“Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.
One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.
As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.
He came closer still and called out “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”
The young man paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”
“I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” asked the somewhat startled wise man. To this, the young man replied, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”
Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, “But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!”
At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said,
“It made a difference for that one.”
The first key to making a difference in the world is to walk closely with God. Each starts with the letters that form the word WORLD
1. Walk closely with God (Acts 10:1-4, Acts 10:9)
The text carefully reports on the quality of the spiritual life of Cornelius and the explicit time of prayer of both Cornelius and Peter. Both were devout men, apparently with a regular, consistent habit of walking with God, praying to God, and expecting God to work in their lives. The reason they both were involved in the work of God – Cornelius as the first genuine Gentile convert; Peter as the human instrument in opening the door to the Gentiles – was that they were both in the habit of walking with, talking to, and hearing from God on a regular basis.
The second key to making a difference in the world is to obey God.
2. Obey God (Acts 10:8, Acts 10:23-25, Acts 10:28-29)
A predisposition to obedience that comes from the deep relationship with God marked both these men. Cornelius got “found,” and Peter had the privilege of finding him because they responded positively to God’s command. We will not be involved in real world change if we have a predisposition to disobey. To be habitually disobedient is to be habitually useless for the real work of God
At this point, one must see that you have to spend time with God in order to reach out to others. You see, the world is going to try to reach out to you and change you. This is what Paul says:
“Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2)
You have to discern from God first what it is He wants. In the meantime, the world as a system is trying to conform you. They will tell you that what the Bible says is not true. Give in to peer pressure. Do what we think is right. Be tolerant of other beliefs. Don’t listen to the hypocrites in the church.
In order to reach others and make a difference, you have to let God lead you. You won’t make a significant, eternal difference all on your own. You need God’s help. And He is there to help you. Out of the relationship well which God nourishes you, then you reach out to other people. If you don’t have that ongoing personal devotional intimate time with God, the world will influence you. However, if you are walking with God and obeying Him, then you will see that He will give you the strength to reach out to those who need God. He will use you to make a difference in other peoples’ lives.
So we transition from the influence God has in our lives to how He uses us to make a difference in the lives of others.
The third key to making a difference is to reach out to people outside your comfort zone.
3. Reach out to people outside your comfort zone (Acts 10:5-6, Acts 10:20,25, Acts 10:28)
It is hard to feel what Peter would have felt about moving into the Gentile world. He was going against that with his move to Lydda, then Joppa, then to the leatherworker’s house, and certainly with Cornelius. The Jewish part of him would balk at every turn, every doorstep, every meal. But Per understood the Great Commission and was committed to spreading the Word to whomever God was calling. How ready do you move outside of the confines of your safe relationships? That’s where the lost are and where God wants us to be.
The fourth key to making a difference is to look for those God is reaching or softening.
4. Look for those God is reaching or softening (Acts 10:19, Acts 10:22-23)
This constant theme in Acts shows that God is working, and we must find out where and with whom, and get in on it. God sends people our way. God leads us to people whom He wants us to share the Gospel. God can also give us divine appointments when He will use us personally as His vessels to share the Gospel.
The fifth key to making a difference is to disregard the criticism.
5. Disregard the criticism (Acts 10:13-14, Acts 10:20, Acts 10:28)
Look at this quote: Don’t mind the criticism. If it is untrue, disregard it. If it unfair, keep from irritation. If it is ignorant, smile. If it is justified, learn from it.
I thought this quote was appropriate for this sermon. People are going to be resistant to what God wants you to do. Jewish culture was resistant. Peter himself was resistant. The church was resistant, critical, skeptical. But Peter, Cornelius, Peter’s traveling companions, and ultimately the church itself overcame the resistance to be a part of what God wanted to do. God was moving, spreading his message by softening and wooing hearts, by awakening souls.
You might even be resistant to what God wants you to do. It may take God working in your heart just as He did in Peter’s heart to help see how He wanted to make a difference in his life. In Peter’s case, Peter had to overcome prejudice so that God could use him to reach more people. In your case, there may be something that is hindering you from reaching the people God wants you to reach.
“I have one life and one chance to make it count for something… My faith demands that I do whatever I can, wherever I am, whenever I can, for as long as I can with whatever I have to try to make a difference.”
We enjoyed a wonderful Oklahoma Baptist Bible Fellowship meeting this week. Thanks to all who came to make it so good.
There are some neat things happening in our state fellowship. I'm glad I am part of it!
Pastor Linzy Slayden
Friendship Baptist Church, Owasso, OK