While in Turkey during the Crimean War, Cyrus Hamlin noticed how badly the sick and wounded soldiers suffered because there were no clean clothes for their bodies or sheets for their beds.
So he invented a washing machine using materials at hand. He later said that he had been credited with sixteen different professions including university president and professor of theology, but that of “washerwoman” was the one of which he was most proud. Men and women who have truly stepped up, sacrificed and become involved in making a difference were changed for the better, and for the happier.
Take the apostle Paul, for example. He spent his final days in a Roman prison. But he uses the words joy, rejoice, gladness and cheer 67 times in his letters. He called the Philippian Christians “my joy and crown” (Philippians 4:1). He told the Thessalonians, “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? For you are our glory and joy” (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20).
Sometimes we think we’ll become useful “someday” because we are challenged by the events in our world today. But the secret to making a difference is to do something now.
Think of some small little change you can make in your routine or a small improvement you can try at home. Tuck your preschooler in with prayer. Post a Bible verse on the refrigerator each week to memorize. Hug your family each day. Make one night a week a screen-free evening — no television, phones or computers! Jot a note of encouragement to someone who is alone or ill. Send your church staff an email of appreciation. Thank those around you who are working on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic with a smile and a thumbs up. Seek out opportunities where you can make a difference in someone’s life.
Taking the time to express appreciation changes the life of the recipient, and gives a deep-seated joy to the giver.
It’s also helpful to change the way we think of ourselves. We’ve been trained by the popular culture to think of ourselves as consumers who need to be served. But let’s think of ourselves as servants who want to change the world.
Richard Wurmbrand, an evangelical Romanian minister of Jewish descent, was arrested on his way to church in 1948 by the communist regime in Romania. Despite harsh interrogation and torture, he refused to denounce the Lord Jesus; and as a result, he was sentenced to years of solitary confinement in a dank cell 30 feet below ground. He had no Bible or book, and no contact with family or friends was allowed. He was cut off from every communication and comfort.
He endured more than 14 years in prison, but Wurmbrand knew he could still make a difference.
He established a routine by which, over time, he composed 300 poems and committed them to memory. He prepared a new sermon every day and preached aloud to his invisible congregation every night.
When he was finally set free and reached home, he told his wife, “Don’t think I’ve simply come from misery to happiness! I’ve come from the joy of being with Christ in prison to the joy of being with Him in my family!”
Wherever we are, we can be of use if we learn to think of ourselves in terms of servanthood.
In 1912, Ina Ogden received an invitation to travel the country and speak at summer camps. Having long felt God’s calling on her life, she was tremendously excited by the possibilities of motivating thousands of people for the cause of Christ. But then came a jolting disappointment. As she packed for the tour, her father was seriously injured in a wreck in one of the newfangled “horseless carriages.”
Ina cancelled her travel plans to care for him.
Though bitterly disappointed, she was able to surrender the disappointment to God and trust His purposes. Making up her mind to be a blessing wherever she was, she concluded that even if she couldn’t minister to thousands, she could be a blessing to one — her father.
There is joy in serving Jesus wherever we are. Take the step and make a difference in your world today.
David Jeremiah is the founder and host of Turning Point for God and senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, Calif.