Summary: See how we can make a difference in people’s lives as we encourage them in the faith.
(This sermon was introduced by showing a video clip. The clip contained a series of short interviews in which people were asked the question. "For what do you wish to be remembered?" The last interviewee said "I want to be remembered as someone who made a difference." That is my desire! With that in mind I want to share a message entitled "The Encouraging Difference."
Charles Colson shares a story that illustrates this point. In his book, "Loving God," he tells the story of an incredible ninety-one-year-old woman, known affectionately as Grandma Howell. As she moved into the twilight of her life, she had more than one reason to let depression take over and just give up. Her youngest son had died. Her oldest son was in declining health. Many of her friends were dying and she had begun to believe that she had nothing left for which to live. One day she prayed with all of her heart and told the Lord that if He didn¡t have anything more for her to do, she was ready to die. According to Grandma Howell, God spoke three words: "Write to prisoners." After arguing with the Lord about her lack of education and her age, Grandma Howell wrote her first letter.
Dear Inmate, I am a grandmother who loves and cares for you. You are in a place you had rather not be. My love and sympathy goes out to you. I am willing to be a friend to you in correspondence. If you’d like to hear from me, write me. I will answer every letter you write. A Christian Friend, Grandmother Howell
When the letter was sent to the Atlanta Penitentiary, the prison chaplain sent Myrtle the names of eight prison inmates. That was the beginning of an unbelievable ministry of encouragement. Over the next months, this elderly woman carried on an extensive writing ministry with hundreds of incarcerated men and women. All of it was done from her little room in a high-rise home for the aged in Columbus, Georgia. According to Colson, writing to the prisoners was only half of Myrtle’s joy. They wrote back! And their letters were warm, rich letters of gratitude.
One inmate who signed her name Grandmother Janice, wrote: Dear Grandmother, I received your letter and it made me sad to think you may not be alive much longer. I thought I would wait and come to see you and then tell you all you have meant to me. But now I’ve changed my mind. I’m going to tell you now. You’ve given me all the love and concern and care that I’ve missed for years and my whole outlook on life has changed. You’ve made me realize that life is worth living and that it’s not all bad. You claim it’s all God’s doing, but I think you deserve the credit. I didn’t think I was capable of feeling love for anyone again, but I know I love you as my very own precious grandmother." (SOURCE: Acts of Love, Vision House, David Jeremiah, pp. 159-161.)
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I do not want to waste my time in this life. I want to make a difference. Life is filled with meaningless activity. I read about a fellow that stopped at a gas station and, after filling the tank on his car, he paid the bill and bought a soft drink. He stood by his car to drink his cola and he watched a couple of men working along the roadside. One man would dig a hole two or three feet deep and then move on. The other man came along behind and filled the hole. While one was digging a new hole, the other was about 25 feet behind filling in the old. The men worked right past the fellow with the soft drink and went on down the road. "I can’t stand this," said the man tossing the can in a trash container and heading down the road toward the men. "Hold on," he said to the men. "Can you tell me what’s going on here with this digging?" "Well, we work for the government, " one of the men said. "But one of you is digging a hole and the other fills it up. You’re not accomplishing anything. Aren’t you wasting the people’s money?" "You don’t understand, mister," one of the men said, leaning on his shovel and wiping his forehead. "Normally there’s three of us--me, Sam and Jesse. "I dig the hole, Sam sticks in the tree and Jesse here puts the dirt back. Now, just because Sam’s sick, that don’t mean that Jesse and I can’t work." They just dig holes instead of planting trees.