You may impress from a distance,
but to have impact, you must be up close.
Over the years, I have attended dozens of retreats, seminars, and conferences. I have also listened to thousands of sermons. Many of the speakers were outstanding. What they said was interesting and provocative. I was impressed with most of them in regard to their knowledge of the subject, and the degree in which they were able to communicate their message clearly. All of this pales in significance, however, in comparison to the impact that one man, Jim Morris, made on my life. Up close, I heard not only the message, but also saw the man. He was not giving a sermon, he was living a sermon. It was not just listening to someone while sitting in a pew, it was interacting with someone in the workplace and community. We were not dealing with hypothetical issues while in the huddle of the game of life, we were involved in the game itself. By living up close, I could become aware of the single mindedness of his commitment, the importance of the word of God, and the importance of the individual. I have met many individuals over the years who have been more impressive than Jim, but none have had the impact on my life that he has had.
In the Scriptures we see multiple examples of the impact of one life upon another. Deuteronomy 34:9 describes the result of the relationship of Moses with Joshua. “Now Joshua son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands on Him. So the Israelites listened to him and did what the Lord had commanded Moses.” A similar relationship existed between Elijah and Elisha. After Elijah was taken to heaven in a whirlwind we read the effect of Elijah upon Elisha in II Kings 2:13-14. “He picked up the cloak that had fallen from Elijah and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. Then he took the cloak that had fallen from him and struck the water with it. ‘Where now is the LORD, the God of Elijah?’ he asked. When he struck the water, it divided to the right and to the left, and he crossed over.” As we progress to the New Testament we see the activity of our Lord in Mark 3:14. “He appointed twelve–designating them apostles—that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach.” And what was the result of being with Jesus? Acts 4:13 states “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and took note that these men had been with Jesus. With whom do men take note that you have been with? With whom are you spending time with in such a way as to produce an impact?
In our churches, neighborhoods and workplaces we find those who are curious about spiritual truth; those who are convinced of its importance, and those who are committed to its application in their lives. We can influence the curious, invest in the convinced, but can impact only those who are committed. In the process of leading any small group, teaching a class, or speaking before an audience, I look for the individuals who are committed and ask the Lord to give me an opportunity with them. These people can be identified by the acronym FAT. They are faithful, available, and teachable. I ask them to meet with me apart from a group setting and begin to share my life with them. It may be possible to impress someone with what I say before a group. If I want to have an impact, however, more of my life is needed than just words. Philippians 4:9 states “Whatever you have learned, or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” I must live close enough to them so that they can not only hear, but also see, learn, and receive.
“Thou, therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” (II Timothy 2:1-2) The transmission of the message of Christ throughout succeeding generations requires transformed lives. Information may come from those who impress us from a distance, but transformation comes only from those who impact our lives up close. May the Lord so use your lives in such a way as to produce an impact in the lives of others.
In Christ, Richard Spann