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Count the Cost

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I am writing this article in the same manner that a grandfather might write a letter to his grandchildren. It is with the most heartfelt desire that I urge you to reconsider what some of you may be contemplating—the promotion and engagement of military service.

Not long ago I was visiting with a young man who attends services and, frankly, I was saddened to hear him convey that there are a number of young men throughout the Church who have no problem in expressing their desire to join the military and even go to war.

Patriotism and love for their country seemed to be the primary foundation of their desire, but I was still quite taken aback by his statement.

It was my destiny—or was it?

It has been 47 years since I volunteered for the United States Army at the height of the Vietnam War.

Yes, I volunteered for the U.S. Army. Why? Because I was raised with the belief that one becomes a man by standing up to protect his country. I volunteered for the U.S. Army because I believed that a man becomes more of a man when he defends those weaker than himself from the oppression and influence of evil men.

All the men within my family that I knew personally had served in a war—either in WWI or WWII, and even during the Civil War in the 1860s. It was ingrained in my mind and heart to stand up and be counted when the time came.

Just like Lieutenant Dan in the movie Forrest Gump, I believed military service was my destiny. At this point in time, God had not yet called me to His true way of life, and I had not been reared in a strong religious household. The Ten Commandments meant nothing to me, so I had no problem with my decision at all. Furthermore, I did not fully comprehend the meaning of the Sixth Commandment in Exodus 20:13 Exodus 20:13You shall not kill.
American King James Version×
: “You shall not murder” (“kill” is the broader Hebrew meaning).

Seduction: Satan’s way

For years I had been fascinated with the appearance of a man in uniform. I read many books about heroes of war, and the majority of my thoughts were focused on becoming just like them. Unfortunately, I was quite ignorant of the severe consequences that lay under the surface of many of these men who had experienced the military life, especially during times of war.

This would include post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. It is most commonly experienced by men and women that have directly served in war. It is a most challenging trial in the life of any human who has experienced combat.

A surprising fact about one of America’s greatest war heroes in WWII, Audie Murphy, was revealed following his tragic death in an airplane crash. A dear friend of his shared that Murphy slept with a loaded pistol under his pillow every night from the time he returned home from the war to the very day of his death.

Satan is deeply involved in the affairs of mankind—he is the master of deception and seduction. He makes very dangerous activities appear glorious and even honorable (2 Corinthians 11:3 2 Corinthians 11:3But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
American King James Version×
, 2 Corinthians 11:12-15 2 Corinthians 11:12-15 [12] But what I do, that I will do, that I may cut off occasion from them which desire occasion; that wherein they glory, they may be found even as we. [13] For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. [14] And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. [15] Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.
American King James Version×
). In fact, this is what he did to Adam and Eve, and it is the very same approach he directed toward our Savior when he tempted Jesus Christ in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11 Matthew 4:1-11 [1] Then was Jesus led up of the spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. [2] And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungered. [3] And when the tempter came to him, he said, If you be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. [4] But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. [5] Then the devil takes him up into the holy city, and sets him on a pinnacle of the temple, [6] And said to him, If you be the Son of God, cast yourself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning you: and in their hands they shall bear you up, lest at any time you dash your foot against a stone. [7] Jesus said to him, It is written again, You shall not tempt the Lord your God. [8] Again, the devil takes him up into an exceeding high mountain, and shows him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; [9] And said to him, All these things will I give you, if you will fall down and worship me. [10] Then said Jesus to him, Get you hence, Satan: for it is written, You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve. [11] Then the devil leaves him, and, behold, angels came and ministered to him.
American King James Version×
). One of Satan’s greatest deceptions is when we consider engaging ourselves in a dangerous or controversial situation, and having the mindset of, “That won’t ever happen to me.”

Prepare to become a different person

Prior to my admission into the United States Army I was excited but terribly naïve about what lay ahead. From the beginning of basic training I was suddenly immersed into the world of being told to do everything the Army way.

I surrendered my sovereignty to military authority. In the military you either follow the orders you are given or suffer the consequences. For example, you likely will not be able to observe the weekly Sabbath or the annual Holy Days while in the military. You will be told to do things that will conflict with the spiritual beliefs you have believed in.

God is quite clear about the number one priority that must be in a person’s life—it must be God (First Commandment) and not man or the military. Notice this in Matthew 6:24 Matthew 6:24No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
American King James Version×
: “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon [money].”

When a person pulls the trigger of a weapon with the intention of ending the life of another human, the targeted person may die, but so does the person who pulled the trigger. This is because the shooter is really never the same person inside again.

The conduct and behavior of others within the military will wear off on the young believer, and it will wear that person down to the point that he or she will compromise God’s standards.

Part of the purpose of the military is the preparation and desensitization of taking the life of another human being. It is impossible to live a true Christian life in the military. You will be surrounded by people that do not know what you know about God, nor will they know about His plan for all of humanity.

Although you may not be baptized, you are still responsible for the knowledge of God’s way of life that you possess.

Three faces I will never forget

One face was that of my mother when I left home to go to war. She looked horrified and very sad as I said goodbye. Another face was that of a young Viet Cong soldier killed in an ambush. The third face was the face of my mother when I returned from Vietnam. Try to imagine how much my mother had suffered while I was away.

So why mention these memories? Your decision will impact many people, some very close and dear to you or some very close and dear to someone else. You will never be able to fully forget those faces. Choose which memories you will experience in your life; every decision creates a consequence.

In this regard, think about Galatians 6:7-10 Galatians 6:7-10 [7] Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatever a man sows, that shall he also reap. [8] For he that sows to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that sows to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. [9] And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. [10] As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good to all men, especially to them who are of the household of faith.
American King James Version×
which states: “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.”

Choose life

King David wrote about his desire for God to prevent him from making mistakes that would seriously affect him. Notice this in Psalms 19:12-13 Psalms 19:12-13 [12] Who can understand his errors? cleanse you me from secret faults. [13] Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.
American King James Version×
: “Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults. Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; Let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, And I shall be innocent of great transgression.”

I write like a “grandfather” in that I strongly recommend a young person to follow the loving instructions that God reveals in Deuteronomy 30:15-20 Deuteronomy 30:15-20 [15] See, I have set before you this day life and good, and death and evil; [16] In that I command you this day to love the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that you may live and multiply: and the LORD your God shall bless you in the land where you go to possess it. [17] But if your heart turn away, so that you will not hear, but shall be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them; [18] I denounce to you this day, that you shall surely perish, and that you shall not prolong your days on the land, where you pass over Jordan to go to possess it. [19] I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both you and your seed may live: [20] That you may love the LORD your God, and that you may obey his voice, and that you may hold to him: for he is your life, and the length of your days: that you may dwell in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.
American King James Version×
. Here, God instructs us to choose life and not death.

As a combat veteran and as a person who learned about God’s truth later in my life, I have come to understand the truth about military service and war. Instead of the military, it is my advice for young people to “join” God, and benefit from a life of positive experiences and blessings that He is offering to them. God wants you to part of His Kingdom not the kingdoms of this world.

I conclude with a question: Why would a young person engage in the destructive and senseless causes of man that are promoted by Satan the adversary, whose whole desire is to turn us against God and His way, when that young person is being given the most priceless invitation to engage in the sure and eternal cause of the Almighty God?