A few years ago I read a book by Erwin McManus called The Barbarian Way. In the book he talks about life as a passionate follower of Jesus Christ, and begins with a quote from the movie Rocky III. Mick (Rocky’s trainer) says to Rocky, “But then the worst thing happened that could happen to any fighter. You got civilized.” After experiencing victory, fame, and fortune, the passion and fervor with which Rocky once fought is sidelined by distractions…and he loses.
Growing up, I was blessed with the great example of a father who shared his faith in Jesus Christ at every opportunity. He worked out of a home office, and there were countless times that I overheard him sharing the faith, praying with someone on the phone, or sharing what God was doing in our family and church. I read a quote recently in Financial Peace Junior in which James Baldwin is quoted as saying, “Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.” Given my dad’s example, combined with passion from the Holy Spirit and my own personal faith transformation, I imitate my father. I look and pray for opportunities to share who Jesus Christ is and what He is doing – even if it is something as small as throwing in a one sentence “teaser” in conversations and then praying that the seed be watered at another time.
I know there are a lot of world champion cops out there who share this faith and passion. But perhaps there are some who, like Rocky, have gotten civilized – lost the passion and excitement that was experienced at salvation. Maybe there are some who aren’t sure where to begin, how Christianity can be lived out in their daily environment, or even feel inadequate. Sometimes there are preconceived ideas and misconceptions about the type of person God will use for ministry, and those hindrances keep us from stepping out and being used by God.
John chapter 2 is the very familiar story of Jesus turning water into wine at the wedding in Cana of Galilee. It is the first recorded miracle of His ministry, and a story that (I believe) lends great insight into ministry. In focusing on the vessels, the watering jars, that were used in this miracle, I find at least three characteristics of the vessel (metaphorically and symbolically referring to the type of person) Christ uses to accomplish His purposes in this world.
THE VESSELS WERE AVAILABLE. John 2:6 NLT says, “Standing nearby were six stone watering jars, used for Jewish ceremonial washing. Each could hold twenty to thirty gallons.” The important thing was that these watering jars were available and in a convenient place to be used. It has been said that the greatest ability we have is availability. It doesn’t much matter how skilled, educated, or otherwise qualified we are if we are not positioned so that God can use us. Jesus used resources from within the room to minister to the needs presented in the room. In other words, I believe that we are strategically placed to be used right where we are. In this unique profession, Jesus needs “insiders” (Responder Life is a ministry to first responders that has adopted the term Insiders for reaching the profession) who know the culture, are trusted, and interact daily with law enforcement professionals in order to reach them.
The jars were empty, hence the reason Jesus told the disciples to fill them with water (John 2:7), but had great capacity to be filled and used. They each could hold 20-30 gallons. A significant aspect of the jars availability was their capacity. A common saying is that God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called. In this case, much more important than content was capacity. Maybe you don’t have a degree or years of training. Perhaps you are new to the faith or not very experienced. Nevertheless, Jesus recognizes you for what and who you can become. You have great capacity, and He will fill you with the Holy Spirit and form you into the minister you need to become.
THE VESSELS WERE ORDINARY. John McArthur wrote a book about Jesus’ disciples entitled 12 Ordinary Men. He points out that the ones Jesus chose to follow Him and carry out His work in the world were seemingly average, ordinary men – fishermen, tax collectors, and so on. These “average” guys would all become great heroes of the faith. Can you imagine…Jesus took 12 guys “off the streets” and used them to establish the Christian Church and carry the Gospel to all parts of the globe? It has been said that Jesus didn’t even choose the disciples until halfway through His ministry – they only had 1 ½ years of training (If Jesus started ministry at age 30 and died at 33, there were only 3 years of ministry.) before they were sent out to accomplish this great and seemingly unimaginable task.
The watering jars in our story were not traditionally used to contain wine, but served as a receptacle for family supply. They may have even been used for washing feet. In filling these common jars with “the best wine,” it seems that Jesus is setting the precedence for what Paul speaks about in 2 Corinthians 4:7: “We ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure.” Further, there were only six vessels. The number six was seen by the Jews as the “number of man” and represents that which is incomplete, imperfect, and lacking. Society or others in the church may look at your background, your past, your gender, age, race and say you aren’t qualified…but they aren’t the ones that matter anyway. Can Jesus use you? That’s what matters. We are all just “average guys and gals” who have been rescued from our sins. We all may not have years of training, but then again, some of us have been sitting in the church for 15 or 20 years. Jesus used six imperfect, fragile, ordinary foot washing jars to perform a great miracle, and 12 ordinary men with less than 2 years of training to found His Church. What is our fear, insecurity, or excuse?
