When Cynthia Manley realized she had twenty minutes left to live, she figured the best thing she could do with the time she had left was to send messages to her daughters. To her daughter, Alanna, a student at Seattle University, she texted, “Stay strong and no matter what happens take care of you and sis. Find a way to get to California and be together soon and be a family. I love you so much.”
To her other daughter, Alyssa, she wrote, “No matter what happens get your degree! Have a good life and be successful! And take care of your sister.”
What would you do if you had twenty minutes left to live? What would you say? It turned out Cynthia Manley had much more than twenty minutes to live. In fact, she and most of the state of Hawaii are still alive today.
Maybe you read how in January of 2018, a state worker chose the wrong menu item for the state alert system and sent an alert to the entire island that said, “Ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii. Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill.”
For about a half hour, many people in the state thought they were just about to die in a nuclear blast. Maybe you saw the photos of parents lowering their children down into manholes for shelter.
Fortunately, it was a happy ending for just about everyone, except the guy who sent out the wrong message alert. In fact, I believe it was truly a gift to many people, because it forced them to think about what really matters in life.
Perhaps just the thought of twenty minutes left to live could give us all some perspective on what IS important in life.
That alert is not unlike an alert that should guide how we live every day. Whether it happens in twenty minutes or twenty years, we will ALL one day stand before God and give an of account our lives, and that’s a fact!
It could happen in a few moments, in a few weeks or perhaps a few centuries.
But if you are a believer, your conversation on judgment day is already loosely scripted by Jesus in Matthew 25…
“Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” Matthew 25:23
It is only by faith in Jesus that we go to heaven. But there are three things you can effect on this earth that you will carry beyond this earth on that day … (1) who you become in Christ, (2) the glory you bring to the name of Christ, and (3) the impact you have on other people.
Have you ever thought that BECAUSE God’s glory endures forever, everything WE DO to add to God’s glory endures forever also?
Because you will last forever, everything you do to change, grow, and become more like Jesus will go on forever as well. Every time you honor God by touching someone’s life, that impact will go on forever. You see, in our faith life Touching Lives is important.
Today, we are going to focus on the impact you have on others around you because that is our mission, our calling. Let’s start with Paul’s words from our first lesson today in 2 Corinthians 5…
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others.” 2 Corinthians 5:10–11
What we do with people DOES NOT get us into heaven – but it is important since it will GO WITH us into heaven.
Everyone who believes in Jesus as Lord and Savior goes to heaven, and everyone who goes to heaven will be rewarded according to what we have done with other people while a disciple of Jesus.
So, WHAT are we supposed to do with other people?
Paul taught us the first thing to do in 2 Corinthians…
“We try to persuade others.”
That’s a huge truth because every person we lead to Jesus will spend eternity with Jesus. There’s really no better use of our time than to help others know Jesus.
Now, here is where I wish I could give you a formula for persuading others about the truth of Jesus Christ. However, if just telling people some formula would convert everyone, the job would ALREADY be done.
The problem is that different people are at different stages in their journey toward Jesus. Perhaps some are READY to hear the Good News. But some are VEHEMENTLY opposed to it.
So, I don’t have a magical formula that you can use. However, I do have a suggestion … a place where you can start with just about anyone with five easy-to-remember words … five easy-to-remember words.
And here are the 5 words…
“I notice, and you matter.” (let’s say them together)
You may not know the right answer for every question. You may not have a persuasive speech. But you can notice people, and you can let them know they matter to you.
Almost everyone responds to being noticed and respected. Your efforts may or may not ever lead to them to trust in Jesus as their Lord, but at LEAST it is a place you can START with anyone.
It’s almost like saying that outreach is built around The Little Things.
Remember in Matthew 25, where Jesus said, “Well done, good and faithful servant, come and share your master’s happiness”?
If you go down a few more verses, Jesus gives a little more detailed explanation of that day…
“…‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we … invite you in, or … clothe you? When did we see you sick … and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” Matthew 25:37–40
Believe me … on the Day, which we call Christ’s second coming, more than anything you will care about where you stood with Jesus on earth. But after that, the main thing you will care about is how you touched the lives of others.
The cool thing about it is … the bar is NOT SET that high for TOUCHING a life.
It’s not too hard to make someone else feel like they matter. Jesus made it clear that it is not difficult AT ALL to receive a reward on the Last Day.
In Matthew 10 Jesus said…
“And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.” Matthew 10:42
Did you really get that? Jesus just said a cup of water counts. It is all about “the little things”.
You opened the door for the guy in the wheelchair? It counts.
You smiled and greeted that grumpy lady with the yappy dog next door? It counts.
