This is Part 12 in a 12 Part series. The premise is this: "Two men in their in their late 20’s walk into a coffee shop around 7:00 a.m. In college they had been good friends, but over the past few years had gotten out of touch. Having lived in the same dormitory for three of their four years at City Christian College, they still had many fond—and a few not-so-fond memories—of their time together in college. Just by accident (or so Michael thought) they had run into each other in a hardware store and had set up a time to talk over breakfast. This is their twelfth breakfast together.
If you want to read this series of conversations from the beginning (you don't have to start at the beginning), please see Part 1.
Michael: Good morning.
Jim: You look good this morning.
Michael: I’m anticipating a Colossal Omelet.
Jim: I haven’t had one of those for a couple of weeks. That sounds great.
(Waitress take their order and scurries off to fill it.)
Michael: It’s been a good week.
Jim: I’m glad to hear it.
Michael: I’ve been praying and doing some serious thinking about where my life is headed.
Jim: That’s the best news I’ve heard in a long time.
Michael: I don’t want to live an empty life. I really want my life to count. I’ve even thought long and hard about the possibility of bagging my present position at Graphics and Design and joining you on the Northside.
Jim: That’s good news!
Michael: I still can’t quite picture myself there, but I am praying a lot more for you. At the same time, I’d like to make some sort of difference in the world. But I feel so small.
Jim: What do you mean?
Michael: As we sometimes used to do in college, I’ve begun to make it a habit to go out in the field behind my house and lie on my back and pray while looking up at the stars.
Jim: You are bringing good news today!
Michael: Last night, the sky was especially clear and the stars looked as though I could reach out and grab them. I meditated on the vastness of God and tried to let my feelings share my thoughts. After a while, I reflected on my own size in comparison to the stars—my life…a lone soul on a huge planet housing over seven billion other souls…our planet swinging in ellipses around our sun…which is only one of many in our galaxy…which is only one among the uncountable galaxies in space.
Jim: It’s a good thing we ordered the Colossal Omelet. Anything else would have seemed undersized.
Michael: And I thought about what I’m doing right now—my values, my aspirations. I realized that they all are insignificant in light of what it means to be an envoy of the God who created all of this.
Jim: You’re right.
Michael: I want to live for God with my whole heart. I know that much now. But I still can’t control the nagging feeling that even if I do give myself over to serving God in the world, my life won’t make a dent. How does my individual action make any difference in such a big world with so many problems?
Jim: Michael, it’s not you who will make the “dent”; it’s God. God created this vastness. God allowed these seven billion people to be born on this planet. If God is going to use you to change the world, then it’s God who is going to do it.
Michael: Who’s talking about changing the world? I’m just hoping to make a dent.
Jim: Who knows what God might want to do through you, Michael? God wants to use you, and God is able to use you to do much more than you could possibly think that you could ever do.
Jim: How do you put five elephants into a convertible?
Michael: One at a time.
Jim: That’s how. Someone recently commented that it was possible to eat a car. If you break the car up into small enough pieces and mix it with your food and eat it over a long enough period, it’s possible.
Michael: (dryly) I was thinking of trying that. But what does that have to do with changing the world?
Jim: It has everything to do with it! The best way you can change the world is by living your life in such a righteous and loving way that people long to live as you do. You change the world by investing deeply in those individuals who long to love God as you do. There’s a Turkish proverb that says, “Drop by drop a lake is formed.” If, after spending time with you, people leave encouraged and challened to live a faithful and God-glorifying life like you want to live, they’ll influence others, who will influence others, who will change the world.
Michael: I’m sure some of them will do the job better than I could!
Jim: Some of them most certainly will. And that’s the end toward which you should be praying.
Michael: Have you ever noticed that when the author of Acts writes about the first missionary journey, he begins by referring to the first missionaries as Barnabas and Saul (or Paul)—with Barnabas’s name mentioned first? After a while, the duo is referred to more and more as Paul and Barnabas. Eventually, Paul and Barnabas separate and the narrative focuses entirely upon Paul. Barnabas apparently had helped to raise up and train the greatest missionary the world has known and then watched him to do what God had called him to do without getting in the way.
Jim: The same types of ministries of encouragement and mentoring can be done with our own children, only on a much deeper level. It’s rare these days that anyone thinks of impacting the world by training our children to love and follow Christ.
Michael: But I’ll never have the impact that someone like Billy Graham had.
Jim: So what?! God will use you in ways you’ve never dreamed if you’ll give him a chance. Besides, you won’t be functioning alone—at least you shouldn’t be. The importance of living and working in community with other believers as a means of drawing people to Christ can hardly be overstressed in our individualistic age.
Michael: Jim, do you think that you’re going to change the world?
