Making an Impact
The English preacher William Sangster used to tell a story about a member of his congregation, a barber who was trying to find a way to witness to his customers about Christ. One day, with a client in the chair all lathered up and ready for a shave, the barber leaned over him, straight razor poised inches from the man’s face, and asked, “Are you ready to meet your God?” People outside the barbershop remember the day well because of the lathered, aproned man who burst out the door and sprinted away down the London street. Unfortunately, it didn’t make the intended impact, except to say, “Stay away from that barber.”
What is the best way to impact the world for Christ, to make your life count for God’s kingdom? Just walk up to somebody and give them a tract? A glitzy campaign and mass evangelism? Now, both of those can work, but unfortunately, many Christians, not knowing what approach to take, will opt to do nothing. In fact, they’ll even take on the value system of the world in an effort to fit in and maybe, hopefully, have a chance somehow to share about Jesus. But will a person truly change if they see nothing to change to? Jesus told us to let our light shine before others (see Matthew 5:16), and the apostle Peter gave us four principles on living well that will help us have maximum impact for Jesus.
Realize Your Identity
First of all, you need to realize your identity. Peter addressed a specific group when he said, “Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims” (1 Peter 2:11a). Beloved reminds us that any impact we have, we make through the power of the God who loves us. And when we see ourselves as sojourners and pilgrims, we’re reminded that we are not citizens of this world, but of heaven. Knowing these things gives us proper balance in life. It’s so easy to get off balance and forget who we are and where we’re going.
Samuel Morrison was a missionary who gave his whole life to sharing the gospel with the people of Africa. When the time came to retire, he boarded a ship headed for New York Harbor. On the boat with him was President Teddy Roosevelt, who had been in Africa for three weeks hunting big game. When the ship pulled in, Morrison noticed the crowds who came to welcome the president home in a flurry of shouting, balloons, bands, and banners.
Morrison, however, walked off the same boat completely unnoticed. It bothered him. In his mind, he poured out his thoughts before God: The president has been in Africa for three weeks, killing animals; the whole world welcomes him home. I’ve given my life to see souls saved and eternal life given, and I come home and no one notices. Then he heard the Lord’s voice speak to his heart, saying, “You’re not home yet.” Knowing you’re just passing through gives you balance and incentive in this life. When you struggle to live your faith, especially to share it with friends and family, it’s easy to feel unappreciated, pushed away, and ignored. But God loves you, and you’re on your way home. Your biggest impact begins when you realize your identity is in Him.
Resist Your Impulses
Once you realize that the battle for maximum impact starts inside of you, it’s not surprising that you must next learn to control your impulses. As Peter said, “Abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul” (1 Peter 2:11b). In this world, you will be tempted to do the wrong thing. If you’re a believer, your soul is saved, but the battle with your flesh, your sinful desires, goes on. In the phrase war against the soul, the word for war indicates a long, drawn-out military campaign.
When I see photographs of our troops overseas, I’m amazed at how much gear they wear, even when it’s scorching hot. They wear hundreds of pounds of armor—helmet, bullet-resistant vests and outfits, weapons, communications equipment—because they are in a battle zone. An attack could come at any time, night or day. We as believers are in a spiritual war zone. We need to put on God’s armor, and part of that is to “abstain from fleshly lusts.” The great evangelist D.L. Moody once said, “I have more trouble with D.L. Moody than any man I know.” Resist your impulses.
Reveal Your Integrity
Now that you’ve recognized the inward battle, it’s time to move outward. I love what Ruth Bell Graham used to say: “A saint is one who makes it easy to believe in Jesus.” Simple but profound. Christians should be the most honorable, honest, trustworthy, reliable people in the community. Unfortunately, I’ve heard too many people say, “I would never hire another Christian. They’re lazy, they’re late for work, and they try to take advantage of me.” Well, don’t other people do that, too? Yes, but remember, as a Christian, you’re being watched more than other people.
Live such a good life that those accusations won’t stick. “Having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles” is Peter’s plea for integrity (1 Peter 2:12a). Author Erma Bombeck used to say, “Never trust a doctor whose houseplants have died.” If a doctor can’t care for a geranium, that doesn’t look so great for you, does it? In the same way, think of the lost soul looking at a believer’s life, asking, How can I trust a Christian whose life doesn’t reflect any of the beliefs they claim to have? Our integrity should make it easy for others to trust in Jesus; let your light shine.
Remember Your Intentions
You’ve looked inwardly and outwardly. Maybe you’re thinking, How effective can this be? Well, remember your intentions. Why did Peter encourage us to conduct ourselves honorably among unbelievers? So “that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:12). Remember first of all that you are being observed, scrutinized. At some point, God will make the people around you aware of the gospel. God will visit them with an inkling of conviction and the need for salvation, and when that happens, who will they look to? You, the Christian they happen to know. They’re going to remember your lifestyle, and that will either seal or break the deal. If they’ve seen your changed life, your integrity displayed, they’ll say, “I’m in. I’ve seen the difference Jesus makes.”
Life is built on character. Character is built on choices. Every decision you make, large or small, shapes your life and your witness as surely as a sculptor’s chisel does a block of marble. And as you are shaped, the people around you are also shaped as they look to you to glimpse the God you say you serve. You want to make maximum impact? Look inwardly to know that God loves you and will strengthen you to fight your impulses. Then look outwardly, revealing your integrity and reminding yourself that what you think, say, and do matters—not just to yourself but to everyone you meet.
Skip Heitzig is the founder and senior pastor at Calvary Albuquerque. His teachings are heard across the country and around the world on The Connection. Skip and his wife, Lenya, and son and daughter-in-law, Nathan and Janaé, live in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Skip and Lenya are the proud grandparents of Seth Nathaniel and Kaydence Joy.