How Karate Lessons Taught Me to Trust God
A devotional by Chaplain Paul Anderson
“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”
—1 Peter 5:10 (ESV)
When we lived in Okinawa, Japan, I enrolled my children in a karate class.
My son asked “Dad, why don’t you do it with us?”
So I did.
It was brutal. I was already fit and working out with the Marines. Calisthenics and running three miles, three days a week was my norm. The karate regimen, on top of that, was grueling.
There was one exercise that seemed over the top. We would kneel, then lean back until our shoulders were on the floor. We were expected to do sit ups from that position. We could not do it when we started. It was hard and painful. I can’t do it now.
We watched as those who had been in this class longer did it with ease. We watched as the Sensei would move around, checking the strength of their abdomen by jumping on their stomachs. Seeing this action shocked us and amazed us at the same time!
But we persevered. For weeks we did it. Finally, the Sensei came around to us and put his foot on our bellies. We were not ready yet. Keep stretching, he would say. After a few months he came to me. He put his foot on my belly. He nodded and walked away, leaving me feeling a little disappointed. I had begun to look forward to the day when he would jump on my stomach and I could hold him up.
Just as I relaxed, in my mind, thinking that he was not going to do it, he leapt backward and landed his entire body weight on my abdomen. I took it! He stood on my stomach and said to me, “You are a chaplain. You teach people to be wary and ready for demonic assaults, but you were not ready for me. Always be ready for an adversary. The worst attacks are those that come by surprise.”
He said, “How do you feel now?”
I replied, “Happy!”
He asked, “You are happy that I am standing on you?”
I said, “No. I am happy that I can take it.”
It was then that I knew why we worked out so hard in these karate lessons. It was because the strength comes after the exercise.
1 Peter 5:10 is like that experience. It is after some inevitable sufferings, that the strength of our character and purpose shines. Don’t be a masochist, seeking suffering. But be a warrior, hardening yourself for the battle. Because it is after the exercise that muscles grow. It is after our spiritual suffering that we are made perfect, mature in faith and practice.
It is after the challenges that we become leaders. It is after effective leadership that people become willing to follow. It is after you have proven to yourself that you can do it, that you do it best. It is after the struggle that praise springs forth.
Here are some steps I gleaned from 1 Peter 5:7-10 that can help you to maximize your spiritual growth plane and leadership.
Step One: Cast your cares on God.
a. Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not to thine own understanding. Acknowledge Him in all thy ways and He shall direct thy paths.
b. Delight thyself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.
c. Be like Jesus and you will gain testimonies. You will be a living testimony.
Step Two: Sobriety is an imperative.
d. This is not just the absence of intoxicants. It is awareness, watchfulness and preparation. I took a martial arts class some years ago. The Sensei said, “Any man who stands with his hands in his pockets is vulnerable.” Why? Because you can’t defend yourself.
e. Challenges are going to come your way. A mind that is clear and focused on the presence and the will of God in your life, is the best preparation and defense against distractions and attacks of the evil, enemy of God.
f. Some amount of suffering is assumed and expected.
Remember: When God brings you to it, he will see you through it.
Someone told me that the finger of God never points where His hand has not already made a way. Trust, obey and exercise His grace. After that is when we experience His eternal glory!
Let’s Pray: Dear God, as we move from this devotional moment, please give us a sense of readiness and a grateful enthusiasm for the blessings and challenges that we will meet today. Bless each reader with grit and fortitude. When the day is over, may each reflect upon at least one success with which they have been blessed. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.
Chaplain Anderson served for 20 years as a U.S. Navy Chaplain. Over 26 years of active duty, he was promoted through the ranks from Seaman Apprentice (E2) to his final rank as Commander (O5) in the Chaplain’s Corps.
Prior to his Naval career, Chaplain Anderson pastored in the Allegheny East and Potomac Conferences of Seventh-day Adventists. His undergraduate preparation for ministry was completed at Washington Adventist University in Takoma Park, Md.
He has subsequently earned four graduate degrees: a Master of Divinity from Andrews University in Michigan, a Master of Education in Counseling and Personnel Services from the University of Maryland in College Park, Maryland and a Masters of Sacred Theology in Religion and Culture from Boston University. His Doctor of Ministry degree was conferred by Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.
Chaplain Anderson also completed four units of Clinical Pastoral Education at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He also holds certifications in Suicide Awareness and Prevention, Civil Mediation, Alternative Workplace Dispute Resolution, Temperament Analysis, Marriage Enrichment, Workforce Diversity, and is a certified Life Coach.
You may connect with Chaplain Anderson via email at this address, firstname.lastname@example.org.