5 Character Qualities I Learned in the Army

(Armed Forces Full Honor Arrival Ceremony at the Pentagon in 1997. I’m the guy in front.)

November 11, 2010: Veteran’s Day

On this Veteran’s Day, I want to share five character qualities I learned in the Army. I served on active duty from 1993-1998 as an Infantry Officer in the U.S. Army. It was a life-shaping experience that taught me a lot about myself, my leadership, and most importantly, my relationship with Jesus.

#1 Sacrifice. Right now, we have men and women serving in our Armed Forces who are willing to sacrifice their lives. There is something powerful about that willingness to sacrifice. In a culture that is predominately selfish and me-centered, the military taught me selflessness. The military taught me about a willingness to sacrifice… a willingness to give up something I love for something I love even more. As a 20-something who was growing in my relationship with Jesus, I identified with Jesus’ call to us to be selfless and sacrificial, and the military proved fertile ground to practice that willingness.

#2 Focus. The Apostle Paul told young Timothy, “No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier” (2 Timothy 2:4). One thing you learn in the military: mission-focus. The mission is crucial, and you learn to focus all of your energies and efforts towards accomplishing that mission. You learn to direct people and resources towards “taking the hill.” What mission could be more important than the mission of Jesus?

#3 Love. This is a character quality that most people don’t associate with the military. In actuality, much of what we do in service is because of love. Many veterans will tell you they fought as hard as they did, not for some Geo-political strategic ideal, but because they loved their fellow soldiers in the trenches with them. The former Chief-of-Staff of the Army Dennis Reimer often said, “Our soldiers are our credentials.” Paul says the same thing in his letter to the church at Thessalonica, “For you are our glory and joy.” It was love for Jesus and for people that shaped Paul’s heart, ministry, and mission.

#4 Endurance. I learned this character quality over and over. In Ranger School, I remember poring over passages of Scripture that talked about endurance (1 Corinthians 10:13, Romans 5:3-5, James 1:2-4, etc.).  The human body is amazingly resilient and able to endure hardship. And the human spirit, led and controlled by the Holy Spirit, is able to press on in difficulty and challenge with deep joy.

#5 Honor. “Walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called” (Ephesians 4:1). Every time I donned my Army uniform and led a ceremony at the White House, the Pentagon, or Arlington National Cemetery, I’d remember that I was representing over 300 million Americans and over 200 years of military history. I had to live in a manner befitting the men and women who gave their lives for our country and our freedoms. This has translated into my life with Jesus. I want to live a life that honors Jesus, His gospel, and His kingdom. I want to live in such a way as to give thanks and gratitude to the One who gave His life for me.

Today on this Veteran’s Day 2010, thank a veteran for serving.

5 Replies to “5 Character Qualities I Learned in the Army”

  1. Great application from the military that meshes with our Life in Christ. I come from a broad line of Veterans and am proud to be one myself. I especially enjoy thanking older men that I have seen around when they are wearing a hat or something else to indicate that they are U.S. military veterans.

  2. These 5 character traits are for us all who call ourselves “Followers of Jesus Christ”. We are all Christian soldiers. The song “Onward Christian Soldiers…..” comes to mind. Thank you Jonathan for sharing these traits with us all.

  3. I recently came to know that you can’t make a true sacrifice, if you don’t love yourself, your family and your country. #3 make sense to me.

    Thanks for sharing this.

  4. Thanks, Pastor Jonathan, for sharing these, a great reminder of what our military can represent and what we as believers can strive for. Thank you for your service to our country, and now to our church!
    I have a nephew serving in the Marines.

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