On Wednesday Stephen Sutton, the 19 year old fundraiser from Burntwood died from bowel cancer. Although his life has been cut short at a tragically young age, his courage and selflessness in the face of such a horrible disease has inspired and moved people across the world.
When Stephen discovered he had terminal cancer at the age of 15 he made the decision that rather than being angry at the situation he faced, he should instead do something positive about it. He said “The fact that life sometimes doesn’t seem fair fuels my motivation to make the world a better place. Bad things happen, but it’s how you react to these things that define who you really are.”
In January 2013 he started a blog which included a “bucket list” of 46 things he wanted to do before he died, which led to him skydiving and playing the drums in front of 90,000 people before the Champions League final at Wembley last May. But top of his list was his ambition to raise £10,000 for the Teenage Cancer Trust. But he quickly surpassed this total when his appeal went viral on the internet, the figure raised by Stephen is now nearing £4 million.
Stephen in his short life was determined to make a difference and leave the world a better place. Stephen himself said “I don’t see the point in measuring life in terms of time anymore, I would rather measure it in terms of what I actually achieve. I’d rather measure it in terms of making a difference.”
I find these incredibly moving, and challenging words. None of us know how long we have on this earth, but whatever time we do have, we are called to make a difference, to leave this world a bit better than when we entered it.
The Gospel of Jesus is about life and transformation. It is about the transformation and life we experience when we encounter Jesus, and also how Jesus calls us to partner him in working to transform the world in which we live.
As Christian’s we are called to BE different. When we become Christian’s we have a new identity in Christ. Paul says ‘if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!’ (2 Cor 5:17)
We are called to LIVE differently. The love of God transforms our hearts, so that we no longer are we to live for ourselves, but we are to live for God and for others. To love God with all our heart, soul and mind, and to love our neighbours as ourselves.
We are called to MAKE a difference. Jesus said “You are the salt of the earth… You are the light of the world…” (Matt 5.13,14).
The presence of salt and light has an immediate effect on the surroundings. Salt causes a transformation in the substance it is added to. Light makes things visible which were previously hidden. Jesus calls every follower of His to make a difference in the world.
Rick Warren, a church pastor from America said “the church is the hope of the world.”
There are 2.1 billion Christians worldwide, almost one third of the world’s population. Imagine the impact we could have on the world if we were all committed to making a difference in the place where we live, work and worship, not by being church goers, because that’s not what Jesus wants, but by being disciples. In other words, people who are committed to living the life of Christ, not just for a couple of hours on a Sunday, but every moment of every day, in the places God has put us, on our frontlines.
We all have a frontline, this is the place where you spend the majority of your time outside of church, the place where you come into contact with non-Christians. Your frontline might be the workplace, school, home, or in the neighbourhood. Think for a moment about where your frontline is. How many people do you come into contact with on that frontline, every day, every week, every month?
St Martin’s may not be a large church, but every week as members of the church we are coming into contact with hundreds, if not thousands of people at the school gate, at work, through the clubs and organisations we belong to. What would happen if each one of us started to see our frontlines as the mission field where God has placed us? What would happen if we actively started to explore how God wants us to make a difference for his Kingdom on our Frontlines? What would happen if we started to see the people we meet on the Frontlines, as the people God wants us to love and to serve?
To help us think about what this might look, we are going now to listen to Anne’s story.
In our two Bible readings, Jesus uses the word GO twice. ‘GO and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you’ (Matthew 28:1) and ‘I chose you and appointed you so that you might GO and bear fruit’ (John 15:16). Jesus sends his disciples out into the world to serve him, in the office, at the school gate, in the bowls club, at the U3A, amongst friends and families, wherever we may find ourselves. The question we need to ask ourselves is where is my frontline, who are the people on that frontline, and how does God want to use me, how can I be salt and light in that place, how can I be an agent of God’s love and transformation?
Over the next couple of months we are going to be reflecting how we can make a difference on our frontlines. How we can model Godly character, how we can minister grace and love, how we can mould the culture around us, and be a mouthpiece for truth and justice, and how we can be a messenger of the Gospel. So as we begin this journey together, let’s commit ourselves to serving God amongst the people he has placed us, so that we can transform this world with God’s love.
Give me eyes to see these people through your eyes
Jesus, Carpenter King,
Give me eyes to see this work through your eyes
Spirit of truth and grace,
Give me faith to know that you will turn
This whispered prayer,
This labour offered,
This day lived for you into fruit for your glory.