Commentary -- Faith works

  • Published
  • By Chaplain (Lt. Col.) John G. Sackett
  • 71st Flying Training Wing Chaplain

 VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- Faith works.

Those two simple words are packed with meaning, which is likely why our current Air Force Chief of Chaplains, Maj. Gen. Dondi Costin, chose them to launch a new Air Force Chaplain Corps initiative.

Still in its initial rollout, “FaithWorks” is a collection of evidence-based programs and materials that promote spiritual resilience for Airmen and their families.

Faith works. For me, it’s an allusion to one of the great conversations in Christianity, “Is a person saved by their faith, or by their works?” And ironically, it’s the answer as well: a saving faith works.

Faith works. These words also speak to the reality that one’s faith, or system of belief, really can serve as “an anchor for the soul.”

The Air Force recognizes this in two ways. First, by labeling “Spirituality” as one of the four pillars of Comprehensive Airmen Fitness. Second, by stating that “Every Airman is free to practice the religion of their choice or subscribe to no religious belief at all,” in paragraph 2.11 of Air Force Instruction 1-1, “Air Force Standards.”

The point here is that the Air Force is not trying to tell you what to believe any more than your fitness-minded friends try to tell you “how” to work out.

Think about it. If you want to become physically stronger, what do you do? You work out, you stress those muscles. You might become intentional about your eating and sleeping habits and in short time you begin to notice progress.

The Air Force Chaplaincy Corps believes the same is true with spiritual fitness. Most people find that when they begin to become intentional in practicing spiritual disciplines or religious acts, they begin to gain spiritual resilience.

Spiritual disciplines -- studying a sacred text, sacrificial giving, prayer, meditation and acts of service -- truly make a difference, not just in the world around us, but within our own lives as well. As we practice these disciplines, we armor up our souls, building in us spiritual resiliency that enhances our military readiness. Faith works.

Dr. Harold Koenig is director of the Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health at Duke University in North Carolina. He noted in a research article that in a study of 1,000 patients struggling with depression, those that practiced their religion remitted from depression more than 50 percent faster than patients that did not regularly practice their religion.

Koenig mentioned similar results in studies regarding suicide, anxiety and substance abuse. Faith works.

A couple of months ago, while was reading through Lee Ellis’ book, “Leading with Honor,” I noticed a recurring theme. In speaking about how fellow prisoners of war endured captivity, Ellis regularly made reference to their faith.

Referring to Korean War ace Robbie Risner, he wrote, “Risner’s only relief was to keep moving and praying.”

Regarding Navy Cmdr. Jeremiah Denton, famous for blinking “torture” in Morse code during an interview, Ellis declares, “Denton’s will to win was motivated by his strong sense of personal and professional commitment, undergirded by his deep faith in God.” Clearly for these POWs, Ellis would agree -- faith works.

To close, I’m not telling you “what to believe” or “what to do.” I am only sharing what I believe to be a simple truth that could improve your spiritual fitness levels, and therefore your military readiness. Faith works.