If you’re anything like me, the never ending chatter generated by the non-stop social media feeds, 24/7 news sites and relentless status updates can be a bit overwhelming. It’s not just that the stream of online voices is constant and always at your fingertips, it’s that so much of what you read leaves you feeling utterly depressed about the state of the world.
There’s mass stabbings, rioters mockingly celebrating the death of a prime minister, TV personalities telling us our kids belong to the state, gang rapes, PETA drones and “gay marriage”—enough content in one day for another headline-packed hit song by Billy Joel. No, we didn’t start the fire, but it keeps on burning nonetheless.
In the midst of all that noise, I typically feel small. I feel like it’s worthless even to try to put a dent in all that mess. The task of changing the world seems so big, so difficult, so out of my reach. But moments like this reveal that I’ve pridefully got my eyes in places they don’t belong (Psalm 131:1-2); I’ve lost track of the smaller ways I’ve been called in the moment to be faithful because I arrogantly thought I could handle so much more.
It’s like the employee whose boss gives him a simple task (for e.g., nail these boards to this fence) but all he can think about is the global economy and the diminishing value of the Euro, so he doesn’t pick up his hammer or the boards. His boss would tell him, and rightly, “Just do the job I gave you—the European economy is none of your concern. Let me worry about that.”
So we must labor with our deeds and words to faithfully carry out the unique commission God has handed each one of us. Preacher, parse that sentence to the glory of God. Farmer, plant that seed to the glory of God. Momma, spank that bottom, wipe those tears, smile with the little ones, and teach them the mercy of God’s law. Dish washer, wash those dishes to the glory of God. And in all of it you must exercise faith in Him who causes the seed of your toil to grow, the word of your preaching to take root, the child’s heart to love God and the clean dish to be of use to the one who eats.
As Luther once put it, “Ordinary works, done in faith and from faith, are more precious than heaven and earth.”
And finally, an example that should encourage you to press on in the kind of faith that works for God and others in love, believing it really does make a difference. It’s a great story that happened recently in my life and reminds me—you really can change the world, one act, one life at a time.
We bought a newer vehicle a couple years back in hopes it wouldn’t need maintenance, which has been anything but the case. A wheel bearing had to be replaced at 50,000 miles (in the middle of a family vacation in rural Georgia, no less) and the engine burned oil so severely due to a manufacturer recall issue GM had to completely rebuild it. The great people at Velde GMC in Pekin, Ill., took care of it all as part of the vehicle’s warranty.
About two-and-a-half months after the engine rebuild, we noticed the four-wheel drive function wasn’t working. I took it in and shortly thereafter received a call from Chris, the service manager, who informed me the transfer case was shot. How that many things could go wrong on one vehicle is still a mystery to me. “What would it cost to repair it?” I asked, as my heart sank into my shoes.
“Well, you’re past the warranty by two months,” he said. “Which means it’s about $2,600 to replace.”
That would be the $2,600 we don’t have. I told him I’d have to come and get it, I guess to park it until we came up with the money. It was one of the more hopeless moments in my life, trying to explain this to my already stressed out and financially strapped wife. “I don’t know what we’re going to do.” I went in my room to cry.
As I walked back to my room, my phone buzzed in my pocket. The dealership. Great, I thought, now what? Did the car blow up in their building and now I will be paying for that too? It was Chris.
“Eric, we’re going to take care of the transfer case, no charge.” Perplexed, amazed, confused, I asked, “What do you mean? How does that work? What happened?”
“I made a call, talked to some people, and it’s covered. You don’t have to worry about it. Just come and get it when we give you a call.”
It was one of those profound yet simple moments that sticks with you all your life, like the story of the gospel itself. And I learned something very important in that moment from Chris: you have the power to change someone’s life today, even in the ordinary process of doing your job.
“Ordinary works, done in faith and from faith, are more precious than heaven and earth.”
How can you make a difference in someone’s life today? Maybe it’s the extra snuggle you give to the struggling child. Maybe it’s the note you pass on to a friend, never realizing how dark their day was until you spoke with grace. Maybe it’s the undesirable task you carry out at work when no one else wants to. Maybe it’s all the work you do when no one seems to notice. In faith, it does make a difference, because God takes, blesses, and causes growth—even when we don’t see it.