“(God) says to ordinary people like me and you that instead of closing our eyes and bowing our heads, sometimes God wants us to keep our eyes open for people in need, do something about it, and bow our whole lives to Him instead.” – Bob Goff, Love Does
I knew that we would quickly fall for the Albanian children at the orphanage. I felt it when the oldest, an eight-year-old girl with a gleam of mischief in her eyes, took the opportunity once the translator stepped out of the room to speak directly to the unsuspecting Americans:
“What’s your name?”
This bright, bubbly child turned out to be a pint-sized translator herself:
Me – “Crayon?”
L – “Lapsi.”
Me – “Orange?”
L – “Portokalli.”
My memories of my friend and her little sister are rooted in my heart. I was allowed to take a few pictures on our last day together. Most of the pictures are blurry, and eventually my mind’s eye will grow dim, but the eyes of my soul cannot un-see these children.
But there was a time (not so long ago) when I succumbed to a feeling of helplessness at the darkness and suffering and injustice in our world and I basically chose to “un-see” the needful person across the street and across the sea.
My question was this – What can one ordinary person do to make a difference?
As I struggled with my hesitations and limitations, the Holy Spirit nudged me with another question, plus a challenge:
What difference does Jesus make in my life? Start there.
As I thought about these things, I read books by Richard Stearns, Henry Blackaby, and Emily Freeman which encouraged me to bridge the gap between sacred and secular and to open my eyes to all of life, even in my ordinariness, as my offering.
Whatever you and I do, we are designed like no one else to say something unique and purposeful about God with our lives. As Emily Freeman says, creating a life of meaning is not about finding that one great thing you were meant to do. God has created you, Image Bearer, to know Him and to express Him in a million little ways.
The difference that Jesus makes in my life is that I’ve been saved by grace through faith, and Scripture says that this is a gift from God and not the outcome of my works (Ephesians 2:8). It’s tempting, in our cultural mindset, to be outcome-driven, even thinking that ministry is our deal, our doing.
But Ephesians 2:10 tells us that we are God’s workmanship, created by Him for good works He planned before we were born. What we have to offer is by God’s design and doing. Recognizing this truth has freed me from the burden of outcomes. No, I can’t change the world but I’m not called to. I’m called to offer my heart, my voice, my hands and feet and let God work as He will.
While we’re waiting for a place where we’re significant and sufficient, He’s asking us to begin with a small step of obedience.
An outcome-mindset comes easily to someone like me who wants to do some good, feel successful in it, and make the world seem more neat and tidy.
An offering-mindset is rooted in the belief that I can do nothing good except for God’s grace in me. Sometimes – most times – this is an uncomfortable process because God shows up best through weakness and humility. But could it be that God’s work is best seen in surrendered people, not skilled people?
In our individualistic culture, it’s tempting to see ourselves as do-good lone rangers. But Ephesians 2:10 says that we are God’s workmanship and we are better together as each part of the Body of Christ does its unique and valuable part. God designed us to serve alongside, not alone.
I’m learning that yes – I have a responsibility to this world, but when I am concentrating on my gifts, my purpose, my weaknesses, my calling, I am getting in the way. It’s all His deal, and what a privilege you and I have to be a collective part of His story. Let’s be available and willing to see what He does.
“We are all in full-time Christian service …. What has God given you? Moses had a stick. David had a slingshot, and Paul had a pen. Mother Teresa possessed a love for the poor; Billy Graham, a gift for preaching; and Joni Eareckson Tada, a disability. What did they have in common? A willingness to let God use whatever they had, even if it didn’t seem very useful … We may not be clear on just how God wants to use us. But that’s no excuse for doing nothing. Just jump in, and start doing.” Richard Stearns, The Hole in our Gospel
God is greater than our gifts, and I think He wants us to keep our eyes on Him and open to the unexpected ways He is working. Your offering and my offering, wherever our mission fields may be, matter to Him.
When you ask God to help you see, He will open your eyes and your heart in a way that’s unique to you. His calling may not lead you to another country. God intentionally places us in our families, neighborhoods, and local communities too. What you offer in these places is significant and sacred.
The Great Commission is lived out through bedtime prayers, peanut butter sandwiches, a pick-up soccer game with the refugee kids, a gift to the crisis pregnancy center, a Sunday morning in the special needs class.
The hands and feet of Jesus represent the showing-up part, but they respond to the seeing part.
God invites me and you into His work. We don’t have to figure out where we fit. He will lead us when we keep our eyes open.
So, let’s not limit ourselves by the question – What can one person do to make a difference?
Instead let’s ask – What difference does Jesus make in my life? and Where is He working?
And let us start there. We can create a ripple effect that swells into a current of life-giving love.
“Saying yes isn’t really about doing it all. It’s about saying yes right where you are. It may seem small or insignificant, but any time you love someone or care for another person’s needs, you’re changing their world, and yours too. It’s about looking up from your everyday life and seeing opportunities around you to make a difference. It’s about loving others as we are loved.” – Kristen Welch, Rhinestone Jesus: Saying Yes to God When Sparkly, Safe Faith is No Longer Enough
Emily Freeman, A Million Little Ways and Simply Tuesday: Small Moment Living in a Fast Moving World
Henry Blackaby, Richard Blackaby, and Claude King, Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God