A few months ago I showed a video to a group of college students, the University of Texas (UT) at Austin 2014 Commencement Address delivered by Admiral William H. McRaven. When the video ended, one student exclaimed, “That was inspiring!” as others murmured in agreement. Today, a few months later, I am still being inspired by this video daily from both an educational and spiritual perspective.
Admiral McRaven has my admiration as a career Navy Seal. I am so grateful for his service and all who serve in any branch of our country’s military. His address was comprised of ten things UT graduates must do in order to fulfill the university slogan, “What starts here changes the world.” If you have 20 minutes someday, his address is worth watching. If you don’t have time, enjoy this post. Where I reference his speech, the time portions are provided for your reference.
If there is spiritual application in anything I hear, I find it! The Admiral is not responsible for the spiritual direction my mind and heart went because of his message. In addition, I will not be summarizing his entire address. Rather, I will be sharing the four pieces that have been lingering in my heart and mind.
First, “What starts here, changes the world.” (1:10-3:13)
Admiral McRaven began by explaining how the graduating UT class of 2014 can indeed change the world. Because of the power of multiplication, if the 8,000 graduates each change the lives of ten people in their lifetime, then those ten people change the lives of ten more, etc. the class of 2014 will have changed the lives of 800 million people in five generations, or two times the population of the United States. Continuing one generation further, the influence leaps to an amazing 8 billion people changed, the population of the world.
He is right. One graduating class does indeed have the power to change the world.
In Scripture, this reminds me of II Timothy 2:2. Paul tells Timothy, And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others. It’s this same power of multiplication that has preserved Christianity through thousands of years until today. Of course Christians cannot control whether someone places their faith in Christ, but we are responsible for the telling people about Jesus (Romans 10:14). If each follower of Christ tells enough people about Jesus in their lifetime for ten of those people to place their faith in Him, and then those ten people tell enough people in their lifetime so that ten more respond with faith in Christ, the same power of multiplication exists.
And we wonder–with the Spirit of God living inside of us–if we can change the world (Matthew 28:18-20).
Second, punch the sharks in the snout (12:51- 14:00)
Navy Seals have to complete a series of long swims in shark infested waters around San Clemente Island off the coast of San Diego, CA. Seals are told, “If a shark begins to circle your position, stand your ground. Do not swim away. Do not act afraid. And if the shark, hungry for a midnight snack, darts toward you, then summon up all you strength and punch him in the snout, and he will turn and swim away.” I am fascinated with this strategy to handle shark. Who would have thought they would back down from a well-timed punch in the snout? Not me.
In spiritual battle though, Christians punch the enemy in the snout all the time. If Satan throws us a well placed lie in hopes we believe it, we punch back with truth from God’s Word. If Satan tries to thwart my efforts for God, I can stand my ground and not quit. After nearly 13 years of writing a book, it was published this week. Live ABOVE the Chaos is one of my punches. (The book is available for purchase via the PayPal link on the website and on Amazon.) Last on this point, 3:00 a.m. is commonly the height of demonic activity in a Satanic ceremony. My blog posts usually launch at 3:00 a.m. on the Sabbath on purpose. I am not well-known. My posts aren’t powerfully written, but each post is a well-timed punch in the enemy’s snout as I make room for God in cyber-space.
Third, you must be your very best in the darkest moments (14:00-15:40)
Seals need to practice underwater attacks against enemy shipping. While doing so at night, ambient moonlight penetrates through open waters from above a swimmer, but as the enemy ship is approached, that light is blocked by the ship’s structure. As a Seals make their way under the ship, the sound of engines is deafening and the darkness is all-consuming, making it all the more difficult to remain composed. If a Seal can’t remain calm, they can become disoriented and fail the mission.
I get nervous just thinking about such circumstances, but life has been all-consuming darkness for me at times, and it will be again. When that occurs, I want to be found my calmest, trusting in the Lord, walking by faith, receiving His love, extending His grace and obeying His voice….completely undeterred by the pitch black darkness and deafening roar of circumstances.
Fourth, be found strong (4:07-4:20)
Navy Seal training is six months of intense grueling training. In the words of McRaven, “It is six months of being constantly harassed by professionally trained warriors who seek to find the weak of mind and body and eliminate them from ever becoming a Navy Seal. But the training also seeks to find those students who can lead in an environment of constant stress, chaos, failure and hardships.“
Every believer is called to fight the good fight. We are all soldiers, and we are all asked to finish well (II Timothy 4:5, 7). God is using circumstances in our life to identify the weak areas of our mind and body also, but not to eliminate us. God wants to find those weak spots so He can heal, repair and restore them and make us better.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:2-4).
In this you greatly rejoice (see I Peter 1:3-5), though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed (I Peter 1:6-7).
Personally, in the Navy Seal training ground of life, I want to possess the fortitude to finish. After a few weeks of difficult training, McRaven’s training class went from 150 men to just 42 (7:18-7:27). Not everyone finishes well in Seal camp or life. For those who know my story, the death of my brother revealed weak spots in my faith that made me falter in major ways. But unlike Seal training commanders, God did not eliminate me. Instead, He strengthened me and I am still in the battle, waging war better than before.
How about you? Want to be a Navy Seal with me? Life is so short. We can finish. Let’s do it together.
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