American Sniper, the Apostle Paul and My Mission
I don’t like sitting still, but I love good movies. One great movie that I love and have seen over and over is American Sniper.
American Sniper is a true story about U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle–wonderfully performed by Bradley Cooper–who is heralded as the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history. It is largely set in a war zone, but I don’t connect with this movie because of its violence – I’m attracted to Kyle’s story because I want to be like him. I don’t want to go into the military or learn to shoot, but I do want his focus and perseverance.
Chris Kyle joined the Navy after seeing terrorists attack innocent people. The very next day, Kyle was in a recruiting office, and soon after he was in Boot Camp. He did not look back – he had a mission to fulfill and pursued it wholeheartedly. I admire his drive and focus. I’ll be transparent with you, you might see my photo here on Trochia and think that I have it all together. You might think that I am fearlessly following God’s call to all believers, from Matthew 28:18-20, “Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’”
Here’s the truth: I am scared of following God’s call, his “mission” for my life.
So I watch American Sniper and think, how did Chris Kyle overcome fear and focus his energy? How did he live with so much conviction and passion as he performed his mission?
After thinking about these questions, I am reminded that the Bible has many true and inspiring stories of ordinary people bringing transformation in the world through the power of the Holy Spirit. One of my favorite Biblical heroes who demonstrated focus and perseverance is the Apostle Paul. His journey was hard!
We get a glimpse of Paul’s experience in his second letter to the Corinthian church, when Paul is forced to defend himself because the Corinthian church members are naïvely accepting the lies of false teachers. His reluctant story gives us a picture of his life, which demonstrates a perseverance way beyond Kyle’s, let alone mine:
Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn? 2 Corinthians 11:23-29 NIV
Paul’s life reminds me that as a follower of Jesus, I will experience persecution, and I will struggle.
But if I believe in the mission that God has given me – to make disciples and share him with others – and depend on the help of the Holy Spirit, then I should focus intensely on my mission despite adversity, just as Paul did.
I’m so convicted, because for more than 10 years I have struggled with this mission. Unlike Paul, who encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus and never looked back, and unlike Chris Kyle, who saw injustice in the news and immediately enlisted to fight it, I have had many stops and starts on my personal journey. I question whether or not I am qualified to teach others or share the stories God has given me. I wonder if I should try one strategy or another, or if I have thought about all the possible outcomes or consequences to my faithfulness in this mission.
But when I sit before God, in the quiet of prayer, I realize that he is not asking me to be perfect. He is not asking me to tell my story in just the right way, or create the most beautiful vehicle for sharing him with the world. He is simply asking me to be faithful in sharing him with others. That is my mission. It’s not complicated or fancy – all I need to do is be faithful, and God will do the rest.
If I were to have a conversation with Kyle and Paul, the two men would probably humbly tell me about the lives saved because they were faithful to their mission. They would tell me to stop thinking about my own fear and think about the people God has called me to help, just as they did.
You might also struggle with stops and starts in your mission. In fact, I think most of us do.
So let’s not waste time in shame because of our fear, or bogged down in our failures. As a fellow believer, and as someone who is trying to grow more courageous and faithful, I encourage you to join me on this journey. Imagine what we could do if we set our eyes on our mission and ignored the fears, doubts and false starts that have plagued us. Remember, before Chris Kyle was American Sniper, he was an aging rodeo cowboy without much of a future. One day, he decided to accept his mission and that changed history.
You and I may never be as dedicated or heroic as Kyle or Paul were, but each of us can live with faithfulness and courage into the work God has given us. There is hope for us – we just need to ask God for his strength and energy to complete his mission on Earth – the mission of fearlessly sharing his love with others.
From now on, I am working toward this mission with both hands clenched tight to Jesus – trembling in fear but determined to be faithful. Won’t you join me?
How has fear kept you from sharing God with others?
If you haven’t seen American Sniper, watch it this week, and read the passage from 2 Corinthians again. What about either or both of these stories speaks to you? What can you learn from these men and their courage?
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