The theme for this year’s Youth Work The Conference is “Lumen” . . . basically, LIGHT! Once a month (maybe sometimes more) I am going to reflect on the theme and lob up a blog . . . read along if you like – but – more importantly, join us in November for the Conference!
As I get older, I am challenged more and more to ask myself this question, “how can I live a significant life that makes a difference to others and pleases God?” When we are young, I think it is natural to want to be good at stuff, to prove ourselves . . . to BE the difference OURSELVES – but the reality is, the more people we can point to Jesus – the greater our impact will be, as we grow we should move away from a childish incentive of “look at me, look what I did!” to, “look, look at Jesus.” You might think I am being daft at 43 to be thinking about my legacy . . . but, hey – how will I be remembered? Will it have made a difference that I was EVER here . . . well, WILL IT?
In his “Confessions” St Augustine describes how he heard the voice of a child singing “Take up and read, take up and read” – Augustine, who at the time was in great turmoil, took this as a message from God to read the scriptures – Augustine became one of the most significant theologians in Church history, but we know nothing else about the child. Yet, what an impact they had – and they probably never knew it! When Christ gets the glory, and NOT US, the Angels rejoice!
Do you know who may have had the greatest impact on evangelism in the western world in the 20th Century? Well, his name was Mordecai Ham (WHO?) . . . well, it was at a revival meeting where Ham spoke that a young man called Billy Graham gave his life to the Lord. When we do what we do, and in doing it – we point others to Christ, we have no idea sometimes what the outcome will be – but when Christ gets the glory and NOT US, the Angels rejoice!
There was a guy called Rees Howells, he led revivial meetings in Wales . . . (get his biography and READ it, “Intercessor”), anyway . . . he was leading these meetings and God was doing amazing things . . . he had a colleague who did these meetings with him, but the guy who got the Kudos, the guy who got noticed, the guy they came up to, the “Christian celebrity” of these amazing times with God was Howells. God then spoke to Howells and told him not to come to the meetings anymore, but that God planned to raise up his friend – God told Rees more amazing things would happen, if he stopped coming to the meetings, stayed in his room and prayed for the meetings . . . nobody was to know. I don’t know whether in his mind the verse “He must increase, I must decrease” (John 3:30) was bouncing around . . . but, I would have argued with God if it was me.
“You know God, I am happy – obviously – for YOU to increase, I mean, that is the whole point of the verse isn’t it. I can’t see that it means my FRIEND . . . I’m carrying that guy – he would be NOTHING without me . . . er, oops, OK Lord, I get it.”
Well, Rees Howells got it and did what the Lord said . . . the meetings went crazy! Nobody knew what the score was with Howells, but the limelight was gone – it wasn’t being shone on Him anymore . . . when Christ gets the glory and NOT US – the angels rejoice!
Maximus (played by Russell Crowe) speaks these lines in the epic film “Gladiator”, “What we do in life – echoes in eternity.” This simple but profound statement draws me to Philippians chapter 2 verses 12 – 16. Paul speaks of us “shining like stars in the universe” – what a powerful picture! Our nearest star, other than our own sun is some 40 trillion kilometres away. Many of the stars we “see” in the night sky are long dead, it is only now that we are seeing their light – in the same way, we may never see the impact of our own lives, but we can be assured that what we do in this life will “echo in eternity”.
This lighting the way for others, and being a light for Christ is NOT, fundamentally about ministry or the work that we do for the Lord . . . it is about the WHOLE life we choose to live. Words can have sparkle if we are a great communicator . . but they grow dim and lose their shine if our lives do not match what we say. Also, being a light for the short time we are here on earth is not about streaking across the sky in a blaze of our own glory . . . it is not BIG things we do that – when we point to them make others feel small – that make the difference. It IS the small things we do (every day, the small decisions – moment by moment that are the fruit of the Spirit . . . a bit more love expressed, joy overflowing, peace in our words with others, patience with a difficult situation, kindness in the face of dislike, the goodness we repay others with when they have not been good to us, faithfulness in the small mundane, ordinary things of life, gentleness in the face of agression and self control in our weaknesses) . . . we might be the littlest light – but light is LIGHT!
We might feel we are not in a position to cross continents to make a difference to the lives of others – but we can cross our own street! You and I, choosing to live differently right where we are could be all the difference to a neighbour or a friend. Living for Jesus Christ, is living counter-culturally, rather than living to be “centre stage”, and seek the glory for ourselves – we live, work, rest and play – mostly, behind the scenes, and with the hope that the glory will go to Jesus. Many of us never have an audience of thousands. What will make the biggest difference, to our lives, and the lives of others – is to live out our lives for the audience of one.
Think about that one small thing you could do, right now – you just never know what impact it might make, not just now – but for eternity.