Jim: You bet. I mean…God’s going to use me to do it, though I can’t right now see to what extent it will actually happen. Why do you think that I moved to the city? I moved there primarily for two reasons. First, I wanted to fill a gap in an area of the city that most Christians have not been willing to fill. Second, I felt that by doing this, I could be an example to others to do similar things. Few people from my background are willing to make sacrificial changes in their lives. I knew that God was crying out for more from me. I sensed that my move would be an example that might spur others to do the same. If enough of us left our comfortable lives, moved back into the cities, and joined with those already serving Christ in the cities, the cities could be reached for Christ.
Michael: Is example so important?
Jim: It’s absolutely crucial. With some issues it is the only way of making a change. For instance, my wife and I share a conviction that, in light of the seriousness of poverty in the world, and because so many people still need to hear the gospel, we need to limit our monetary lifestyle. We believe we shouldn’t live extravagantly and that we should use our excess money to help others. We also believe that others should consider such a lifestyle. But because people are so prickly about discussing money, we’ve had to be sensitive in the way we share these personal convictions. So we focus primarily on being an example in this area. We don’t talk much about it. But already, a number of our friends are starting to scale down their expenses. Example speaks loudly. Michael, God can use you. You have to believe it.
Michael: But what if it doesn’t happen the way I hope? What if I set out on a course of action and my impact turns out to be minimal?
Jim: I don’t believe that anyone who lives a life of whole devotion to God will only have minimal impact. But it’s not until eternity that we will be able to see all that has occurred through our lives. In other words, we don’t always see fully now. But, let’s say that you really don’t make an impact; you can’t even see a dent. Even then, you’ve lived life according to the purpose for which you were created, and that can never be called an empty life.
Michael: But if your ministry is unsuccessful, you haven’t succeeded.
Jim: Not necessarily. Glorifying God is bigger than doing ministry and impacting others. Let me share something from my own life. I love to write poetry. I don’t tell many people this because poetry isn’t popular now, but it is a way for me to express what I’m experiencing inside. I always wanted to use my poetry for the glory of the Lord, so I wrote often about the character of God and sent my poems off to magazines hoping that they would be published. After about two hundred rejections, I concluded that I might not have the knack for writing publishable poetry. But does that mean I was done? No. Rather, I turned my pen toward writing psalms and songs of praise, directed straight toward the Lord. The spiritual encouragement I gained from doing that strengthened me immeasurably. It was largely through the spiritual communion that resulted from this exercise that I gained the courage to step out and begin Love for the City. And I continue to compose these poems and songs of praise because I know that it is not a dead-end street. Writing down these words of worship has helped to develop a deeper intimacy with God than I’ve ever known.
Michael: What does that have to do with changing the world?
Jim: It doesn’t, except in an indirect way. Living to glorify God is not limited to changing the world. I was trying to say that worship in-and-of-itself is an end because it is central to a walk with God. It doesn’t directly change the world, but it sure is changing me. And God uses changed people to change the world.
Michael: So, if I’m not mistaken, I hear you saying three things that are needed if someone really wants to impact the world for Jesus.
Jim: I don’t remember three, but I’m listening.
Michael: The first is growing into a holy, loving, and faithful life with Christ. The second is stepping out in faith as an example to others, no matter how costly it is personally—like moving to the Northside or limiting your lifestyle. The third is pouring your life into like-minded individuals one at a time, teaching them to mentor others so they’ll do the same with others.
Jim: Yes, we did discuss all of those today.
Michael: Is there anything else that I left out.
Jim: Certainly a life of intercessory prayer is essential to making an impact on the world. Prayer puts the work exactly where it belongs—in the hands of God. God’s creative, loving, and healing hands will do the work in a way that we could never imagine.
Michael: I’ll list that as number four.
Jim: We also should add proclamation of the good news and ministries of justice and mercy.
Michael: But what does it mean for me?
Jim: God will certainly show you in the proper time what this all means for you. You can have a major impact on the world in which you live from wherever you live. God can use you at Graphics and Design, living in the neighborhood where you live right now, participating in a Bible-believing church. He can and will use you to touch the world in a major way if you’ll allow it. If God doesn’t want you there, he will use your move as an example of what happens when people decide to live their lives entirely given over to him. Then others may decide to follow your example.
Michael: I will need God’s grace in a major way if I’m going to live like this. God will have to continue the work of renewing my mind after years of allowing unanswered questions to paralyze me from moving forward. But, at least, I have begun to believe that God both can, and wants to, use me.
Jim: I’m glad, Michael. I want the same for my own life.
Michael: Maybe, then, our breakfasts together will be a lot less stressful for you.
Jim: (smiling) I hope for you, as well ...
Michael prayed for many months about numerous decisions he had to make about how to practically work out his renewed commitment to Jesus Christ. In the end, he and Betsy decided that God would have him continue to work at Graphics and Design. But he moved his family down to a house in the Northside so he could support his friend, Jim, in the work there. He’s beginning to find out that the life of surrender that he discussed with Jim is bringing a deep joy that he never knew existed. He still isn’t sure where it came from—it seems to be coming in the back door ...