You complimented your wife? It counts.
Even a TINY COMPLIMENT can have an eternal impact.
It reminds me of a business traveler who was sitting all alone in first class on his flight to L.A. As he leaned back his chair, he heard a calm voice say, “Nice tie.” He looked around and noticed that no one was there. A minute later the voice said, “That’s a beautiful shirt.”
The man called the flight attendant. He said, “I must be losing my mind. I keep hearing these voices saying things, and there’s no one up here but me.”
She answered, “It’s the ginger ale you’re drinking.”
“The what?” he ask.
“Yeah. The ginger ale … it’s complimentary.”
A little compliment can be a big deal to others, but how about combining acts of kindness with them? But have you ever stopped to think there are different levels of kindness?
We can start with Kindergarten Kindness.
This is when you don’t shove other people out of the way during a fire alarm, or you no longer have to be the smartest or strongest person in the room. I feel like most of us here have graduated from Kindness Kindergarten.
However, I suspect a lot of us are actually stuck at the Elementary School Kindness level. That’s the kindness where you can let other people go before you, and you share with others. When people are with you, you make an effort to put them first. But like grade-school kids, when they are out of sight, they tend to be out of your mind.
Then, there is the High School level of kindness. This is when you are separated from people, you still think about them, you pray for them, you consider how you can be a blessing to them while separated.
Finally, there’s the Collegiate level of kindness, where one sacrifices their own well-being, their own comfort, their own stuff to help others.
If reaching out to others begins with the five words …
“I NOTICE AND YOU MATTER,” then how do we get beyond the Kindergarten of Kindness to the upper levels?
Again, I don’t have a formula, but I have some thoughts.
I am talking about a short, simple prayer. I want you to pray it every time you see someone in pain. Pray it every time God brings someone to mind.
Pray it every time you notice someone, and you want to make sure they know they matter. So, here is the prayer…
“Lord, what do they need?”
And then the second part is, “Lord, what should I do?”
Do you see how that can change everything? Let me cite an example how this prayer works.
Let’s say you have a friend who lost a loved one a month ago. What do you do? If you’re like most of us, you say, “I’m so sorry. How can I help?”
And what do they say? “Just pray for us.” So, you promise that you will, then you forget, and not much actually happens, except you feel a little awkward the next time you run into the friend.
Now imagine after you find out about that person’s loss and before you say anything, you pray, “Lord, what do they need?” Then a second thought comes to your mind. “They need to know they aren’t alone.”
So, you pray, “What should I do?”
Not long after your prayer, you have an idea to take them to lunch. So, when you call, you don’t give the usual, almost impossible-to-answer question of “How can I help?”
Instead, you say, “Can I take you out to lunch?” And just like that, you’ve graduated to the next level of kindness.
Think of how our lives, church, and community would change if we ALL would make this a regular discipline where every day we pray for someone else … “Lord, what do they need? And then, “Lord, what should I do.”
What if this prayer was as much a part of your daily routine as brushing your teeth? There is no way we can do this for everyone of course. But we can easily do this for a person every day.
It can work for mean people, as well. How about the always grumpy person working at a counter, while you are standing in line. “God, what do they need?” I think they might need a little compassion. “What should I do?” I could tell them that I notice and appreciate how hard they work. It counts.
This prayer can work instantly. You can see a homeless guy and right there pray, “God, what does he need?” Dignity comes to mind. “God, what do You want me to do?” I think God might want me to go over to him, look him in the eye, shake his hand, and ask him if I can pray for him. It counts.
This prayer can happen with that jerk at work or school whom nobody likes as well. Just pray, “God, what does that jerk need?”
If God says, “He needs a hug,” then you can pray, “Well, God, please bring someone who will give him one.”
So, humor aside, would you consider joining me in this endeavor? Start this week by finding one person every day where your actions say … “I notice, and you matter”?
Then would you pray these prayers for that person? Maybe even pray for the same person every day for a few weeks. God may not immediately answer every prayer.
I am certain that sooner or later God will bring some ideas to mind for you. If you will do this, I guarantee you that you will be chock-full of ministry stories in no time.
So, this week I want to CHALLENGE you to find one person every day where your actions say “I notice and you matter”?
Then, find one person to pray… “Lord, what do they need?”, and then “What should I do?”
Let us all try these prayers this next week and see if anything happens. I wonder, if at the end of a week of doing this, if every one of us wouldn’t have stories to share about how God USED us, perhaps how God SCARED us, and then how He CAME THROUGH for us.
I pray that today is the BEGINNING of something special within each of us, within our church and within our community. Amen