Great news: Deepening your mark for Christ on others can be very easy! Expanding your impact for God is not usually complicated. Brace yourself for a cheesy phrase on how to increase impact for the Lord. I hope you will stick around for an explanation. Here's the cheese: "Put your mind to it and then just do it."
For those still with me, I even have a verse that will justify everything. Pitiful, huh? My assumption is that you desire to maximize your service for Christ seen in changed lives by His grace. That is where we are heading, but first, a story:
Paul, an apostle of Jesus, is in jail - again - this time in Rome. Always the disciple-maker, he is writing letters to churches he has served. One is a joy-filled thank you note to the church he started in Philippi. These generous souls had supported him many times in the past, but most recently they lost contact with Paul.
Concerned about his babies - believers he was growing into maturity - Paul had sent co-laborers to check on various churches' health. Epaphroditus stopped in on the church in Philippi and was glad to see they were doing well. They were glad to hear news about Paul and be able to reconnect. Seizing the opportunity, they sent a gift back to Paul via Epaphroditus. They once again had a chance to show their love through support.
With this backdrop, we better appreciate Paul's words in Philippians 4:10, 11, 14. "But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak from want... Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction" (NASB).
The Message reads: "I'm glad in God, far happier than you would ever guess - happy that you're again showing such strong concern for me. Not that you ever quit praying and thinking about me. You just had no chance to show it. ... I don't mean that your help didn't mean a lot to me - it did. It was a beautiful thing that you came alongside me in my troubles."
Expressed thoughtfulness touches people deeply - even the mature, confident, competent, content types, like Paul. Though their gift was appreciated, it was their concern, their thoughts of him that was valued most. "Thanks for thinking of me!" he writes. "Not that I was in need because, I have learned to be content. Nevertheless, your gift was appreciated. It was a sweet smelling sacrifice that pleases God" (vs. 18).
That is lofty language. Thus my cheesy ministry advice: "Put your mind to it and then just do it." When we keep people in our hearts and minds and then express it, we set off parties of praise to God. Prisoner Paul "mega-rejoiced." So do people when you revive your concern for them by expressing it in any one of thousands of ways (chocolate being near the top of the list ).
Practical acts of kindness encourages others and prompts praise to God. Though Paul had learned contentment - how to live with a little or lots - he was still stirred by their present. They remember him. He was not forgotten. They had ongoing love for him and their gift was proof. Hallelujah.
Which life-prisoners would throw a party of praise if you were to let them know you still thought of them, loved and appreciated them? A card, a call, an e-mail, flowers, a txt msg, a gift, dark chocolate. Simple words and acts of love leave deep marks. Some two thousand years later, we still hear echoes of Paul's thanks.
Are people disposable or expendable to you? They serve your purposes for a season and then you are done - moving on. "Next!" Hold on a moment, please. The Greatest commandment was to love God. Number Two was to love people, as much as we already love ourselves - untold bunches.
People are precious and fragile- they need love, to be remembered, respected and thanked. Many folks are often refueled with hope and purpose by someone simply saying "thanks, good job, I appreciate you, care for some chocolate?"
God's love for us was shown in giving His one-of-a-kind, only-one-qualified Son to die for us rebels. He considered our need and - dare I put it so blandly - did something about it. He did not simply hatch a plan back in eternity; He acted on it, conveying His glory, grace and covenant love. Just maybe He is a worthy model to emulate.
Soap box alert: We have gotten so used to doing ministry via church programs - which can be great tools of God - that we forget to love on people outside the "ministry" we have. "They are not in my class. Sorry." It seems God only works in 13-week segments, in hour-long blocks inside church buildings. We do our thing and are through for the week. Thus the anemic church (please read Ephesians 4:11-16).
Extending and deepening your ministry is not hard: show genuine concern for others in practical ways. Do you keep-up with people or forget them? What long-lost friend, old teacher or student can you track down and convey your love, respect and fond memories?
Who do you need to let know that they are in your thoughts and prayers? Seems that telepathy is faulty stuff. Thinking it is not enough. Thus the profound advice: "Put your mind to it and then just do it."
Okay, all the cards on the table: yes, this is Pastor appreciation month (did I mention chocolate?). But, pastors are not the only ones who need blessing. After you thank current and former Shepherds, keep going (read James 2:14-17; 1 John 3:16-20). How about that Camp Director, neighbor, Sunday School teacher, Queen of the Casseroles, Deacon, Elder, nursery worker, Youth worker, Mom, Dad, secretary, bus driver...?
It was in response to the kindness of these same Philippians that Paul wrote:
"And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
Now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever. Amen" (Phil. 4:19, 20 - NASB).