When I was nineteen, I was on a missions trip to Venezuela for one month. Through a series of unfortunate events (also known as the sovereignty of God), I was enlisted as the interpreter and translator for about three weeks of our trip. While I had taken four years of Spanish and even passed my AP test in high school, I had never used my Spanish in any meaningful way aside from small conversations around town. Yet, now God was asking me to step up, battle my fear and translate the preaching and teaching of our team leaders across the country. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit was able to overcome my own fears and I was used to help share the Gospel with countless people that summer.
I felt like God was asking me to simply trust Him and try something that seemed anything but reasonable. While it might be simple to say this was the only instance, as I look back across my life, I can see a constant pattern of God asking me to do things that would not seem rational. I said yes to starting my Master’s degree with no money and very little confidence only to graduate two years later. I resigned from a church without a guaranteed job in place only to land at the ministry where I have served for the past four years. God has spent my lifetime working to grow and expand my faith by asking me to do things that just seem to make no sense.
In a certain way, I feel like I can relate to the servants we learn about in John 2. While participating in a wedding at Cana, the host ran out of wine. This would have been a huge social faux pas and the host was now in a bind. Mary speaks with her son, Jesus, and after a short conversation, He becomes involved in the narrative. While the story might be familiar, there is an interesting section that seems to apply to leaders. After the servants become engaged with Jesus and are waiting for orders, He simply commands them to “fill the jars with water.” He never says how much or even that they had to use all six jars. However, the servants respond by filling them “up to the brim.” (John 2:6-7)
What does this say about their heart and willingness to follow direction? It seems that they were a group who were not inclined to cut corners. Maybe they anticipated an amazing story? Maybe they just wanted to give their best? Maybe they wanted to give themselves extra work by requiring extra trips to the well (least likely option)?
I have no idea what their motivation was. All I know is that the jars were filled to the brim. Similar to the many stories in my life where I could not see around the corner, I have at least attempted to give God my best and to trust Him with the outcome. Have I lived this out perfectly? Not at all! For every story where I have confidently “filled my jars to the brim” there are plenty more where I went halfway or maybe walked away from the jars without even trying.
So, what does this have to do with leadership? There are three main qualities that the servants model that I hope will become a regular part of my life.
First, they modeled lives of faith. There was not a questioning of Jesus’ commands in any way. We do not read of hesitation, argument, complaints about the extra work or any other form of negativity or doubt. Instead, there is an instant response to the words of Christ. Wow, do I need to grow in this area! Often, my steps of faith come after many moments of questioning, arguments, denials and even justification of following my own path. I am amazed that no matter how many times my path does not end well, that is still my initial response. Definitely an area for growth in my life.
Secondly, this lifestyle manifests through acts of obedience. The servants simply obey. Their behavior reveals their trust and they display to those at the party that they will obey the One who is providing the direction. When Jesus calls us to have a childlike faith, I often wonder if this is part of what He meant. So often children must simply obey their parents without a sense of understanding. If they have loving parents, as we have a loving Father, this turns out well and they learn to continue on the path of obedience.
Finally, there had to be a sense of anticipation on their part. Whether or not they knew who Jesus was, the interaction between his mother and Him set the stage that something was about to happen. Can you not picture the servants peeking out from behind a curtain watching the host take a sip of the water? What must their reaction have been upon his declaration that this was better wine than had previously been served? I don’t know about you, but my experience has been that anticipation that ends in fulfillment cannot help but lead to even greater anticipation for the things of God.
May I encourage you to join my journey of learning how to fill my jars to the brim? While I have been blessed to have had a few moments when I have done this well, there are far more where I come up short. I want this to happen more often and to be part of my daily life. Oh, how wonderful life would be if I were to live with a sense of faith, obedience and anticipation every time Jesus gives me direction.
Mike Dobes is the Manager of Church Relations at Joni and Friends, a global disability ministry with headquarters in Southern California.