How many of you remember a movie by the name of Simon Birch that came out in 1998?
It tells the story of a twelve-year-old boy named Simon Birch who, despite his physical disabilities, believes that God has a plan for his life. "Simon was born tiny and with an abnormally small heart. He was expected to die within the first twenty-four hours of his life. He surprises everyone, though, when he lives to be an adolescent.
"A disappointment to his parents and the target of many childhood pranks because of his miniature size and odd-sounding voice, Simon has every reason to question his self-worth and purpose for living. But he embraces his condition and believes that God will use him in a unique, possibly even heroic, way.
"Joe, Simon's best friend, doesn't believe in God, and he is not the only one who doubts that God has a plan for Simon. Simon's schoolmates mock him relentlessly, believing his assertions to be one more indication of his strangeness. On one occasion his Sunday school teacher hurriedly tries to hush him so he won't 'frighten' the other children with his musings.
"The small town's forlorn minister also doubts that God could have a plan for small Simon Birch. In a poignant conversation between Simon and the minister, Simon asks, 'Does God have a plan for us?'
"The minister hesitantly replies, 'I'd like to think he does.'
"Simon enthusiastically says, 'Me too. I think God made me the way I am for a reason.'
"The minister coolly states, 'I'm glad that, um, that your faith, uh, helps you deal with your, um, you know, your condition.'
"'That's not what I mean,' Simon states. 'I think I'm God's instrument. He's going to use me to carry out his plan.'
"Dumbfounded by Simon's confidence, the pastor says, 'It's wonderful to have faith, son, but let's not overdo it.' With that he waves for Simon to leave, shakes his head in disbelief, and whispers with an air of cynicism, 'God's instrument.'
"A short time later Simon is riding with his classmates in a school bus traveling down an icy road. Suddenly the bus driver veers to avoid a deer, loses control, and the bus plunges into an icy lake. Everyone in the front of the upright bus quickly evacuates out the door, but Simon and a handful of other students in the back of the bus are trapped as the bus begins to sink.
"Simon takes charge. He opens a window and commands his classmates to climb out. Last of all, Simon escapes through the window.
"In the hospital following the accident, Joe assures Simon that all the kids are all right. Simon asks, 'Did you see how the children listened to me because of the way I looked?'
"Joe, with tears in his eyes, replies, 'Yeah.'
"With satisfaction, Simon says, 'That window was just my size.'
"'Extra small,' Joe utters with a smile.
"A few seconds later, Simon dies, knowing that God used him. But what Simon doesn't know before he dies is that because of his unwavering faith, his friend Joe now believes in God.
"Some twenty years later, standing at Simon's gravestone, Joe says, 'I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice, not because of his voice or because he was the smallest person I ever met... but because he is the reason I believe in God. What faith I have, I owe to Simon Birch -- it is Simon who made me a believer'"
(Craig Brian Larson & Andre Zahn, Movie-Based Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching (Zondervan: Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2003), 160-161. From a sermon by Eric Lenhart, Sunday -- "Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem" 8/13/2010)
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Often time, the difference between serving the Lord significantly and just using up the time period we call our lifespan is just a little bit of faith and courage; not a lot of it, just a little faith exercised in fear and trembling!