Allow me to further illustrate this point using the story of the Lumberjack and the bear. One day a young man walked up to a big, strong lumberjack and said, “If I were as big as you, if I had those huge muscles and giant hands, then I would go out and find the biggest bear our there. I would wrestle him, and squeeze him, and just kill that bear.”
Then the lumberjack looked at the young man and replied, “Well, there are some little bears out there too.”
You see, you can’t do everything and always be as talented as the next person, but there are some things that you can do. God has some “bears” out there for you…but you must not look at everyone else and what they are doing. You must consider your own talents and abilities. In God’s eyes you aren’t ordinary…you are just who He needs and wants to use to reach our brothers and sisters in blue.
THE VESSELS YIELDED GOOD CONTENTS. In John 2:8 Jesus told the disciples to “dip some out.” It is important to note that the jars weren’t “stiff-necked and narrow-minded,” but yielded their contents for use through openings that were accessible. Availability must be put into action, just as the jars had to be presented for use. Jesus saw the watering jars, filled them, and performed the miracle. There is no way of really knowing, but scholars have debated whether the water turned into wine immediately when it was poured into the jars, or only as the disciples “dipped some out.” I tend towards the latter and think that it was at the point that faith was put into action that the good wine was produced. The change of contents, water to wine, could only be effected by divine power. The power of Christ’s Spirit working in us will produce something good if we will allow ourselves to be accessible, used for His purposes, and yielded to His will.
John 2:11 says that this miraculous sign was the first time Jesus revealed His glory, and as a result, the disciples believed in Him. His glory was revealed – made known, visible, and plainly recognized – through the use of these available, practical and ordinary, yielded vessels. Can God use me and you? YES! My encouragement is that you will step up to the calling, step out on faith, and become bold in ministering to those around us in 2012. The work is His, the glory is His, and the results will be produced. Be a barbarian and stay passionate about sharing Christ with those around you. I pray you will be sensitive to hear God’s voice as He opens up doors of opportunity.
Perhaps you should start a local ministry, become more involved in a ministry chapter that already exists, or partner with a national ministry such as Covered Law Enforcement. We are working to provide law enforcement professionals with resources that will promote faith, solidarity, and facilitate personal evangelism. Regardless of which ministry, denomination, or group, if you are a Christian in law enforcement the Covered logo will stand as a symbol of our like faith. Don’t forget to get “Covered” with bracelets, stickers, license plates, brochures, and other great products. Check back often for other great resources as well. Happy New Year!
Please refer to the ministry links page for others, but allow me to highlight a few great ministries that you can support and will support and resource you in 2012. The beauty is that each has a unique mission and way of presenting ministry, and compliments each other well.
Centurion’s Faith – An Atlanta-area based ministry to all first responders that is partnering with other national ministries to bring about positive transformation in the lives of those serving.
The Centurion Law Enforcement Ministry – Located in the Denver, CO area, MC Williams provides a great weekly profession-relevant Bible study via newsletter, and I encourage you to check out his New Year’s message that is available now.
Fellowship of Christian Peace Officers – A national ministry with local chapters that provide support and discipleship to officers.
Peace Officer’s for Christ International – A national ministry that started in California with a mission of bringing officers to Christ and leading them to maturity in the faith.
Christian Law Enforcement Resources / The Peacekeepers – Home of the Peacekeepers Bible study and other great law enforcement ministry resources.
Responder Life – A national ministry to all first responders that has partnered with Focus on the Family and other great ministries to provide “responder edition” resources that “insiders” can use to reach first responders in their area.
Ten-Four Ministries – A Tulsa-based ministry with a regular online radio program that highlights faith, training, and other profession-relevant issues. Also develops and coordinates the Vest for Life program that provides body armor to officers in need.
Operation Safety 91 – A Florida-based ministry that provides Psalm 91 resources to military and first responder personnel in an effort to “honor and protect America’s protectors.”