Summary: 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 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?