This past week my wife, Patti, and I traveled to Parris Island, South Carolina with other members of our extended family to watch our son Noah graduate from Marine Corps boot camp. After graduation, we spent a day on the beach and then headed home. During those twelve hours in the car, he shared some of the stories of how he had spent the last three months, of what he had done, and some of the things that happened during his training. While I well remember the difficult things that we did during my eight weeks of Army basic training, what he did goes well beyond many of the things that I experienced. For thirteen weeks these young men (the Marines also have women, but men and women train separately) did things that most of them, as well as their parents, would have thought impossible only a short time earlier. But as I listened to Noah share his stories, I began to think of how this mirrors our walk with God and I thought of several lessons that would be good for us all to remember.
- We are capable of more than we think we are – All of these young men accomplished things in thirteen weeks that they never dreamed they were capable of doing. And yet, all of them succeeded. Why? They were capable all along. They had the ability all along. All they needed was a little training, some encouragement, and the assurance that they could succeed. We are exactly like them. The only reason that we do not rise to the challenges that face us is our belief that we are not capable. We may need a little training and a little encouragement, but it is often our failure to believe in ourselves that holds us back.
- We don’t do what we can simply because we do not try – Similarly, when we allow our challenges to intimidate us, we retreat. We fail because we are too afraid to try.
- We often shy away from doing what we can because it sounds difficult – Not everyone is cut out to be a United States Marine, but even fewer will attempt it because what they do sounds difficult. Make no mistake, it is. What those young men did in thirteen weeks was almost certainly the hardest thing that they had ever done. For some of them, it will, for the remainder of their lives, be the hardest thing they ever did. But they will always remember that they succeeded and the memory of that success will make them less afraid to attempt other difficult things. The worst thing that can happen if we attempt something difficult is that we might fail. But if we do not try, we fail anyway.
- We accomplish more as a team than as individuals – From the very beginning of boot camp the Marines are repeatedly reminded that they are a team. As platoons, as battalions, and whole of the Unites States Marines they are a team. They succeed and fail together. And together they regularly accomplish things that others believed to be impossible. We regularly see thing play out in church as well. There are many things that I could never do by myself but we regularly do together. From Vacation Bible School, to Sunday worship, to mission projects and everything in between, our success comes only through all of us working together. This is equally true of our larger church connection when many thousands, even millions of us work together to reduce poverty, build hospitals, and even reduce the death rate from malaria by fifty percent in continent of Africa. We may not be the United States Marines, but our team is accomplishing amazing things every day.
I’m sure that there are more parallels that I could point out, but I hope that you will remember this:
You are capable of more than you imagine.
Never be afraid to try. Don’t be afraid to attempt big things, or try new things, because they sound difficult. We often discover that the most worthwhile things are not easy.
But together, with God, we can accomplish the impossible.
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