A friend of mine describes the Christian life using a military metaphor that is both helpful and enlightening….I know – what a bargain!
Being a Christian is about learning the basics: Prayer; reading (i.e. exegeting and interpreting) scripture; Christ-likeness; learning the Fruits of the Spirit; living the sermon on the Mount; renewal of the mind; developing spiritual habits formed in the furnace of Trinitarian relationship, etc. These basics are like the “basic drill” an army unit performs to stay sharp. In other words, the existential reality for the army is the drill performed in peace-time: Marching; cleaning; inspection; fitness; and so on and so forth (one doesn’t want to push a military metaphor too far – there’s enough of that going on already)!
But the basics serve the special missions: Either planned or spontaneous mission/evangelism; specific seasons of ministry; short or long-term mission; local or national or international. In short, an Olympic athlete’s gold medal was forged on the running tracks of Trinidad; the swimming pools of Portugal and the cycling arenas of Argentina – the actual final in which it was won is almost a moot point! The basic drill serves the special mission.
So, the drill serves the mission. The mission could be anything (please ditch the notion of mission being something “over there”; it could be, but it doesn’t have to be).
The mission is the point of the drill; it is the purpose of the basic training. It is behind the “counting the cost of discipleship” scenario. No one runs a marathon after only deciding to do so the day before (heck, I can’t even run for the bus without seriously considering my mortality)! But the whole counting the cost thing is not about the brave soldier gritting his teeth and “going for it whatever may happen” (which will likely be a painful death if I could be excused for pushing this military metaphor too far), but rather, training in the basics, not despising the routine of the very thing that is in fact the very thing it is all about! The question becomes: Not what can I do for God? But What will God do through me, and allowing for the blips, freaks and exceptions (God’s grace knows no limits), what we do for God will be forged in the furnace of the “drill”, the ordinary, the routine of the basics.
Consider Stoic philosopher Seneca, killed like the Apostle Paul, under the regime of Emperor Insanity himself, Nero; here Seneca highlights the need for training in readiness to face the worst:
“It is precisely in times of immunity from care that the soul should toughen itself before hand for occasions of greater stress. And it is while fortune is kind it should fortify itself against her violence. In days of peace, the soldier performs maneuvers, throws up earthworks with no enemy in sight and wearies himself by avoidable toil, in order that he may be equal to unavoidable toil. If you will not have a man flinch when the crisis comes, train him before it comes; Let the pallet be a real one, and the coarse cloak; let the bread be hard and grimy. Endure all this for three or four days at a time, sometimes for more, so that it may be a test of yourself instead of a mere hobby. Then, I assure you, my dear Lucilius, you will leap for joy when filled with a pennyworth of food, and you will understand that a man’s peace of mind does not depend upon Fortune; for, even when angry she grants enough for our needs.”
Stoic Philosopher Seneca, Letter 18 ‘On Festivals and Fasting’
So, in short, if you want to “do great things for God”, then learn how to read scripture well, exegete and hermeneut the text; pray regularly with others and on your own “in secret”. Serve your local church without seeking reward, favour or position. Read good books – old and new; theology – systematics, biblical, Doctrine, historical; church history – Patristics, Medieval, Reformation, Modern & Post-modern(!); Learn cultural trends and its entailments. Learn to stand on the shoulders of giants; disciple others and be discipled; clean the toilets at home and at church; learn how to be a husband who “loves his wife as Christ loves the church”; or be a Father as modelled not on the sugar-rush self-help shite we see in every book shop, but rather the Fatherhood of God. Learn humility without ego-extension motives; seek the welfare of the city in which you are planted, i.e. love your neighbour because you love God, and so fulfil the Royal Law. Do justice, love kindness, walk humbly…with your God. And when (not if) you screw it up, there’s the sweet grace of God-who-is-Love, and He will hold you and lift you up: His forgiveness is the early morning dew on the parched land of sin and brokenness; it is sweet honey and sunlight and fresh coffee all in one hit!
It may be, that the time spent in drill will see you sent into mission, special ops – not to be confused with black ops – because there’s nothing “under-cover” about a special mission (even if, ironically, you are under-cover), there’s nothing black about it at all, because it’s all light – an invasion of light and love that proves the gospel true: Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the chief.
Get the drill drilled, that is being a disciple of Jesus. Everything else is a happy bonus.