“Agony, torture, psychological abuse, mentally stressful, complete exhaustion, physically excruciating, and cruel and unusual punishment” are just a few of the descriptions that Navy Seals who have experienced the fourth week of Seal training in San Diego, California use to describe it. The week begins on Sunday evening at Midnight and ends on Friday around midday. For five and a half days these Seals go through some of the most physical, emotional, and psychological pressure that most of us will never have to endure.
In his book, You Want Me to Do What?, Jeff Krauss gives an extremely vivid description of this week and what it does for those soldiers who are able to endure the entire week and complete their training. The crazy thing about the entire week—the recruit can quit anytime he chooses. The Marines are in wet clothes, experiencing freezing water temperatures, and literally dying of sleep deprivation. All the while, their instructors are in warm clothes, drinking coffee, and offering them donuts, coffee, blankets, and a warm shower if they will just quit.
There is only one rule if you quit, you must go to the beach in front of all your fellow Marines, ring a bell loudly, then drink coffee, eat donuts, and get warm while watching the rest of your fellow Marines continue suffering during their training. Ouch!
In his book, Krauss writes of Company 123 who started training with over 70 and ended with 6 Marines: “The hardest thing was not the temperatures, the lack of sleep, the verbal abuse, or even the physical demands of our training. The hardest thing was keeping your mind right when other people rang that bell. Every time the bell rang that indicated another recruit had quit, it took us an hour just to get our minds right and keep focused so we wouldn’t be the next guy ringing that bell.” Jeff literally is saying that quitters are the biggest discouragement during the week. More people quit because of quitters than because of the conditions during the week.
Jeff states, “All who quit eventually either want to try again, or they become so defeated and discouraged that they drop out altogether, or many just settle for status quo instead of Seal status. All who finish are tested that week beyond their capability; and they find a strength and endurance that they never thought possible, if they will just keep going.” The coolest thing about finishing the training: a photo of each class that finishes the training is posted in the halls, and only a select few make the Hall of Fame. Jeff writes, “One of the great motivating factors of the week was I wanted my face and name on that wall!”
When I read this book I could not help but think of Hebrews 12:3: “For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.” God compares the Christian life to a race that is being run in Hebrews 12, and He makes it abundantly clear that there are some who will quit this race. The reason? They get weary and faint in their minds. But the writer also describes for us just one chapter previous in the Great Hall of Faith the life and testimony of those who finished their race, endured to the end, and were honored by God Himself!
The Christian life is a great joy but it also requires a great amount of discipline and endurance if you are going to cross the finish line and accomplish all that God has given you to accomplish for His glory during your race! There are going to be moments when you and I will want to ring the bell and quit, but let me remind you of several things before you “ring the bell”:
1. This race has already been run and won by the Lord Jesus Christ.
2. This race has already been run and won by other believers.
3. If you ring the bell, you will discourage other people.
4. If you ring the bell, you will join a long list of washouts who never endured and saw God’s best.
5. If you ring the bell, you will always wonder “what could have been.”
Vince Lombardi once stated, “Quitting is a habit, just like finishing!” One of the greatest joys I have is to work with people who have been serving the Lord faithfully for many years. They are happy, holy, and helpful people and it is a great joy to serve with them. But one of the greatest heartaches I have is to see friends, former ministry partners, families, and many others who when the going got tough, “rang the bell.”
God has called us into the “fellowship of his sufferings,” which includes a cross to bear and trials to endure. Don’t quit, Jesus didn’t. Don’t quit, the heroes of the faith didn’t. Don’t quit, others are following you. Don’t quit, you will never know what God could have done in your life. Endure, look to Jesus, remember that He is keeping the final score and He will honor those who endure and finish what He has called them to do!