Making a Difference

“Be still and know that I am God”

Psalm 46:10

A statement a person may make concerning their life is, “I want my life to make a difference.” History records many people who made a difference, some for good and some for evil. There are those who made a difference through exploration, scientific discovery, inventiveness, or the desire for conquest and destruction. For most people the difference is not so obvious.

The desire to make a difference has led some people down paths of passion. They evaluate themselves by assessing whether they are making the difference they envisaged in the field of their choice. This can lead to frustration or extreme actions when they feel they are not succeeding.

Christians may also be drawn into the world of wanting to make a difference. Jesus commands us to be salt and light in the world and make disciples so it is understandable that we will want to make a difference. If we don’t feel of use we may run the risk of feeling a failure and suffer similar feelings as an unbeliever. The desire to be of use to the Lord may lead us to go ahead without Him and Jesus says that will accomplish nothing (John 15:5). There are times when He calls us to come aside and just know Him, that is, be intimate with Him, just the two.

Only He can truly assess if what we are doing is really of use to Him. We may have our own idea of usefulness but it may be far from what the Lord considers of use. Paul said that he wouldn’t even try to assess his own usefulness (1 Corinthians 4:3).

That we worship the Lord out of sight of others may be all the use He desires of us at certain times. For the present the Lord has allowed our faith to be tested by being partly shut off from each other and the world so let us leave our circumstances to Him and follow the psalmist’s council: “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” He will be exalted! Continuing to spend time reading our Bibles, praying and communing with God is of much use and pleasure to Him. It is a test of our faith in Him and will prepare us for the days ahead when we are again let loose in the community in what may be very different times. Easter is a special time for us and a good time to reflect and “Be still and know that I am God.” This will make a difference in us and then He can make a difference through us in the world.

A Faithful Ambassador

“This is the twenty third year in which the word of the Lord has come to me; and I have spoken to you, rising early and speaking, but you have not listened” Jeremiah 25:3

There are probably many people who share the Gospel who identify with Jeremiah. For twenty three years he had been a prophet of the Lord faithfully passing on what the Lord had given him to speak yet the people of Jerusalem and Judah had taken no heed. The Lord retained a remnant in Israel so the rejection was not total but successive kings of Judah had turned the hearts of the people away from the Lord. There were many other voices proclaiming what was supposed to be the word of the Lord but they were liars who deceived the people by telling them what they wanted to hear rather than the truth (27:10, 14-16). The same tactic is employed by some today. They proclaim a false Gospel while claiming it is from the Lord.

Jeremiah seemed alone in proclaiming the true word of the Lord yet he refused to compromise to appease kings, priests, other prophets or even to save his life (26:8). He would rather be an offense to people than offend the Lord.

The world might judge him as being unsuccessful but the Lord judged him otherwise. Successful in ministering the word of God is not determined by whether hearers receive God’s word. Success is measured in whether one is faithful to the Lord’s word and calling.

Jeremiah had to withstand the wrath of kings, accusations from religious leaders and stand face to face, in the presence of witnesses, with one who claimed to speak for the Lord but was a liar (28:1). He did this knowing that there was a strong movement among the false prophets to have him killed. He would not compromise the word of the Lord to save his life. His words to them were, “I am in your hand; do with me as seems good and proper to you” (26:14).

Like Daniel’s three friends, he knew that whether he lived or died he would not compromise the word of the Lord (Daniel 3:18). Like the apostle Paul he knew that, “to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).

The church needs people who will proclaim God’s word as He gave it and not how people want to hear it. In the days of Jeremiah the false teachers were in the majority and they ridiculed, mocked and threatened Jeremiah. They deceived the people who then suffered the Lord’s chastisement. By rejecting the faithful word and believing a lie they set themselves against God.

A person may spend twenty three years as Christ’s faithful ambassador but whether they are successful or not is not in the numbers of people who respond and follow Christ. False teachers more readily gain a following because they speak what fallen people want to hear. The successful ambassador of Christ is the one who stands firm and faithful to Christ’s word even in the face of threats and persecution. The acclaim of people and numbers are no way to measure success. Faithfulness and obedience to Christ are the only measure and Jesus Christ alone is able to measure that.

For Their Sake

“The Lord has sent to you all His servants the prophets, rising early and sending them, but you have not listened nor inclined your ear to hear. They said, ‘Repent now …’ ‘Yet you have not listened to Me,’ says the Lord” Jeremiah 25:4-7

It isn’t unusual for people who faithfully share the Gospel of Christ to be concerned at the deafness of those with whom they share. Sometimes Christians may think that they are the problem and become discouraged in speaking of our Lord and Saviour. We may think that no one is interested. That is, of course, wrong thinking; it is the outcome of believing something that is not true. There are people who are ready to hear the Good News.

Jeremiah writes that he faithfully proclaimed the word of God for twenty three years (Jeremiah 25:3) without national response. He was ostracized, imprisoned, mocked and threatened with death for his efforts. Was there something wrong with the message, the messenger or the audience? Though it has never been the case we seem to have the wrong expectation that the world will welcome the Gospel of Christ. Jesus said otherwise. Our message may be faithful and we may be faithful in our presentation (and we must ensure these) but there is still the matter of the hearers. The wonderful thing is that we are privileged to be part of the process of a person coming to and receiving the Lord Jesus Christ. The angels in heaven are still daily rejoicing over sinners who repent.

The world may assess success based on numbers or economics but the Lord assesses success on faithfulness. Whenever the Gospel is faithfully presented the Lord is glorified in the world regardless of the response but He is glorified in a very special way when a person repents.

Only a true and intimate relationship with the Lord kept Jeremiah faithfully proclaiming all the words that the Lord had given him even in the face of death threats (Jeremiah 26:11-13). There were times that he was despondent and depressed but the Lord revived him and gave him another word to speak and he spoke it. The people hated and despised him for the messages he brought from the Lord but he persisted for more than the twenty three years mentioned here.

Was he a failure? The answer to this is clearly, No. The Lord told Jeremiah to tell the people of Judah that individuals who defected to Nebuchadnezzar would not be killed but preserved ready to return to their land seventy years later (Jeremiah 21:8-10; 25:11). All those who heard the word of the Lord, believed it and acted upon it were saved. The majority refused to do this and perished. Those who acted on the word of God that he spoke certainly recognized that he had successfully fulfilled his mission.

This is still a valid picture for people today. We may faithfully proclaim Christ with seemingly little response but for the sake of those who do hear, believe and act, we must persist. For their sake we press on faithfully proclaiming Jesus Christ.

There was a day many years ago when a man and his wife invited me to their home and faithfully shared the Gospel with me. Even if I was the only person who ever responded to their sharing it was worth it to me and I love them for it. Let us continue to faithfully preach the Gospel of Christ and surely there will be those who will respond. What if you were that one longing for the word of truth?