Retirement or R&R?
By David Trogdon
After 33 years of military service, the Army determined that I was physically unfit to continue serving as a soldier. So, one day I was a soldier, chaplain, and Lieutenant Colonel; the next, I was retired. Retirement can be a difficult transition for someone accustomed to going 200 mph serving God, soldiers, and families. Retirement was difficult until I realized that my retirement from the Army didn’t mean my service for God was done. Today, I am very happily retired and just as excited as ever about my current and future service for Christ. What caused such a radical change?
A New Mindset
Images of retirement often include sandy beaches, green golf courses, rocking chairs and enjoying old age because, after all, haven’t we earned it? The concept of retirement as R&R (rest and relaxation) is problematic, because it is found nowhere in Scripture. Use any Bible translation you like, or even dive deep into the Hebrew and Greek; you won’t find believers encouraged to spend the rest of their lives resting and relaxing.
All believers have been gifted by God and are called by God to serve Christ. All believers will be judged and rewarded by God Himself when Christ returns. Even in Heaven, we will joyfully continue our work and service for Christ. What could be accomplished for the Kingdom of God and the Church of Jesus Christ if all of us viewed ourselves as full-time servants of Christ—today and for all of eternity? God reminded me that while I may have retired from the Army, I will never ever retire from serving Him.
A New Ministry
As I transitioned out of the Army, I wondered “What now?” After a few weeks, I had so many opportunities that I began praying that God would make clear the one (or ones) He wanted me to pursue. God opened the door for me to serve soldiers in basic training as a part of Cru Military (formally Campus Crusade for Christ). As a retired chaplain, I was invited to preach to over 1,200 soldiers in chapel and saw many young soldiers make decisions for Christ. I have also been able to lead Bible studies for new soldiers, for wounded warriors, for injured soldiers, and for doctors and nurses.
My new ministry includes being an encourager, mentor, and counselor for younger chaplains, couples, and new believers as well as numerous opportunities to speak in Free Will Baptist churches. My favorite ministry, however, is being a full-time pastor to my family, especially after four years of separation through combat deployments. I truly enjoy my ministry as Papa to my children and grandsons and being a Christian husband to a true hero and (also retired) army wife.
While I am no longer an army chaplain, I now serve as chaplain for The H.O.P.E. Project (Healing Our Patriots with Equines). The H.O.P.E. Project is a new ministry for wounded warriors, first responders, and combat veterans battling PTSD, or who have suffered a traumatic brain injury. We use therapy and rescue horses to build healing relationships with God, with families, and with other fellow vets. I am constantly amazed at God’s grace, and how He allows me to do anything for Him. Through the years, I have continually discovered how God uses our past, our passion, our pain, and our potential in Christ to proclaim His grace and the gospel to the world. If God can use me, He can and will use anybody.
The Same Mission
While we may need a new mindset and need to serve God in a new ministry, our mission remains the same. We live to exalt Christ and to fulfill the Great Commission. Christians must do everything possible to help build the Kingdom of God as He uses us to make an eternal difference in the lives of men, women, boys, and girls. If we are convinced that a person who dies without Christ will spend eternity in hell, what are we doing about it? What are we willing to sacrifice for the cause of Christ? God didn’t call us to a life of comfort but to a life of combat. As Steve Camp once wrote, “Some people want to live within the sound of chapel bells, but I want to run a mission a yard from the gates of Hell. And with everyone you meet, I’ll take the gospel and share it well. Look around you as you hesitate, for another soul just fell. Let’s run to the battle.”
Physically, I may no longer be able to do the things required to be a soldier in the army, but I will always seek to be a faithful soldier of Jesus Christ. When my fight is over, I hope to be able to say, with the Apostle Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course. I have kept the faith.” Until that day comes, we may retire from a job and as we grow older, our ministry may change, but we never retire from serving Christ.
We must give our all to “Be strong as a good soldier of Jesus Christ,” and that doesn’t include a retirement only of rest and relaxation.
About the Author: David Trogdon recently retired from the U.S. Army after 33 years of service, including 25 years of active duty, 16 as chaplain. He deployed twice to Iraq, Afghanistan, Africa, and Kuwait. Trogdon was awarded three Bronze Stars and the Purple Heart. Currently, he serves with CRU military. He is a graduate of Welch College, Southeastern Theological Seminary, the Army Command and General Staff College, and numerous military training schools. David and his wife Connie have two children, Joshua and Rebekah, and four grandsons: Nate, Tony, Blake, and Jake.
Learn more about the ministry of Free Will Baptist chaplains at www.FWBNAM.com.