First Responders – Some Step Up when Others Step Back

Peninsula Community Church 

First Responders – Some Step Up when Others Step Back

February 25, 2018

In preparing for this message this week, my heart was turned to this passage in 1 Corinthians 16:13-14. Paul had this to say Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.

First Responders are an amazing breed of people. They rush in when others rush out. They run to when others run away. They provide care to those who they do not know and they seldom get the honor and praise they deserve. In fact, in our world today, we find an environment that has become increasingly more threatening for our first responders. It might be a paramedic/EMT being put in a choke hold or being attacked physically when answering a call. It might be firefighters in Baltimore being shot at when answering a call for help. It might be police officers who are attacked more often than ever. We have seen this played out in my home town of Mobile, Alabama where an officer was shoot and killed. And now even closer to home, this week an officer was killed when he came to the assistance of someone in need while off duty.

Today, while others may not honor you, we pause to say thanks. We pause to say that we are grateful that you faithfully serve in your assigned duties. Most people do not understand the world of first responders. They so not understand that with a volunteer fire department system that you are not at the station waiting for that person’s call. You are home sleeping or having dinner with your family. For the police officer or paramedic, you may be at the end of your twelve hour shift when you get that priority call that now puts you into overtime and tons of paperwork, only to come back and put in another twelve hour shift later that day or the next day or evening. It might be the Ambulance crew who runs all night, only to come back and do it all over the next night. That is why we say thanks this morning.

The passage before us defines the life of a first responder in many ways. Let me explain. Paul lists five characteristics of those who have courage, and it certainly takes great courage to be a first responder. Paul tells us that the first characteristic is to be on your guard or to be watchful. Being on guard and watchful is critical to the life of every first responder. Their life, the life of those serving along side of them, and the public demands it. As I have learned, one of the most valuable pieces of training a first responder receives is to do scene size up as they approach the scene. Whether it is entering a home on a medical call, heading to a fire, or being called to a motor vehicle accident, first responders must evaluate and do scene size up to assure their safety and the safety of those around them. They must be on their guard.

Not only are first responders to be watchful, but Paul calls for us to be watchful and to be on our guard each day for our lives. We are to be on guard against those things in life which seek to destroy us. We are to guard our ourselves from those actions and mindsets that often cause more harm than good. We are to guard our hearts so that we protect our families and those we love. In essence, we are to size up the scene of our hearts to see if there is any wicked way in us that might hinder us from being the person we need to be. In Proverbs 4:23, Solomon reminds us to Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.

The second characteristic is to stand firm in the faith. First responders all have faith. In fact, without faith, it would be impossible for a first responder to do his or her job adequately. While there are first responders who do not focus much on religion, there is a need for faith in caring out their job. Every first responder has learned to have faith in their training, their equipment, and their partner or fellow first responder. Without that faith, they would not be able to do their job! Without faith, first responders would be paralyzed and left wondering if they were taught correctly! They would hesitate using their equipment. They would wonder if their buddy has their back! The hesitation could cost them their lives or the lives around them.

I would submit to you today that while we have faith in these things, there are some situations where one’s training, one’s partners, or one’s equipment is not enough. It is in those times we will need faith in God to do what only God can do! In our spiritual walk, we must have faith in our training, and faith in our brothers and sisters in Christ to be there for us, but there will be times when even with all the book knowledge and training, we are not going to understand what to do next and we are going to have to rely on a faith in something bigger than ourselves. I suggest that is Almighty God!

A third characteristic is to act like a man or have courage. In Biblical times, the phrase “act like a man” meant to have courage. In the language of today, it means to put on your big boy or big girl pants and face the challenge before you. In other words, be courageous. Courage has been defined as “the ability to do something that you know is difficult or dangerous.” If you are on your guard and standing firm in the faith, then you will have the ability to do difficult and even dangerous things, because you will know you have done all you could do to be prepared and be ready. You will know you have trained for as many scenarios as possible, and you will have faith in that training and those who work beside you. However, all of that training is no good if you never put it into action.

I submit to you this morning that trusting God with your life allows you to have a courage to face things you would not be able to face alone! Sometimes our human pride keeps us from admitting we need God. Somehow, we think it is not cool to depend on anyone else but ourselves! This kind of thinking is not only dangerous spiritually, but is very dangerous in the first responder community.  A person who is not a team player and decides to go it alone, is at a huge risk of hurting himself or someone else. Sometimes, the courage we need is the courage to admit we need each other and that we need God!

The fourth characteristic is to be strong. If we are going to be men and women of courage, we will have to be strong. Physically strong, mentally strong, and spiritually strong! Many times a first responder is called upon to do things that take great physical strength. They need to stay physically fit and strong! As we have already stated, they also need to be sharp mentally. First responders have to make quick decisions and judgments that can literally mean the difference between life and death at times. First Responders must also be spiritually strong! They see so much! Without a spiritual and moral center they can be quickly overwhelmed and become cynical and can lose hope. There are many things that first responders wish they could unsee or unexperience but they cannot. They need a strength beyond themselves to make it. That strength is available in a relationship with Christ.

Now we come to the last characteristic of our text which is is to do everything in love. The truth is, the job of the first responder can be a tough one. It is easy to grow hard and callous and not care any more. When you have run that third or fourth call for an overdose only to find it is the same person you gave Narcan to and transported just the week before and then three times before that, it can begin to work against you. The problem, however, is that when we stop caring, we stop doing our best. If you are not motivated by love, you cannot do your best!

I realize first responders have to have a certain toughness emotionally when dealing with things, especially while on scene. The problem is that many times first responders cannot let their emotions take over or they will not be able to do their job. This does not mean they do not care. It does not mean they do not have feelings. It does not mean they think about and even lift a prayer for those they have helped. But from within there is an attitude of that can literally make the difference between life and death! Because a person who loves what they do and the people they serve, will go out of their way to do the best job they can. On a side note, I can tell you that those that serve this community care and desire the best outcome for your life.

As I close, let me tell you that courage is a Christian character trait. This means that courage was a character trait in the life of Christ. One day He stepped up when others stepped back. He did this because He loved those He came to serve. Jesus stepped up when everyone else fled the scene. Remember the story at the end of Jesus’ life. His disciples were nowhere to be found when He needed them the most, but He stepped up and gave His life for all of us and He would do it again and again if it would help. Jesus knew what was coming and He willingly laid down His life in order for us to be saved. I like to call it the ultimate rescue.

Jesus was and is a first responder. At the appointed time in history, He was called to deal with a messed up world. Rather than change the world per se, He came to change our hearts. He came and He did all that to save us and bring salvation to our hearts. It is noteworthy that while every one else ran, He rushed in and put His life on the line so you might live. That has not changed and He is ready to rush in and make a difference today, whatever you need.

He rushes in to give us peace when we live in turmoil. He rushes in to bring strength when we are tired. He rushes in to bring hope when we have lost our way. He comes as the first responder to rescue us no matter where we are. All we have to do is place that 911 call and invite Him to come and He will respond. Do you need Him to come as the first responder of your heart to minister to you, today? He is here and is ready. Just sound the alarm of prayer and He will respond.

For an audio of this message go to

Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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