Learning to Love God’s Word - The Warrior's Journey®

Learning to Love God’s Word

Author: Chaplain, COL Scott McChrystal, USA (Ret.)

Virginia Guard chaplain support teams support military personnel in Louisiana. Photo by Coast Guard is licensed under CC By 2.0

“Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.” (Psalm 119:18)

The truth of this verse can become a reality in your life. But it won’t happen automatically. It must be learned.

The writer of this verse was a man who loved God and loved His Word. Although we don’t know who the author was, God obviously answered the cry of this writer’s heart. He learned to see wonderful things in God’s Law.

Many great military men and women cannot make this claim. They desire to know the Lord in a more personal way, they want to love and revere God’s Word, but they are not there yet. They live busy and useful lives serving our nation, but somehow haven’t been able to tap into the pages of Scripture and see wonderful things in God’s Law.

That can certainly change. It did for me. Today, I can report that the Lord has been gracious to me and opened my eyes to be able to see incredible things in His Word. I love reading and studying Scripture, and I have made it a consistent practice to do so for decades. But it is important that I shoot straight with you. It was not always this way — not even close.

The story you are about to read is true. It happens to be my story. On the surface there seems to be nothing extraordinary, nothing spectacular. But I trust it will encourage you as you search for meaning and purpose in your own life. God created us to be in relationship with Him. Getting to know Him happens in many ways, but mostly through His Word.

In 1973 I became a Christian. I was stationed with the 82nd Airborne Division located at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. My fiancée, Judy, and I were going to premarital counseling just weeks prior to our wedding date. During my first session with the pastor, he asked me, “Scott, do you know Jesus as your personal Savior?”

My honest response: “Sir, I don’t have a clue about what you have just asked.” The pastor explained his question and how I could accept the Lord as my personal Savior. In my thinking, I realized two things. The pastor was not going to perform the wedding unless I became a Christian. Secondly, it was time for me to make some decisions about my spiritual life. I was about to become a husband, and hopefully a father one day as well.

I told the pastor I needed a couple of days to think about it and would get back to him. I phoned him a couple of days later and told him of my decision. At the next meeting in the pastor’s office, he led me in a prayer to ask God to forgive me for my sins and to invite Jesus Christ to become Savior and Lord of my life. I was 24 years old, within days of getting married to Judy, leaving the Army, and moving to another state to pursue a civilian career. Lots of change, but by far the biggest change was the conscious decision to follow Christ.

I was clueless about growing in my Christian walk. As with most military-trained people, I had learned a few things about “duty” and about “discipline.” I intended to carry this training into my efforts to follow Jesus. After relocating to Kingsport, Tennessee, Judy and I began attending First Broad Street United Methodist Church. We attended the worship service on Sunday mornings. After a few months we joined a Sunday school class. We started to grow, but very slowly.

After two years in the corporate world, I reapplied to the Army and was reinstated to active duty at the very place from where we left the Army — Fort Bragg. Trust me — I was no spiritual giant, but I was determined to integrate my young faith with my service as a soldier. I carried a small Gideon New Testament in my uniform pocket and would read it from time to time.

Early in 1976 the Lord apparently decided I needed take a bigger step. Our Battalion Command Sergeant Major had organized our first-ever unit prayer breakfast. Apparently the intended speaker had to cancel. Just a few days prior to the event, he asked me to speak. With fear and trembling, I agreed.

The night before the prayer breakfast I was still frantically searching for a topic. It seemed logical that I should use some reference from the Bible, but I was woefully ignorant. I thumbed through the pages of my Gideon Bible, hoping I would find something I recognized.

Around 2 a.m., just a few hours before I was to speak, I stumbled upon a verse I actually recognized — Luke 6:31. It was the Golden Rule. In the New International Version, it reads, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” I decided to speak from my own experiences, most of the material covering times when I didn’t treat others as I should.

My memory is quite foggy about the prayer breakfast itself, but a lot of soldiers showed up. Somehow I made it through my talk that day, and amazingly what I shared seemed to resonate with the audience. I distinctly remember two outcomes of this event. First, I felt very relieved to have it over. I had never spoken publicly about the Lord before that time. Secondly, and more importantly, I felt emboldened to share my faith with others.

We left the 82nd and Fort Bragg about 2 1/2 years later and went to Fort Benning, Georgia, home of the Infantry. While there, we found a good church and also joined a midweek Bible study. We continued to grow, Judy progressing much faster than I. Truthfully, I was still approaching my Christian growth as a duty. It wasn’t fun, and I tended to look forward to the dessert we would have at the end of the study more than I did the study of God’s Word. But the Lord was merciful.

In the summer of 1979, we moved to Charleston, South Carolina. I had no hint, nor did Judy, that God was about to launch me into an accelerated time of growth. It began when we started attending a little church of about 60 people. Pastor Gary preached joyful sermons, and something about the people made me think they were actually having fun in church. I started volunteering around the church, mostly custodial kinds of things. But one day Pastor Gary asked Judy and I to teach an adult Sunday school class.

We accepted, knowing full well this was well out of our comfort range. There was a licensed minister in the class, which made it even more intimidating. To our amazement, God showed His faithfulness with each passing week. We did our part in preparing; God took our efforts and turned the class into a wonderful, growing experience.  We learned from each other. All of us learned from the Lord and His Word.

The more I studied God’s Word, the more real my relationship with Him became.  Before even realizing it, I began to look forward to my quiet times each morning spent studying His Word and praying. Increasingly, I felt drawn to read and study the Bible.

On a Sunday night in January 1980, I had an experience that was to change the direction of my life. Following a sermon that Pastor Gary preached, I went down to the altar to pray. As I was praying, I sensed the Lord was speaking to my heart, telling me I was supposed to go into full-time ministry. I left the altar, quite stunned by what I thought I had heard from God. I said nothing to Judy about this.

Several weeks later, I dared to tell Judy that I thought God might be calling me to full-time ministry. She didn’t faint, but was definitely surprised. We agreed to pray and seek God for confirmation. Since I had a 3-year commitment to the Army for graduation education, we didn’t need to do anything quickly.

The one step I did take was to begin working toward a preaching license. I signed up for the required correspondence courses, all focused around reading and learning the Bible. For the next year, I spent extensive time almost every day reading God’s Word.

A year later, I learned that I could only become a military chaplain on active duty if I did so as a Captain. The choice was clear. Do I continue as an Infantry officer, or did the Lord want me to resign my commission, go to seminary, and reapply to come back in as a chaplain?

The rest is history. The Lord opened the door for me to serve as an Army chaplain for more than two decades.

Looking back, I fully believe God would have honored my choice to remain as an Infantry officer versus pursuing the military chaplaincy. What was important was not the career I chose, but rather the decision to make my relationship with God my top priority. Central to that decision was to make God’s Word my priority.

Like a lensatic compass used for land navigation, God’s Word is a sure guide for life. The Lord has created you for His pleasure and purpose. He certainly doesn’t want you guessing as to which direction to go.

On the authority of God’s Word, I firmly believe that you can become like this Psalmist. You can delight in God’s Word and find many wonderful things that will enhance your relationship with God and provide the guidance and assurance that you are spending your life doing what He has planned.

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