Recently I was given the great privilege of seeing some of the fruit from the youth ministry I pioneered over 15 years ago while speaking at a youth retreat. As I observed those I once encouraged encouraging others, it led me to consider the value of our investments and the way we spread our influence to others as we allow God to lead.
As I thought back to the first time I met the present youth pastor, I remember an impressionable, young teenager constantly trying to figure out his identity and purpose moving from one friend group to another. Today he is a bold witness for Christ giving hope to the next generation, helping them to know Christ and make an impact in this world for His glory.
In John 4, Jesus intentionally goes to a damaged Samaritan woman who was seeking fulfillment from her relationships with other men. When Jesus enters her life, her story changes. Jesus points out that she had five husbands, and the man she was now living with was not her husband. Interestingly, this made Jesus the seventh man to come into her life. Since seven is the number of completion in Scripture, it is only fitting that she would find her complete fulfillment in Him. But the story continues with, “And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified…” (John 4:39). Therefore, this single redemptive story led to many more inspiring stories to be written.
While guest speaking at another church recently, I was struck at the realization that the entire leadership team was made up of a group of men that I used to disciple on a weekly basis in an upper room of my house. Although there was much that I was not able to teach them at that time, I was able to see how others filled in the gaps, filling what was lacking in their faith, revealing once again how one story feeds into another story until God’s greater purpose is fulfilled.
We may never know how far our influence will go but when God is the one writing our story, the pages of our lives will always be read and absorbed by others and then mysteriously translated and reproduced over time.
The Apostle Paul explains this same process when he tells the Corinthian believers how they were the living evidence of his ministry, saying:
“You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men; clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart” (2 Corinthians 3:2-3).
It is important to know that our stewardship is not based on how others respond to us, but rather, on how we respond to the Lord.
However, we would be insincere if we were not concerned about the spiritual state of others and miss the satisfaction of seeing the fruit of our labor. The Apostle John reiterated this, saying, “I have no greater joy than to see my children walk in the truth” (2 John 4). We experienced this joy when we turned the church we planted in Cambridge, England, over to the British leadership we raised up after 10 years of service overseas.
As the years go by, we will hopefully see more of our influence, but whether we see lasting fruit now or not, we are given the promise by the Apostle Paul not to “grow weary while doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not lose heart” (Galatians 6:9). This should encourage us to follow God more closely knowing that our past obedience will become our future influence.
After all, “We are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, which He prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). Since our lives are studied and read by others, we must constantly hand the pen over to God, so that the story being written is all that the Divine Author intends for us.
So the question you must answer now is: Who is holding the pen at this time in your life story?
Let me leave you with three key steps in the ART of handing over the pen to God using the following acronym A.R.T.:
Allow God to have the full authority of your life by handing the authorship of your story over to Him on a daily basis. Far too many people want to author their own story, but the Bible warns us that, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12). We must remember that God will always write a better story than we ever could. Therefore submit to His Lordship in all areas of your life.
Every good story goes through many revisions, so let God amend your ways. Since we are creatures of habit, the past will often dictate the future unless we bring our lives in alignment with God’s Word. He alone is able to edit the wasted content of our damaged pages while giving us fresh vision for the pages not yet written. Only as we saturate ourselves in the Word, can we “be transformed by the renewing of [our] minds,” and “prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2). Therefore allow the Spirit to lead you in your next steps.
Even now time is running out, so let us redeem the time, knowing that our story only lasts as long as our pages. We may not be able to count our days, but we can make each day count. It is only as we spend time with God and sanctify Him in our hearts that we will inspire new stories to be written in the lives of others. Jesus is the Author who revises us over time until we are just like Him. Therefore let us not delay what God is calling us to do today.
May we have this attitude of the psalmist, “My heart is overflowing with a good theme; I recite my composition concerning the King; my tongue is the pen of a ready writer” (Psalm 45:1).