The Words of Eternal Life
By Phil McMaster (Military Community Leader) on behalf of the team, Thomas and Raylee Bielenberg (ADFA and RMC) and Julianne McMaster (Solid Rock)
I don’t know about you but I love reading the Bible with children. It is a special moment as the words bring excitement, joy and amazement from young inquisitive minds. Tonight I was reading John 6 with my children. We read about Jesus feeding lots of people, walking on water and then giving the disciples the words of eternal life. We used a military camouflage Bible tonight.
It is a bit worn from time overseas and ‘in the bush.’ I am reminded about the time that I was a military cadet and someone read John’s Gospel with me. They were life-changing words back in 1992, when I was in training. And now, a small team of us are reading these words with young trainee officers at the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA). But instead of eating fishes and loaves we meet to ‘tuck into’ God’s word and eat bucket loads of pizza and garlic bread!
As we reflect over the last twelve months we have seen a number of lives transformed by the Gospel. Thank you God! Each story is different but deeply personal. Each one includes a transformative encounter with Jesus. For some, the story has been fairly short and the transformation instant and striking. For others it has been a longer journey over a few years. God has done this in the lives of men and women, first years, second years and third years. Army, Navy and Airforce. Here are some of their stories…
• ‘Edward’ is a second year Army cadet. He was invited to a lunchtime pizza talk by another cadet. After eight months of considering the claims of Jesus he ‘succumbed’ to the overwhelming evidence in the Gospels. He was baptised as a public profession of his faith a few months ago.
• ‘Rachel’ is a third year Air Force cadet. Raylee has met with Rachel over the last two and a half years. Along with attending many dinners, Rachel has been a regular at the pizza lunches. Rachel’s journey to belief was built on confirming who Jesus is and the significance of His actions. It has been a blessing to see her grow in understanding and knowledge.
• ‘Rebecca’ is also a third year Air Force cadet. Rebecca approached Raylee after meeting during the initial training church services. She asked to meet and learn more about what the Bible says. We read through John and Mark and talked about how faith and real life work together. This has been helpful, and Rebecca‘s understanding grew and she accepted Christ. It has been exciting to hear the questions she asks now and how this shows her new understanding.
• ‘Darren’ was a first year Army cadet. We had our first serious chat with him in a canoe on an Adventure Camp in 2017. After three months of exploring the claims of Jesus he decided to believe. The change in his life was instantaneous. Darren has now left the Defence Forces but he is still a follower of Jesus and really enjoys telling others about Him.
• ‘James’ is a second year Army cadet. He meets with Mike after meeting early on during initial training. James prayed a prayer of repentance and faith after a six week Bible study series.. James continues to study the Bible and work through what authentic faith looks like.
As we give thanks to God for these testimonies we praise Him for His transformational power. We also reflect that whilst these stories are wonderful there are many who have rejected the message of Jesus. Why do some believe and some not?
I think John 6 gives us the key:
“The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.” John 6:63-65
Whilst God loves to use people in the work of the Gospel, imperfect as we are, we are not the key! God is the ultimate change agent. It is Him and only Him who can soften hearts and call people into His Kingdom. Trainee officers have many questions about life, service overseas and the difficulties of leading, but we don’t always do a good job at answering them. We have found that the best ‘tactic’ is to keep pointing the inquiring mind back to the Scriptures to look at the truth. God works powerfully through His Scriptures and draws people into lasting transformational change that only Jesus can bring.
So would you pray and thank God for this work? Would you ask God to keep moving the hearts of trainees at ADFA and other parts of the Defence Force? We are totally reliant on Him and acknowledge that Simon Peter, one of the disciples, came to the right conclusion in John 6:67-68:
“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”