When I was a little girl growing up in Florida, my dad would often take my sister and I out on a boat to go snorkeling. One sunny Saturday afternoon, my dad explained that we were going to do something different—he was going to teach us how to catch lobster. He would find and capture the lobsters, and I would hold the net containing the stalk-eyed ocean creatures that would serve as our dinner. After my dad declared that we were “ready,” I jumped into the water, equipped with my snorkel gear and net.
In a short time, my dad caught a few lobsters and put them in my net. I began to think that this was a fun way to spend the afternoon. About an hour into our hunt, however, something unexpected happened. My dad dove down and put both of his hands under a large rock. Suddenly, from underneath the rock, a nurse shark swam—directly into my net with the lobsters. I felt the shark’s rough skin on my leg, and I looked over to see it thrashing around in my net! I screamed at the top of my lungs, immediately dropped the net, and swam in a Michael Phelps-like manner over to my dad. Without delay, I stood up on his back as if he was a surfboard, in an effort to get further away from the shark. After my dad was able to pull me off his back, he asked, with no regard to my distressed estate, “Did you let the lobsters go?”
Ready, Not Ready
That day in the Florida Keys, though I was “ready” with my snorkel gear, a net, and a brief explanation of lobster hunting, my dad did not prepare me for all of the possible scenarios. However, our perfect heavenly Father fully equips and prepares us for the ministry callings He places on our lives. In our various leadership roles, we may often feel that we are not fully ready when certain circumstances take us by surprise or that our lives are not “together” enough for us to lead well. Yet all of us, as daughters of the King, are equipped for ministry by God.
How God Equips Us
Throughout the book of Hebrews, the unknown author encouraged the early Christians by explaining how Jesus is the fulfillment of the new and better covenant, which replaced the old covenant of the law (Heb. 7:22). At the conclusion of the book, there is a benediction, which says:
Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen (Heb. 13:20–21).
This final charge begins with explaining that our God is the God of peace, but He is also the God of power who raised Christ from the dead. In addition, He is our Shepherd, who leads us, guides us, knows us by name, and protects us from harm. With the Lord as our Shepherd, we “lack nothing” (Ps. 23:1 NIV).
The second half of Hebrews 13:20 explains that God is the One who equips us with all we need to do His will. This word “equip” (katartizo) can also be translated “perfect,” and it has a few meanings in the Greek: “To cause to be in a condition to function well, put in order, restore . . . prepare for a purpose, outfit.”1
Throughout the Bible, there are many examples of God equipping, conditioning, and preparing His children for a purpose.
- God equipped David for fighting Goliath as he regularly defended his sheep from wild beasts (1 Sam. 17).
- God prepared Queen Esther to go before King Xerxes to save her people “for such a time as this” (Est. 4:14).
- He equipped Solomon with the wisdom and ability to build the temple (1 Kings 5:1–7:51).
- He prepared Mary to give birth to the Savior by first sending an angel to tell her that she had found favor with God (Luke 1:26–38).
- We also know that God prepared Jesus in a supernatural way for His crucifixion as He surrendered His will to the Father’s.
God is the One who prepares us for the purposes He has for us. He puts us “in order,” as the definition above states, so that our hearts and minds are ready for service in whatever ministry context He has called us to. As a woman, I totally understand the last word, “outfit,” in the definition above. An outfit is not just the dress, right? It’s also the shoes, the belt, the earrings, the purse, and other accessories. How encouraging to know that God’s equipping provides us with all of the necessary resources, both big and small, to carry out His will.
He Equips and He Mends
This same Greek word “equip” (katartizo) is also translated in other parts of the New Testament as “mending.” In the gospels of Matthew and Mark, we read how two of the disciples, James and John, who were also fishermen, were “mending [katartizo] their nets” (Matt. 4:21; Mark 1:19). The nets they used were very large, up to twenty feet tall and hundreds of feet wide. After a day of fishing, the nets were a jumbled mess, with holes to be fixed, debris to be removed, and damage to be repaired. The fishermen worked on these large nets each evening in preparation for the next day’s catch.
Just like the fishing nets that needed mending and restoration before the next use, God does this with our lives. As ministry leaders, some of our circumstances and relationships may be a giant mess, in need of much repair. The good news is that God is the One who mends our broken lives, reinforces the places that have been ripped apart, and restores that which has been lost. God provides this equipping and outfitting so we can accomplish the good works which He prepared for us in advance to do (Eph. 2:10).
God Is Working in Us
There is more good news! As Hebrews 13:21 explains, God is not only equipping us, He is also “working that which is pleasing in his sight.” God does not just equip us for ministry and then send us on our way. He continues to help us by actively and presently “working” in us so we can carry out His will and fulfill our callings. God equips us beforehand, but then He also goes with us as our great Shepherd, providing all we need each step of the way.
God’s equipping of and working in us is evidenced throughout the New Testament. One example is found in Ephesians 4:11–13 (for more examples, see also 2 Cor. 3:4–6; 2 Peter 1:3; Heb. 4:16; 2 Tim. 3:16–17):
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherdsand teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.
About four years ago, the woman who led my local church’s weekly Bible study told me she was stepping down. She asked if I could serve as the new leader of the group. I immediately felt like God had been preparing this new role for me, but in many ways I also felt underequipped. Many of the women in the study were older and much more knowledgeable about the Bible than me. The size of the group had recently grown, and I felt intimidated by all of the new faces. At that time, it was a busy season for me with a newborn and a four year old. In addition, my mom had just been diagnosed with breast cancer and needed multiple surgeries. Despite all the reasons for me to not lead this group, after much prayer and discussion with my husband, I felt the Lord calling me to step out in faith and lead the Bible study.
I can honestly say it was a challenging season, but God proved to be so faithful in providing me with wisdom, His supernatural strength, and energy. By God’s grace and enablement, we had a powerful season of Bible study, and every week He supplied what was necessary to lead the women. At each meeting, the Bible passages brought about encouragement as well as rich discussion times. God gave me a room full of women who loved to hold my three month old as I taught the group and were faithful to pray for me and my family. I was also able to travel back and forth to Florida to help my mom after her surgeries.
Part of the Equipment
During that season of taking over the women’s Bible study, not only did God supply me with what was necessary to lead, but He also was faithful in bringing other sisters to the group to help me. He drew students, single women, moms, and grandmas to our study. He brought a woman who loved to pray and led us in times of corporate prayer. He brought a biblical counselor who continually pointed us to encouraging Scriptures and helped us answer difficult questions. He even gave us a chef who prepared delicious meals for the group! God showed me that part of the way He equips me for ministry is surrounding me with people who can help along the way. I cannot lead well by myself. The women we lead may think they need us, but we also need them in order for the Body of Christ to fully function as He intended it to (1 Cor. 12:12–26). God designed us to need Him and each other (Matt. 18:20, Rom. 12:4–5, Heb. 10:24–25).
Looking to Jesus
With our eyes “looking to Jesus founder and perfecter of our faith,” not ourselves, we will experience His equipping and divine power at work within us (Heb. 12:2). We can be thankful that even if an unexpected shark swims into our net, we can trust that nothing surprises God and that He will provide all that is necessary to complete our assignments. On our ministry adventures with Him, we will never journey alone, but He will provide brothers and sisters in Christ to help us along the way. Allow Him today to perfect, mend, and outfit you with all you need for doing what is pleasing to Him. With your faith and trust in Him, He will fully equip you for every good work to the glory of Jesus Christ.
1 William Arndt et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 526.