What Difference Do I Make

Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some, letters of commendation to you or from you? You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men; being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts.

– 2 Corinthians 3:1-3 (NAS)

And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you he shall not lose his reward.”

– Matthew 10:42 (NAS)

The hard question in life (for many) is: Do I make any difference at all? Barb and I were in Portland this last weekend to do a memorial service for a very good friend of ours who passed away a few weeks ago. Since she was a believer and very involved in ministry to others so it was easy to talk about how God had worked in and through her to impact people’s lives. It is too bad that many of us struggle with that question throughout our lives. I often wonder if we had the ability to go forward to listen to what people would say about us at our funeral, what would they say about me? If I could hear those thoughts now would it encourage me enough to keep investing in others?

I have had a couple of funerals in my ministry where there was either no one left to say anything about the person or on occasion the person was so obnoxious in life that it was genuinely hard to find anything positive to say about them. Of course at funerals everybody goes to a “better place” no matter how badly they acted in this life but that is another issue.

Sometimes our struggle is that we want the wrong kind of legacy. God has given us all gifts, abilities and innate skills that allow us to do some things better than most others around us. Our skill set may not make us Olympic medalists but we may excel in a job situation where we get promoted or we have some skill in sports that gets recognized or have some unique, intuitive ability that makes us stand out in a crowd. Many of us would not turn down the encouragement that would come from having a larger community of people respect us for something we have done that made a difference for that group; it would be encouraging to think our vision, forethought and skill in meeting a need or changing something for the better would make a difference. But that idea of success can be hard for many because they may lack opportunity, they may lack a skill set for that particular issue or we don’t have the imagination to see how we can make a difference. So we miss all kinds of opportunities to make a difference. Maybe the solution is to simply care and love the people that are right in front of us so that our legacy is about how God’s grace touched one life rather than how many people will remember us at our memorial.

The school shootings in Florida this last week reminds me that our world is really broken. I wonder, as my associate raised the issue this morning, that the reason people do such harmful things to others is because they are isolated, they believe they do not matter and no one cares about them? I am convinced that it is easy for people to feel they do not matter. I am NOT proposing that the solution to this is convincing people they do matter. I would propose that we need to come to grips with how much God loves us by willing to sacrifice His own Son in order for us to become part of His family. Then we can learn about how extensively God truly loves us. It has always been puzzling to me why people are so offended by the idea that there is a personal God who loves them enough to sacrifice His own Son for them… really!!

If you want to leave a legacy that demonstrates that you can matter, try caring for the people right in front of you. I think it would be better for God to use you and me to make a genuine difference in a few people for Christ than worry about how many people will miss me when I go home to be with the Lord.

Brad Little

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