Overwhelming odds can make cowards of us all.
Because there is so much to be done, we can easily lose heart and do nothing at all. Because there are so many people in the world to reach, it is easy to forget that God wants to use us to touch those within our sphere of responsibility.
Have you ever felt like that? I have too.
I remember the first time I felt overwhelmed regarding ministry. My life had been quiet and manageable. From my birthplace in a south Texas country town, I moved with my family to Houston, where we lived through my high school years. Our home was small and secure in a quiet neighbourhood. After getting married, serving a hitch in the Marine Corps, and attending seminary, Cynthia and I became involved in ministries that were like our past…small, pleasant, and fulfilling. Our children were young, our lives were rather simple, and our scope of God’s work was limited and quite comfortable.
But then God called me to minister in California, which suddenly changed all that. In fact, it was as the plane descended over Los Angeles when we were going out there to candidate to lead a growing church that I got this overwhelming feeling. I looked out the little window on the plane and watched as mile after mile of houses and freeways and buildings swept by beneath us. I tried to imagine ministering to this fast-paced, sprawling metropolis of never-ending humanity. I thought, How can I possibly get my arms around this monstrous task? What can I do to reach the multiple millions in Southern California?
Suddenly, it was as if God gently reminded me of something I tell myself often: I will never reach them all—that is humanly impossible. But I am responsible for those I come in contact with, and with God’s help, I will make a difference in their lives.
I stopped paying attention to the enormity of the impossible and started pouring my time and energy into the possible: the people and the place to which God had called me to serve Him. Call my vision limited if you will, but it has made all the difference in my peace of mind.
It can do the same for you.
You cannot do it all. You can’t get your arms around the vast boundaries of your city or your entire state. No one can! But you are able to touch those who come into the scope of your influence. Peace of mind comes in knowing that in at least their lives, your touch can make a difference, even if it is only one here and another there.
I’ll never forget a story I read recently. A businessman and his wife took a few days of relaxation at an oceanfront hotel. One night a violent storm lashed the beach and sent massive breakers thundering against the shore.
The wind finally died down, and shortly before daybreak the man slipped out of bed and took a walk along the beach to see what damage had been done. As he strolled, he saw that the beach was literally covered with starfish that had been thrown ashore and helplessly stranded by the great waves. Once the morning sun would begin to burn through the clouds, the starfish would dry out and die.
Suddenly, the man saw an interesting sight. A young boy was picking up the starfish, one at a time, and flinging them back into the ocean.
“Why are you doing that?” the man asked the boy as he got close enough to be heard. “Can’t you see that you’ll never be able to get all those starfish back into the water? What difference can you make when there are just too many?”
The boy sighed as he picked up another starfish and tossed it into the water. Then as he watched it sink, he looked at the man, smiled, and said, “But I sure made a difference to that one.” The businessman paused…and he also began picking up starfish!
True, one person cannot beat the odds. There will always be more people to reach than time or energy or commitment can provide. But the truth is that each one of us can touch a few. How wrong we would be to stop helping anyone because we cannot help everyone.
You can make a difference. And because you can…you must. Count on the Lord to honour and multiply your best efforts, even though they may seem small. Last time I checked, He was still rewarding faithfulness.