"Remember the Lord your God. He is the one who gives you power to be successful, in order to fulfill the covenant he confirmed to your ancestors with an oath."
(Deuteronomy 8:18, NLT)
The Power of One
By Pastor Wally Odum
- There was an old Mercedes Benz TV commercial that showed their car colliding with a cement wall during a safety test. Someone then asks the company spokesman why they don’t enforce their patent on the Mercedes Benz energy-absorbing car body, a design evidently copied by other companies because of its success. He replies matter-of-factly, “Because some things in life are too important not to share.”
The Early Church had a remarkably difficult time following through on Jesus’ command to go into all the world. Maybe that’s human nature. Change doesn’t come easily. The church, in its beginning, stayed clustered around Jerusalem. In Acts 8, though, there was a breakthrough, God allowed the pressure of opposition to scatter the church until it reached Samaria.
In the eighth chapter of Acts one individual stands out, Philip. Philip was introduced in chapter six as one of the seven men appointed to take care of feeding the widows. Here, we see that he was also zealous about spreading the good news of Jesus to others. He was the one-man army who went to the despised Samaritans and sparked a revival. God honored his efforts by accompanying his testimony with conversions and miracles.
The entire city of Samaria was affected by one man’s willingness to share the good news. Acts 8:8 explains, “So there was great joy in that city.” When I read the eighth chapter of Acts, I see what I desire in the place where I live. I want God to visit my community in such a way that there will be joy filling hearts where there has been guilt and anxiety.
The most astounding part of Acts 8, at least to me, is the end of the chapter. God reached into an amazing city-wide revival and plucked out the evangelist. He sent him to the desert south of Israel to meet one Ethiopian who was heading home with a scroll containing the words of Isaiah. The Ethiopian was the treasurer of his country, and he had spent a small fortune for the Scripture he was reading. Scrolls were copied by hand and were very expensive. This lone traveler had a problem. He didn’t understand what he was reading.
God took Philip out of a powerful crusade to reach one man. I am amazed at God’s care for each one of us. Jesus, who had preached to large crowds of people, spent a good part of one day talking to a woman at Jacob’s well. This woman had a sketchy background at best, but she was important to Jesus.
It’s easy to underestimate the power of one individual. God never does that. He visited the city of Samaria with signs and wonders, but He saw the need of an Ethiopian man riding his carriage through the desert. The Ethiopian needed understanding and Philip was willing to go where God sent him.
When Gwen and I lived in Australia, I became a fan of Cricket. I persuaded Gwen to go with me to a match between Australia and Pakistan. I don’t think I’ll ever get her to go again. I loved every minute of it, but Gwen was bored out of her mind. It was there that a story I had heard began to make sense. Skilled Cricket players are rock stars in that part of the world. The same is true in England.
You may have heard of C. T. Studd. He was a national hero as a Cricket player in England. At 16 years of age he was already an expert at the game. At 19, he was captain of the Eton team and was famous. He had a great career in front of him. But while he was at Cambridge University he heard Moody preach and was converted. Called from a successful career, he went to China. While there, he inherited the equivalent of $500,000. Within 24 hours he had given it all away. He returned to England and then went to Africa. Acquaintances told Studd that he would die in Africa and his response was that he was only looking for an opportunity to die for Jesus. C. T. Studd believed what God wants each of us to believe, God wants everyone to hear the good news that Jesus died for them.
Philip had already left Jerusalem. Now he was willing to leave a successful crusade because God cares about one person. The Ethiopian treasurer was converted and baptized, then continued on his way home. Philip never saw him again. When missionaries first arrived in Ethiopia, they found a church already in existence. One man had gone home and changed his nation.
We never know the potential in the one person God uses us to influence. Luis Palau is an evangelist who is best known for his worldwide contemporary evangelistic festivals. Palau is a native of Buenos Aires, Argentina. He began his preaching ministry at age 18 by sharing the Gospel on the streets of Buenos Aires. More than a billion people worldwide have heard him preach the Good News through festivals, radio, television, and the internet.
He has described the missionaries who came to his part of the world.
“The British missionaries who led my family to Christ made all the cultural mistakes in the book. I remember as a little boy sitting in the front row, watching this poor man. It was hot as blazes in the summer. Being a proper Britisher, he not only wore a tweed suit but a vest and thick socks. He would stand there sweating and sweating. I remember looking at the poor fellow and saying, ‘Why doesn’t he take his coat off?’ But a proper Britisher in those days kept his coat on and toughed it out. He massacred the Spanish language and had strange foreign habits. But because of that fellow, my father went to heaven.”
Who would have known that the little boy sitting there listening to a missionary who made numerous cultural gaffes would touch the world? God knew. And some missionary in heaven is going to receive the reward of a servant who knew the value of one and was willing to go where God sent him.
C. Summer Wemp told of an experience that impacted him deeply.
“While at the beach in Jacksonville, Florida, one summer, I saw a lifeguard suddenly jump to his feet in his tower. He took the Red Cross flag out ot its standard and waved it frantically so they could see him at the main life guard station. He then threw it to the ground, jumped down, grabbed a life buoy and rushed out into the water. With strong strokes he swam toward a man waving for help. In a few seconds an ambulance came up and three other guards swam out to help."
“They rescued the man. The same scene was repeated several times that day, for the undertow was unusually strong. Late that afternoon I went to the main station to say thanks for the dedication of these lifeguards. When I walked into the station I was struck by a sign on the wall in large red letters which read: IF IN DOUBT, GO! It struck me that this ought to be on the wall of every church and on the table of every heart as we see the multitudes around us.”
Each of us would love to influence large crowds for Jesus. But it may be that He has called us to touch one person who will change the world.
Send Pastor Wally your comments.
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Pastor Wally Odum is the pastor of OBX Nation in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. He has been in ministry for thirty years and loves to share the Gospel. He is passionate about encouraging others to grow in God through sharing scriptures, stories, and personal experiences.
© OBX Nation, Wally Odum. Used with permission.
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