Better Days Ahead—Part 8
December 28, 2021
by Peter Amsterdam
Better Days Ahead—Part 8
—Make Each Day Count
We all want our lives to count, to make a difference. You, like me, have probably read articles or books on goal setting, building good habits, teamworking, being purpose-driven, etc., with the intent of learning how to make the most of the time God has given you. It can be a great adventure to make plans and set goals, and then pray desperately and seek the Lord about where He is leading and how He wants to help us accomplish His plan for that particular stage of our lives. Of course, this adventure doesn’t necessarily mean we embark on a phenomenal, world-changing goal. It could be such things as starting a new business or a nonprofit, going back to school, beginning a mission work, getting a different job, volunteering in a ministry, or helping others around us by offering counsel, encouragement, prayer, etc.
Sometimes we might be tempted to think that we can only make a difference if we do something outstanding and extraordinary. Thinking like that can cause discouragement instead of inspiration, especially if you are dealing with other circumstances that limit what you can do on a daily basis. Circumstances such as a medical condition, financial constraints, the needs of your extended family, and restrictions in society at large can impact your plans considerably.
While it is beneficial to have goals that are impressive, it’s also important to concentrate on the power of seeing the opportunities in everyday small things that make a difference. This focus can help us have a positive outlook as we go through the day because we’re on the lookout for what the Lord is going to do to open a door so that we can be a blessing to others.
“We must not, in trying to think about how we can make a big difference, ignore the small daily differences we can make which, over time, add up to big differences that we often cannot foresee.”—Marian Wright Edelman1
“We cannot all do great things, but we can do small things with great love.”—Mother Teresa
“The older I get, the more I’m conscious of ways very small things can make a change in the world.”—Sandra Cisneros2
Make a difference. No matter how limited your circumstances, there is always something you can do to make a difference in the lives of others. Doing something for someone else, even something small, can be the stepping stone to something greater. The article “Willie and the Five-Minute Favor” by Iris Richard (in Kenya) in the July 2021 Activated magazine3 provides a good example of the importance of small acts of kindness:
We were just finishing up the distribution of 50 ten-kilo care packages to poor people … at the edge of one of the largest slums in East Africa.
Happy to have completed the project, I turned to leave when my colleague Sally held up the last package, saying, “Before we close, let’s quickly deliver this one to Willie up the hill. He isn’t able to walk down here.”
I was tired and sweaty, and my back ached. … I was about to postpone this task for another time when I remembered my new resolution of “five-minute favors,” which was inspired by something I read online:
Want to make the world a better place? … Enter the five-minute favor concept that is no more complicated than its name alludes: take five minutes out of your day to do something that’ll benefit another person. … It doesn’t cost you much, but it can make a big difference in somebody’s life.4
Iris went on to explain how she decided to make the climb to deliver the care package to this needy man. He was alone in a one-room shack. His house had been destroyed in a flood, he had lost his leg in a hit-and-run accident, and consequently, he had lost his job.
She wrote: “Willie received our care package with a big smile. ‘God sent you!’ he said, and a tear ran down his cheek. … ‘I found new hope and purpose because of you,’ Willie said, when donated items for his new little roadside business were delivered by well-wishers.”
This is an example of a small act of kindness, but you never know how such small deeds can change a life.
I believe that God wants to encourage people, but often He needs us to do it. And we do have what others need. We have God’s Holy Spirit and His words of love! Our life can be influential because of the power of our words. Our words don’t need to be profound or eloquent—just simple words that meet a person’s need for love, hope, significance, or comfort.
If you feel like you have no time, no energy, no expertise, or little to give, don’t worry; that’s common to many of us. But we can all give through our words of encouragement, through which our lives can have influence, and we can spread God’s love wherever we go. In just five minutes or less, we can make a difference at a bus stop, on the metro, at the shop, at work, at school, online, going for a walk, and the list goes on.
