Leave Boldly // Day 27

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.  — Edmund Burke

If you discovered that you only had one month to live and you began considering how you could leave a lasting global legacy, you might be tempted to think, It’s too late. I don’t have the money or power needed to make a difference in this world. But never underestimate the power of one. It’s the ability each of us has, every day, to be used by God to bless the rest of the world.

When we are reminded on the nightly newscast of global problems like world hunger, the AIDS epidemic, war, famine and natural disasters, we often respond with numbing apathy or resigned defeat. Most of us are tempted to think, Why even try? The issue is so enormous and complex that I’ll never make a difference. There is a temptation to make these problems abstractions instead of daily realities for individual human lives. But if we realign our view with God’s perspective and take it one life at a time, we will do what we can do, no matter how small or inconsequential our efforts may appear. If we touch one life, we may make the difference between life and death – physical as well as spiritual – for another human being. If we make it a habit to do what we can, when we can, where we can, we will be transformed as we help others. Ralph Waldo Emerson observed: “There’s no beautifier of complexion, or form, or behavior, like the wish to scatter joy and not pain around us.”

We rarely face it, but many of us have a nagging question in the depths of our soul. How do we reconcile the fact that we’re living in nice homes, driving nice cars, and eating plenty of food while most of the world lives on less than two dollars a day? It’s true. Three billion people in our world right now live on less than the U.S. equivalent of two dollars a day. As we drive our kids to soccer practice in our SUVs, how do we reconcile our lifestyle with the fact that kids in San Jose, Costa Rica, or Nairobi, Kenya, or Port-au-Prince Haiti, or thousands of other cities around the world play soccer on streets filled with sewage and kick balls made from trash and duct tape?

I’m not trying to make you feel guilty, only to remind you that we have lost our perspective. We’ve lost our ability to see beyond our own lives for two primary reasons. One is the human desire to control our own safe and comfortable world. The other is that our culture drives us to acquire more rather than give away more.

If we knew our time on earth was running out, we’d want to do all we could to impact others. We wouldn’t want the regret of a life misspent and self-absorbed. We would want to know that we honored the God we love by being the very best stewards of all He has given us. In his letter to the Romans, Paul wrote, Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — His good, pleasing and perfect will.” (12:1-2).

Is it okay to drink our daily lattes” to have nice things” to enjoy the blessings in our lives? Yes. But if we long for something substantial to leave behind, then we have to wake up and realize that our maturity fuels the fulfillment of this goal. Paul reveals the secret to maturity: we must move from our focus on self-comfort and become living sacrifices. The goal of maturity is to move beyond ourselves and our own desires. If we truly want to grow in our character and our faith, then we must be willing to change our goal from one of safety to one of sacrifice.

One of the first and most important ways we can begin to care more about others is to pray for the poor and oppressed throughout the world. Pray for their needs. for their healing. for religious and political freedom. for food and clean water and vital medicine. When we start praying for the hurting people on the other side of the world, we begin caring about them, and we want to learn more about the details of their lives. It connects our hearts to theirs. We’re more mindful of what we have, how we can use it, and why we’ve been entrusted with it. Yes, God already knows the needs of everyone throughout the world. But prayer focuses you and me on the needs of others in a unique way. We’re forced to look beyond ourselves and to rely on God to show us how to love and help those we’re praying for.

Often we’re inspired to love others by giving of ourselves – offering what we have to help them overcome their problems and enrich their lives. We offer our bodies as living sacrifices when we give of our time, our talents and our treasure. If you want to experience the full adventure that your life is intended to be, then you have to be willing to take action and serve those in need with God’s love. The Bible has a lot to say about caring for the needs of the poor. “If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered.” (Proverbs 21:13). God holds us accountable for how we use our blessings to help the poor and hurting.

Our greatest gift – time, talents and treasures – are essential to this process of maturing and building a global legacy. If you want to sacrifice something that no one else can give, then give part of your time to someone else. No one controls this commodity but you. How you spend your time reveals what’s planted most firmly in your heart.

As far as talents go, we all have talents, every single one of us. But we devise all kinds of excuses: “Well, I’m really not a Bible scholar, so I can’t teach or do missions” or “I really don’t have much money left over to support charity.” But think about what you can do. Consider the expertise you have in the jobs you’ve worked – whether it’s construction, banking, sales, medicine, or education. You have knowledge, abilities, and skills that can change the lives of others if you’ll only share them. Can you listen and care? Offer a smile? Hug a child? Most of us underestimate the power we have just by being present in the life of someone else.

Money and how we spend it also reveal a great deal about who we are and what we value. God says it’s okay to be blessed financially as long as we do two things with our money and possessions. Number one: enjoy what we have instead of always wanting more. And number two: give generously. If we do these two things, we’ll grow in maturity and enjoy a level of satisfaction that money can never buy. But if we hoard our blessings and take God’s goodness for granted, our hearts will harden, and we’ll never be able to reconcile with the things that matter most.

The final way we grow in maturity and create a world-conscious heart is to work in community. Whether it’s through our churches, our schools, our companies, our neighborhoods, or our families, we’re called to come together to help others. Together we can literally change the world.

Personal Challenge

1. The Lent Experience challenges us to choose an item of comfort, luxury, or convenience that we’ll do without. It might be your daily Starbucks, the half-hour sitcom before bed, your favorite dessert, or something similar. If you haven’t done so already, between now and Easter use the time or money that generally goes to this item for a larger purpose – praying, contributing to world philanthropy or missions, or offering your services to someone in need.

2. Needs are all around us, and we don’t have to leave our neighborhood, let alone our country, to give sacrificially. This week initiate a local service project in your area. You might work with your church, a community project, or your department at work. Commit to a specific goal – for instance, making home repairs for a single mom or widow, collecting clothes for a shelter, or raising money for relief funds. Set a date and determine the role each person in the group will play in meeting the need and getting the job done.