In my publisher’s note, I shared how the Lord gifted me in my friendship with Jack Roland Murphy, better known as Murf the Surf. You may or may not recognize his name.
In 1964, Jack stole the JP Morgan jewel collection from the National Museum of History in New York. It became known as the jewel robbery of the century. He served three years in the New York City Tombs and Rikers Island prison, where he gained more insight into the criminal world. Upon his release, Jack put that knowledge to use, and that led to a double life sentence plus 20 years for two murders in Florida. His release date was set for 2244.
Jack quickly gained popularity and influence among his fellow inmates. But then, in 1974, a prison ministry came behind bars, and God got hold of Jack’s heart. He surrendered his life to Jesus, and everything changed. Jack served the Lord for over a decade behind the bars of a maximum-security prison where he fully expected to spend the rest of his life. Miraculously, however, in 1986, Jack was released. When asked how he walked out of prison 258 years before his release date, Jack could only point to the heavens and smile.
God certainly had a plan. Because of Jack’s life transformation, thousands have discovered the transforming power of Jesus Christ. From the time he accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior until his passing on September 12, 2020, Jack shared the good news that Jesus saves and transforms lives.
Jack was proof of the redemptive power of Jesus Christ. He was a walking testimony of how God can take the most hardened criminal and transform his life so radically that there is absolutely no trace of the old man (2 Corinthians 5:17).
I wanted to share with you some wisdom from Jack’s life, in his own words, showing you how you can have your own transformation experience. It is possible, you know. All things are possible when we put our lives in God’s hands (Matthew 19:26).
Desire a new life. Transformation starts with realizing we need a new life.
I realized with sudden clarity that I needed a new life. I’d had success, money, women, drugs, toys, parties, travel, and lots of action—but every plan or dream had fallen short. They had never brought satisfaction, contentment, or purpose, and none of it had filled that hole in my heart. I was ready for a new life.
Do you believe that your life can change? If not, why?
Surrender. A peace-filled, joy-fueled, and power-packed life comes when we surrender our lives to Jesus.
Knowing my life needed to be transformed, I asked Jesus to come into my heart, to forgive me for the mistakes I’d made and the pain I had caused, and to take control of my life. No longer did I want to be in control; I had only made a mess of things. I wanted God to take my life and use it however He saw fit. It was a total surrender that started with a simple prayer, “If You are real, then please help me. I need serious help.” I believe with all my heart that at that moment, God heard my prayer.
God will hear your prayer too. Have you surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus Christ? Transformation is a byproduct of our relationship with Him.
Let go of the madness. Surrendering to God means letting go of the controls.
For years, I had heard about God’s love, but I didn’t want any part of it. I was my own man—a tough guy, and I didn’t need anybody. I was a mover and a shaker, both outside of prison and inside. I was Murf the Surf—a man who had enjoyed respect and success in every world I had ever entered. I wasn’t about to give up my life, the action, or the world I rocked in.
But then I looked at the world I was clinging to—a crowded prison filled with forgotten men. Danger. Tension. A world leading to death. That’s what I was clinging to? That wasn’t life. It was madness.
Often what we hold on to is the very thing holding us back and pulling us down. What do you need to let go of today?
Seize opportunities. The Lord has given us everything we need to live godly lives (2 Peter 1:3). We access those things as we get to know Him through the Bible. He’ll use people and programs to help bring about our transformations too. Embrace those opportunities.
The Lord sent people into my life to teach me more about Him, but I sent them away. Funny how we ask God for help, but when He answers our prayers, we don’t recognize His hand in our lives. That was me until one day, a visiting friend said, “Murf, you need to get into the programs—especially chapel—because if nothing changes, well…nothing changes. And pal, you need some changes in your life.” I took his wisdom. What did I have to lose?
Who or what is available to equip and encourage you? Are you embracing these things or pushing them away?
Make changes. Studying the Word and learning from others is time well spent, but we must put what we know into action—“because if nothing changes, well…nothing changes.”
Experiencing a new life requires a decision to go in a different direction. It’s madness to keep doing the same thing and expect a different result.
What needs to be changed in your life? Consider your peer groups, habits, environment, words, thoughts, or attitude.
Consider your choices. Jack says it best:
Like rungs in a ladder or steps on a stairway, choices can carry you down into the darkness of defeat and failure, or they can lift you upward into the light of victory, joy, success, respect, love, and adventure. All it takes is one choice at a time to change the course and quality of your life. Anyone can be a winner or a loser, a champion or a chump. Whether you’re in the loser’s circle or the winner’s trophy room of life is just a matter of choice. The choice is yours.
A transformed life comes by deliberately making right choices every day. That doesn’t mean you’ll always do things perfectly, but you’ll be willing to learn from your mistakes and keep trying. What choice can you make today that will put your life on a new path? How can you use the things that come naturally to you for a new, good purpose?
Transform the Lives of Others. God is in the business of transforming lives. But He doesn’t just want to change your life—He wants to use you to bring about transformation in others too. Jack hated jails and prisons, yet he chose to go back to over 2,500 prisons worldwide. Why? Certainly not for fame and money.
I went back into prisons and jails to help others find what I had found—light at the end of that dark tunnel. I had nothing to gain but everything to give. People need to know that there is hope; that they can change. Anyone can change when they put their life in God’s hands. Even an old con like me. I’m not doing anything new. It’s just my turn to join the awesome army of Christ and do my part.
And now, it’s our turn.