Is God any less powerful in our lives today than He was in the age of miracles? Are miracles more powerful than providence?
If we study Philippians 4:10-13 in the proper context it is clear that when Paul made the statement “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” he was not referring to his miraculous powers. He meant those abilities that are available to all Christians. Paul had the perfect balance between contentment and striving and we are to imitate him as he imitated Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).
The Bible contains numerous examples of ordinary people who did extraordinary things that had a cascading impact far beyond the time, place and people they originally affected. We will discuss just a few of those individuals:
Esther: Mordecai challenged her to save the Jewish nation from extinction by approaching her king with a request, “...And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Ester 4:14b) Her response, “...Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.” (Ester 4:16b)
Mordecai’s confidence stemmed from his faith in Old Testament prophecy. Ester’s response was due to confidence in her eternal destiny. Think of the cascading impact of her decision on God’s Plan of Redemption.
Application today: God, through His providence, provides all of us impactful opportunities IF we will only recognize and act on them.
Rahab: She was on the lowest rung of the socio-economic ladder in Jericho. What possessed her to risk her life by hiding the spies? (Joshua 2:1,11) Her open-heartedness allowed her faith to be greatly influenced by God’s miracles at the Red Sea.
What would have been the short and long term outcome if she had informed the local government of the spies’ location? Think of the cascading impact of her decision.
Application today: We have our one miracle – the Bible! If we will allow its words to enter our hearts they will have the same impact the miracles did on Rahab. (Joshua 2:8-11)
The widow: Jesus recognized the poor widow’s contribution as far exceeding that of the rich. They gave out of their abundance while she gave out of her poverty all that she had. (Luke 21:1-4) Those trials produced steadfastness that perfected her faith. (James 1:2-4)
God judges our contributions not by what we give, but by what we have left after we give.
Application today: We can only imagine the cascading impact over the centuries that this account has had on the giving of countless Christians.
The church: Paul teaches us in 1 Corinthians 12:20-23 that every member is important and has the potential to have a cascading impact on those with whom they come in contact.
Application today: We must recognize, appreciate and encourage all members of our congregations and do our best to maximize their contributions to the mission of the church (Luke 19:10)
If each of us would take the time to reflect on our lives, I am sure we could think of people who have had a cascading impact on us and others through us.
The Boy and the Starfish: Although this story has been around for some time it is appropriate to mention it here. How many generations of starfish were produced by each of the ones thrown back into the ocean by the boy? How many generations of Christians are produced when we convert one sinner or bring back one member who has fallen away? (Luke 15:3-5)
Randall (“Muscle and a Shovel” by Michael Shank): If you have not read this book, I highly recommend it. Randall was a blue collar worker who approached a white-collar co-worker (Michael Shank) he had never met to talk about the church and salvation. The book is a product of this initial meeting and the results so far have been 15,000 baptisms and counting. “Randall” was too humble to baptize Michael or have his real name used in the book. (Matt 28:18-20)
Bill: He was a dear friend of mine until he passed away a number of years ago at the age of 96. He was a Christian for 85 years, an elder and preacher for over 40 years and legally blind for a few years before he died. He listened to Bible tapes every day after he lost his sight because; in his words “there is still so much I don’t know about God’s Word.” His words continuously inspire me to further study. (Romans 10:17)
Margaret: She is a widow with no children who now lives in an assisted living facility and at 84 years old wonders why God has let her live this long. One of my joys each month is to visit and spend time with her. She taught my children and countless others in Sunday Bible classes for many years and taught over 1,000 students in the Pacific Islands through Bible Correspondence Courses. Her life continues to be an example of a Godly woman to so many. (2 Timothy 2:2)
Susan: She was near retirement, children grown and out of the house. Susan and her husband were looking forward to a new phase of their lives when they could relax and enjoy themselves. She had a young niece with two small children, no husband and no education. She was headed down the wrong road in many ways. Susan took them into her home for several years, helped her get an education, taught her mothering skills, and most importantly exposed her to the Lord’s church and fellow Christians. The niece now has attained an education, started a career, become a Christian herself and helped convert and eventually marry a fine Christian man. How many generations of people will be affected by Susan’s unselfish sacrifice? (Matthew 25:34-40)
All of the people mentioned above have one thing in common; they stepped out of their “comfort zones”. Our “comfort zones” often keep us from achieving greater service to others and to God. How can Christians break of this psychological prison? Trust in God and His Word (Philippians 4:13). What we accomplish for God in life is a “We” thing not an “I” thing.
Every person has the potential to have a cascading impact on others regardless of their talents or their position in the church or in life.
James L. Whitmire