Change Your World (Mathew 16:18)
We live in a constantly changing world. I remember when I first began in the ministry. I was a young Marine Sergeant living in Yuma, Arizona. I had gotten involved with a retired Pastor.
He and I would lead a chapel service every Sunday at various retirement communities, assisted living facilities, and at rescue shelters. I was basically a volunteer chaplain to these places. At Emerald Springs retirement village there was a feisty 92 years young woman, barely five feet tall, named Elsie. She would tell me the same thing every time I was her.
She would say, “Preacher!” (She always called me preacher.) “Preacher, I grew up on a farm in Southern Arizona riding a horse and buggy and now we have put a man on the moon! I remember when we used an outhouse and now they have bathrooms on airplanes and you can fly anywhere on the planet in a day!”
The world is always changing and while we can’t control everything that happens in the world… we do have power over what happens in our world… in our immediate lives, in our families, in our church, and in the lives of those around us. God has not called us to change the entire world; He has called us to be instruments of His change in the lives of those around us.
In order to affect our world for change… we must be affected. We don’t have the power on our own to transform even the smallest of things in our world. We see pain and need all around us. Which of us… working within our own power… has the mercy to love others unconditionally?
Which of us… living in our strength… has the grace to lead others toward inner peace and tranquility? Which of us… is so strong that by sheer will – can change the heart of even one person? I submit to you that before we can change anything significant in our world we must first be changed.
Romans 12:2 tells us, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” In others words… you must be the change that you wish to see in the world.
In a poem entitled “Success” Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “To laugh often and much to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”
A few years ago I was working on a class for my undergraduate degree in religion. For the final exam you were required to write a series of brief essays on several Christian doctrines. Well, I worked feverishly on the project. I really wanted to get a high grade on the project since this class was a part of my major.
When I submitted the project I was convinced that I had done a great job on the project and I was sure to get an “A.” When I received back the graded paper a week or so later I was shocked! I had received a big bold “F” on the project. My heart sunk. I thought for sure there had been some kind of mistake. So I flipped to the back of the paper and there in big red letters were just four words, “Great job – Wrong test.”
I had misread the instructions for the project and instead of writing a series of short essays I had chosen just one of the subjects from the list of ten and developed a full blown thesis! I had poured my heart into the project… but I had come up short… because though I had done a great job… I had taken the wrong test.
The professor was kind enough to let me redo the project and in the end I did get an “A.” So the story does have a good ending. But I wonder… how many of us… when we pass from this life to the next will stand before our Lord and hear Him say, “Nice boat, great car, wonderful reputation.” Followed by the simple words… “Great job – wrong test.”
You see success in life is not defined by the things we possess, the cars we drive, the boats we own, our reputation, or any other thing that we might cling to in this life. Why is that so often we find ourselves so focused on the things of this life? Why is that we live as though we can take anything tangible from this life to the next?
None of our accomplishments… none of our achievements… none of these things ever bring lasting joy and none of these things bring ultimate success…
Babe Ruth had hit 714 home runs during his baseball career and was playing one of his last major league games. The aging star was playing for the Boston Braves against the Cincinnati Reds. But he was no longer as agile as he had once been. He fumbled the ball and threw badly, and in one inning alone, his errors were responsible for five Cincinnati runs.
As the Babe walked off the field after the third out, booing and catcalls cascaded from the stands. Just them a young boy jumped over the railing onto the playing field. With tears streaking his cheeks, he threw his arms around the legs of his hero. Ruth didn’t hesitate. He picked up the boy, hugged him, and set him down on his feet with a playful pat on the head.
Suddenly the booing stopped. In fact, a hush fell over the entire park. In those brief moments, the crowd saw a different kind of hero: a man who in spite of a dismal day on the field could still care about a little boy. He was no longer being judged by his accomplishments—neither the past success nor the present failures—but by a completely different standard. Suddenly it was not his works that mattered, but a relationship.
The Christian life is a life of relationships. God has called us into relationship with one another and together we grow in our relationship with God. Life is not about possessions… it’s about people… Life is not about accomplishments… it’s about relationships.
Many people struggle in relationships largely because they are always focused on self. Why didn’t she give me the attention that I needed? Why didn’t he take out the trash?
In life the best way to change others is to change you. In a marriage, for example, if one partner spends all their time and energy trying to change their spouse, they most often end up tired and exhausted. And the spouse who they are trying to change only sees them as controlling or too demanding.
The best way to change others is to change ourselves. We must be the change we wish to see in our world. If we want to live in a more loving marriage… then we must be more loving… if we want to be a part of a more caring church… then we must care for others.
Erwin W. Lutzer wrote, “Better to love God and die unknown than to love the world and be a hero; better to be content with poverty than to die a slave to wealth; better to have taken some risks and lost than to have done nothing and succeeded at it; better to have lost some battles than to have retreated from the war; better to have failed when serving God than to have succeeded when serving the devil. What a tragedy to climb the ladder of success, only to discover that the ladder was leaning against the wrong wall!”
We have been called to love each other faithfully… to love others radically… and to love God wholeheartedly. We have been called to change the world… our world… and that begins by being the change that we want to see.
Change is the tool that God so often uses to perform miracles. We serve an active God who always busy revealing Himself in the circumstances around us. Where you see positive change occurring… God is often moving… where you see lives being transformed for good… God may well be at work…
Let us be a people known for their acts of compassion. Let us be a people known as instruments of God’s change. The world is clearly imperfect. And rather than dwell on all that is wrong with the world… let us be world changers…
Let us begin at home… This week, look for one person in your family that you can bless. Look for one friend or neighbor to love… Changing another persons life doesn’t have to begin with any grandiose gesture or monumental speech…
This life is composed of an infinite number of little moments. All of us can effect the moment. All of us have the power to change our world for a moment… and then for another moment… and then another…
In this moment… choose to love… in this moment… choose to forgive… and this moment choose to be a world changer… one moment, one person at a time.
We have been called to love each other faithfully… to love others radically… and to love God wholeheartedly…
Let us pray.