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Lessons From Heartbreak Ridge


Principles for the Christian life gathered from a traditional military motto...


Lessons From Heartbreak Ridge

by Ken Akers


In the 1986 blockbuster Heartbreak Ridge, Clint Eastwood played the role of a battle-hardened gunnery sergeant. Throughout the movie, he repeated the military mantra “Improvise, adapt, and overcome” to the men under his command. In the world in which we live today, this is valuable advice.

Scripture often compares the Christian life to warfare. In 2 Timothy 2: 3, 4, Paul told Timothy to be a good soldier. He urged him to fight the good fight by not becoming entangled in the things of the world. With this advice in mind, let’s consider how we can be good soldiers of Jesus Christ.



Stay current and use the “weapons” available to you. We don’t have to look very far to see the world we live in is changing quickly. Many times, we confuse tradition with godliness. Just because a method is “the way we’ve always done it” doesn’t mean it’s the way we always have to do it. Use new methods to connect with the new generation. In a changing world driven by Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, we can keep up or get left behind. Learn to improvise and use the new tools technology provides to reach the next generation for Christ.



In Philippians 4:11, Paul instructed us to be content in whatever situation we find ourselves. Two verses later, he reassured us that, in Christ, we can endure anything. Don’t misunderstand. Adapting doesn’t mean compromising. It means adjusting and moving forward.

After the earthquake in Haiti, I watched in amazement as the Haitians adapted to their situation, and life went on. Do we adapt when confronted with difficult circumstances? Do we make adjustments and keep pressing forward? This is a question we must ask ourselves constantly.

Perhaps we have gotten stuck, trapped by circumstances, tradition, or routine. It may be time for a change. Clear direction about change comes through constant prayer, the counsel of Scripture, and the wisdom of godly friends and advisors. Too much change can threaten our contentment. But if we place too much stock in the status quo, we will be devastated when life throws us a curve ball. Remember what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:19, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” Improvise, adapt, and…



First John 5:4, 5, reminds us that if we are born of God and believe in Jesus, we will overcome this world. In John 16:33, Jesus told us to have peace and be happy because He overcame the world. Romans 12:21 instructs us not to be overcome with evil but to overcome evil with good.

With so much encouragement, what should keep us from enjoying life in Christ? Nothing. Let life do its worst. In Christ, we can claim the victory.

On a side note, I have a personal connection to Heartbreak Ridge. As the first scenes open, viewers see actual footage from past military action. If you watch closely, you can see my older brother in one of the clips. He was serving a tour of duty in the Vietnam War. While most of us will never serve in active military combat, we can learn from those who do. As we fight battles in our Christian lives, we can improvise, adapt, and—because of what Christ did—we will overcome.


About the writer: Ken Akers is the general director of Master’s Men, the men’s ministry of the National Association of Free Will Baptists. Visit to learn more about the organization.



©2011 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists