cause together. It’s not about me, but the cause and mission.
I was reminded how Paul described us: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7-9 ESV)
Likewise, I am a recruit here to show the Gospel. I mean nothing, but the Gospel means everything. I am not a big deal, but a jar of clay for the glory of God.
In this short period of time, God has showed me so much. Life has been tough for me, and I believe that many who are still serving NS might also face the same struggles.
If God has planned out your life to experience Him and His grace, don’t waste it by ignoring all the lessons. You can choose to let the pain and suffering speak to you in meaningful ways.
“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 ESV)
In quoting these verses, John Piper concluded that “none of our misery is meaningless”.
Wait upon the Lord and He will show you wonders. I hope that you’ll come to experience how meaningful misery can be in light of future glory.
- How much effort have you made to obey the commands of Jesus?
- Are you looking out for your fellow soldiers of Christ? How can you better support someone today?
- Is there a painful experience that you’re having to endure at this moment? What lessons can you glean from it?