I’m a graduate of Penn State University. While there I studied athletic training, so I had the privilege of working with many of the sports teams at the school. One of the teams I worked with was the men’s basketball team. As part of the Big 10, the games were sometimes nationally televised which meant, at times, I was on national TV. The odds of seeing me were slightly less than winning the lottery and getting struck by a meteor on the same day, but none-the-less, there was still a chance. One evening, PSU was playing IU. The game was going to be televised starting at 7:30pm on ESPN 2. So, I called my mom and said, “Mom. Turn on ESPN 2 at 7:30 tonight. If the moon and the stars are aligned just right, you may get to see me on TV.”
Anyway, Penn State loses to Bobby Knight and the Hoosiers. It’s 10:30pm. I’m finally home after finishing up everything at the athletic training room. The phone rings. It’s my mom. She says, “I saw you on TV tonight.” I say, “Oh, that’s cool.” She goes on to say, “You’re number 32, right?”
Now, to put this in perspective, number 32 was Pete Lisicky, the best player on the team! So, I had to explain to my mom that I only worked for the team; I didn’t actually play ON the team. Thankfully she didn’t disown me, although I think she did check to see if Pete wanted to be adopted.
While I find that to be a funny story, I’m also truly inspired by it because it feels really good to have someone believe in me. To have my mom believe in me so much that she actually thought that a 5’8”, slightly overweight, non-athlete type of guy like me could actually be the best player on a Division 1 basketball team … well that just makes me feel good.
Believing in someone can have a dramatic difference in his or her life. I’m a product of the grace of God more than anything else, but I was also surrounded by people who believed in me (and act of God’s grace in itself). For me, this mainly happened at church. My mom brought me to church starting at a young age and it was there that I met people who believed in kids. People who loved kids even when they weren’t so lovable. People who shared the Gospel with kids and believed that it truly can make a difference in their life even at an early age.
I could tell you stories about Bessie, who led me to Jesus when I was like in kindergarten … who gave me a hug and a kiss every time she saw me at church.
I could tell you stories about Shirley who we actually made cry in one of my Sunday School classes because we were behaving so poorly. But, she showed up the next week and the week after that and the week after that and continued to share God’s word with us.
I could tell you stories about Judy who led our “Jr. Church” and showed us how to have fun while singing, even though she wasn’t the greatest singer in the world.
I could tell you stories of Carolyn who had me over to her house week after week. She cooked a meal. Her husband led a Bible study. They were so gracious and kind and hospitable and made me hungry to be the same way.
Ed, Rory, Dorothy, Bob, Dave … these are all men and women who showed up and just poured in to my life for no other reason than the fact that I was a little boy in their ministry. I am a product of their love and their faithfulness and their belief in me and their willingness to share the Gospel. I don’t remember much of what they told me, but I sure remember how they made me feel … and I just felt very loved and enjoyed by them. Their work and investment in my life was “the first lyric to a song that is still being written today.” (Acuff)
Chances are you probably have people like that in your life too. … people who believed in you and invested in you and poured their life in to you … people who just helped you feel loved.
If you’re someone in ministry or someone who volunteers in ministry, can I just encourage you by saying what you are doing is really making a difference. I know at times we don’t exactly see that. And, that’s really one of the difficulties in ministry … much of the time you don’t get to see the end results. You invest so much and you pour so much in to the lives of people, but a lot of times we don’t necessarily get to see the results of it. But, just because you don’t see it happening doesn’t mean it’s not happening. Isaiah 55:11 reminds us that God’s word never comes back empty. It will always accomplish His purposes.
None of the people I mentioned (and many others) who served and sacrificed and invested in my life … they weren’t seeing any fruit, they were just thinking faithfulness. They just wanted to be faithful with the gifts and passions God had given them and they just believed in kids. 30 or so years ago, they didn’t see anything happening in my life … but just because they didn’t see it happening didn’t mean it wasn’t happening. God was using every smile, every hug, every high-five, every snack, every Bible lesson, every kind act, every event, every invite over, every meal cooked, every hour of preparation behind the scenes … God was using it all … in my life at least. And, if we affect only 1 person, then we are doing what God wants us to do.
So, any time you invest in another person and sacrificially serve them, you truly are making a difference even when it may not feel that way. Don’t base the future on the response you are currently getting. The love you show to others may be the beginning of a work that God promises to finish in their life. (Philippians 1:6)