When U.S. Navy SEAL trainees are sufficiently exhausted and their minds are getting fuzzy, instructors will purposely leave out part of an order to see who is paying attention—because the goal is to teach obedience to orders. Explicit obedience. Many of the exercises involve small teams carrying a 300-pound log on their shoulders while completing the exercise. But an instructor will occasionally, when giving the order for the next exercise, leave out any reference to carrying the huge log. Team captains who note the omission lead their teams accordingly and get a brief break from carrying the log.
Marching orders are of two types: general and specific. For instance, a military commander might give an order to a group of soldiers or to an individual. The order might be for the army as a whole or a smaller group. Or it might be for a single soldier to carry out a specific task. God gave directives to the nation of Israel at large through leaders and prophets, but also to specific individuals like Moses or Gideon. Likewise, there are directives that God gives to the entire church of Jesus Christ (“Make disciples of all nations”) and also to individuals (“Paul, take the gospel to the Gentiles”).
As individuals in Christ’s church, we are responsible for both kinds of marching orders. We are to obey everything God commands every Christian to do and, especially, those marching orders we receive from Him individually.
God’s marching orders are specifically designed for you with your unique gifts, abilities and temperament in mind. Obedience is important when you are being directed by the Lord to do something in a situation that has never arisen before and may never occur again.
Recently, much of the nation (yours truly included) kept a finger on the pulse of the annual ritual known as “March Madness,” the NCAA college basketball championships. That’s one kind of madness, but “marching madness” is a different kind: when you think God’s marching orders for you are illogical, unreasonable and so unusual as to seem mad!
That’s no doubt how Joshua felt when he received the following marching orders from God:
“You shall march around [Jericho], all you men of war; you shall go all around the city once. This you shall do six days. And seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. But the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. It shall come to pass, when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when you hear the sound of the trumpet, that all the people shall shout with a great shout; then the wall of [Jericho] will fall down flat. And the people shall go up every man straight before him” (Joshua 6:3-5).
Since leaving Egypt, Joshua had learned to take God at His word. So Joshua obeyed his marching orders. Israel marched and blew the trumpets, and the walls came tumbling down!
A God like no other
Sometimes life can seem like a SEALs training, can’t it? Instead of a 300-pound log on our shoulders, we carry the burdens of sin, discouragement, finances, family and other relationships and worries about the future.
And it’s not just our lives that can seem that way. We are born for trouble—all of us (Job 5:7). But we have also been reborn spiritually into the spiritual family of God: a Heavenly Father who loves us, Christ the Lord who mentors us and the Holy Spirit who empowers and guides us. And within that family come the “marching orders” from God to relieve us from the burdens we bear.
If we truly believe in who our God is, we will not allow ourselves to get so burdened or distracted that we fail to hear the unique things He is telling us, in good times and bad. Obedience to every jot and tittle (Matthew 5:18) of God’s marching orders can make the difference between success and failure, victory and defeat.
If there is an area of your life in which you need marching orders from God, ask Him. But in doing so, let your attitude be that of the young man Samuel who said, “Speak, Lord, for your servant hears” (1 Samuel 3:9).
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Jeremiah is the founder and host of Turning Point for God and senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, Calif. For more information on Turning Point, go to DavidJeremiah.org.)