By Bob Burckle
Have you ever wondered if you as just one person can really make a difference in the world? I’ve often asked myself that question as the tasks before us can seem so overwhelming, and yet we are so small. Throughout history, however, we’ve heard countless stories of individuals who had a profound impact on the world around them.
We think of the many war heroes whose selfless acts of courage and valor saved the lives of entire platoons or even changed the course of a battle. A Medal of Honor Museum is opening in Arlington, Texas, next year, and I am looking forward to learning more about the thousands of individuals who – as just one person – did make a difference in the world.
There’s also an amazing story about a hermit monk who lived around the turn of the 4th Century named Telemachus, who alone stood up to protest the violence practiced in Roman gladiatorial battles. He lost his life in the process, but as a result, the emperor at the time was so impacted that he banned further such “sport.”
Many may be more familiar with the dedication of William Wilberforce who, as a member of Parliament, campaigned for decades for the abolition of slavery in the United Kingdom despite his own ill health and personal struggles. We would also recognize the names of the many U.S. champions of freedom and equality who used their voices and platforms to make a difference in society.
In addition to these contexts of warfare or social issues, I think about finances and the vast amounts of funding needed for so many great causes – feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, rescuing trafficking victims, etc. We may think our one penny can’t count for much, but with other individuals contributing their “mites” as well, one becomes two, two become four, four become eight, and so on. One penny can also make a difference.
Another story that inspires me is that of an Albanian refugee who in the 1990s was gifted a New Testament because some humble soul had donated their pennies to provide Bibles for Eastern Europeans. As a result, this young man became a Christian, and today leads the Albanian Bible Society. He has made it possible for our ministry to have use of the Albanian language Bible translation so that now, thousands more Albanians can receive a copy of God’s Word in their native tongue, helping them also to become Christ followers. This one person is making a huge difference, and the impact was started by the individual who donated to EEM so that he could have a Bible.
Just as our wealth – or lack thereof – should not matter when it comes to our potential contributions or influence, neither should the circumstances from which we come. I think of Jesus of Nazareth, creator of the universe, being born in a humble city and humble circumstances. It was Nathaniel, one of his eventual followers who, when told the Messiah had been found, asked “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” From growing up humbly as a carpenter’s son, Christ went on to become despised, rejected and made to suffer a shameful death. And yet, this is the very man who has arguably had the biggest impact in all of history.
I have found the key to making a difference is in relying on the Holy Spirit for help. None of us can do much in our own strength and power, but when we are relying on God, we’ll see that one good seed planted on good soil will be multiplied many times. This was true in the life of Jesus’ disciples, who by all standards were a pretty rag-tag, undependable, lowly group of men. Yet it was in their hands, empowered by the Holy Spirit, that Jeus left the assignment to evangelize the world. Their impact has been enormous, with Christianity spreading throughout the known world at the time, in just 35 years. It is because of these individuals’ willingness to do their part that the Christian faith is part of the very fabric of so many societies across the planet.
With the deterioration of morality and the family, we have seen that cultural influence wane in recent decades. I believe much of this is because we have lost our dependence on the Holy Spirit, and because we mistakenly assume that one person from lowly circumstances cannot have influence. Who has been chosen is not who we would normally think of. If we have been truly transformed by Christ, then we are the ones who should be motivated to make an impact. I wonder how it is even possible that so many of us don’t feel that compulsion. And if we don’t, we stand to lose all Christian influence within the next generation.
Just as the 12 ordinary disciples had extraordinary impact, so can we. And it must start with prayer – for the conviction that we each must do our part, and for the power of the Holy Spirit to work through us. Only then can we truly see how much difference a single individual can make.
Are you willing to be the one?