Earlier this year, I had an unusual experience that has caused me to do quite a bit of thinking and reflecting. It was sweet and touching but caught me off guard, and I wasn’t sure what to do about it at first. I was mentioned in the obituary of somebody I hadn’t seen or spoken to in over twenty years. There wasn’t any problem or issue in our friendship, life had taken us in different directions. I only found out about the obituary mention because some friends sent me a copy of it.
The man who passed away had been in a youth group I led very early in my ministry career. The family that put together the obituary decided to include that I had been a big influence on his life while he was in that youth group. Wow. So what do you do with that? I really don’t have a file for that in my head. I had no idea. It was all very sobering, touching, overwhelming, and humbling. I want to share how I worked through it because I believe each of us has a God given opportunity before us.
First, I was grateful to have been a part of this young man’s life, and I was grateful that God used me for His Kingdom purposes. It reminded me that I need to be a mindful good steward of the people, gifts, graces, and opportunities God puts before me. I believe that God has similar opportunities available to all of us. There are lives we can touch for His sake, people we can invest in and gifts we are meant to use. I asked myself, “Am I still doing that? Am I being a mindful good steward of all that God has given me (including people and opportunities)? Or am I just concerned with myself, my comfort, and my schedule?” I would invite you to reflect on the same questions with the Holy Spirit and adjust what needs to be adjusted as He nudges.
Second, it caused me to reflect on lives I have touched. I have been very fortunate over the years to have people tell me some very nice things about a difference I made in their life. I never take that for granted. Sometimes it was as a result of a ministry role or the product of a lot of effort on my part or sometimes it was simply the Grace of God at work in and through me, but it all mattered. It also caused me to ask, “Whose life am I deliberately investing in now for the Kingdom of God?” Again I would invite you to prayerfully reflect on this question, and I know I was a pastor and I had some very amazing opportunities that others haven’t, but this isn’t just for pastors. This is for all of us. We are all called to do this, and you have the opportunity to influence and impact lives that no one else can.
Finally, this whole thing caused me to reflect on the people who have been used by God to shape me and help me. You can quibble with their results, but it mattered a lot to me, so I need to tell them. I need to thank them for what they did and how they did it. Some of them may be well aware of what they did and some may not. I need to thank all of them. I invite you to reflect and ask, “Who has made a significant Kingdom impact on my life? Who do I need to thank besides God?” Then do it.
It is very humbling to think about how God uses us. It can be a little daunting to imagine how He still might use us, but there is something wonderful, gratifying, and satisfying to dream about what God could do if we were mindfully good stewards of all that He puts in front of us including people and opportunities. So church, let’s step into what we are called and created to do. Let’s obediently allow God to use us to influence people’s lives. They, we, and the world will be better for it.
Director of Leadership Development and Church Health
Free Methodist Church in Canada