Here are some questions we can ask ourselves: What can I say to this person that will help them in some way, lift their spirits, brighten their day, make them feel appreciated, valued, and worthwhile? How can I leave this person feeling good about themselves, that what they’re doing counts? Then let’s ask God to give us the faith to say whatever He lays on our hearts.—Maria Fontaine
Pay it forward. You have probably heard of the expression “pay it forward”—the idea being that when someone does something for you, instead of paying that person back directly, you then extend the same or a similar kindness to someone else. Practicing this can be inspiring and a blessing to others and ourselves. Here is a little account along those lines that a co-worker wrote:
The Lord did something special for me last night. I went to eat dinner at my favorite little Italian restaurant. There was a wonderful female server. We talked a bit. I learned she had just come from Albania three months ago. She said the move has been “very hard.” In the course of my meal, she came up to me and said, “You are very brave. Sitting here eating alone.”
A bit later I asked for my check. There was a cute family with two beautiful children sitting two tables away from me. During my meal I was trying to not watch them or eavesdrop on their conversation, but that took some effort as I was facing them and the kids were so cute.
The server brought the husband of that family their check as she was on her way to deliver my check to me. Then she came over to me stunned and said, “That man has paid for your meal.”
I was surprised and touched. I went over to thank him. We talked for a minute or two, and then as he was leaving, he said, “Well, pay it forward sometime.” I said, “Yes, I'm going to pay it forward right now with our server.”
As I was leaving, I went to find the Albanian woman who had served me, and I told her, “He said to pay it forward, and I’m doing that now.” I took her hand and put a bill in it equal to the cost of my meal. Then I hugged her, kissed her on the cheek, and said, “God bless you.” She was beaming! I knew that the Lord had done this to encourage her—and me!
God can take our small efforts and multiply them in the lives of others. And if we are faithful to take advantage of small opportunities to be a witness of His love when they present themselves, then the Lord can open the door for greater opportunities. The Bible says that “he who is faithful in a very little thing is also faithful in much” (Luke 16:10 NAS).
Jesus: Love is manifested by action; love demonstrates outgoing concern. When you’re willing to give of yourself, to be a friend, a companion, a listening ear; when you’re willing to take your time to talk to someone who’s lonely or seeking the truth, or to make someone feel needed and important—all of this brings with it a certain satisfaction and reward of spirit.
When you give in this way, even though it may initially be a sacrifice of your time, it won’t be long before you see the rewards, and it will become obvious to you that you did the right thing. You can feel My love in your heart and you have a sense of accomplishment, a sense of fulfillment, a joy and satisfaction in knowing that you made somebody’s day brighter, you helped to lighten their load, you helped them to not give up.
Through performing these little acts of love and unselfishness, you are blessed personally with the joy and peace of My Spirit. It’s not fleeting or dependent upon the circumstances, but it’s a gift that I give you—the happiness of knowing that you have been a blessing to someone in need.
As Christians, our calling is to do the will of God. As we seek to please the Lord, it behooves us to do what we can day by day within the realm of our influence and means. The key phrase here is day by day. We might not see immediate results, but we can’t let that discourage us. We can trust in God’s promise: “Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9 ESV).
God is big enough for even our smallest tasks. He is holy enough to sanctify even our most menial moments. He is great enough to give significance even to the little things of our lives. And in them, to give us precious and peculiar joys. In Christ, by His Spirit, there is indeed “joy to find in every station”—not just in the bright, shining, public flashes of our various vocations, but in the smallest, most menial, seemingly insignificant moments.—David Mathis5
We are blessed to know the Lord and His Word, and as we do what we can each day to be faithful to our calling as His followers and representatives, we will find meaning in our lives. We can make each day count by doing what we can to love the Lord with all our heart, mind, and soul, and to love others as we love ourselves. And in those times when we don’t feel like we’re making much of a difference or we don’t have a lot of fruit to show for our labors, we can rest assured that as we don’t give up, but continue to do our best to be a witness of the Lord’s love and truth, one day we will hear Him say, “Well done, My good and faithful servant, enter into My joy.” (See Matthew 25:21.) Then it will be worth it all!
1 Founder and president emerita of the Children's Defense Fund.
2 American author.