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Making a Difference
(A chapel message-preached at the Landmark Baptist Temple Oct. 30, 1989))
“And of some have compassion, making a difference: And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.” Jude 1:22,23
I stand before you today a broken man, ruined by the foolishness of life. Ruined by bad choices; by self gratification; ruined, and never more restored to innocence. I’ve wasted many years, ignored many joys, and shattered many glorious dreams because of my own foolish living. I wish I could go back in time and change some things, I could have made a difference, but I didn’t. I missed the opportunities that came my way, to influence the lives for good. I’ve seen men die alone, not being able to help them; They died without hope because I waited too long to get saved myself, when I could have made a difference. If, while in the Army in my late teens, if I’d have known Christ as my Savior, I could have made a difference. I must now live with the fact that I put it off too long. Missed opportunities may never come around again to be reconciled; They can affect any part of our lives, but when they are gone, they are gone. Seldom do we get a second chance to make it right.
I’ve had friends that died from and over-dose of drugs; I’ve seen men dead in the streets of Saigon, dieing in despair with no one to comfort them; They died alone and no one seemed to care. I could have told them that Christ cares--He cares for every life that was wasted in that war. Jesus wept at the death of each of them; He may have pleaded with them to be saved at some time; He may have sent missionaries to give them the Gospel, but I may have made a difference in their lives myself. I was too busy “partying”; too busy “enjoying life”, or so I thought. Because of my foolishness, “hell has enlarged herself”--hell has taken its multitudes. What might have been? What difference might I have made? Which one may have been a soul-winning preacher and led thousands to the Lord? I may never know now; I killed them all; I am partly responsible because I waited too long--I may have made a difference. If I would have accepted Christ at your age, who knows how I could have helped? Many young men may have returned home to loving arms; many may have returned to families and friends had I gotten saved early in life; I may have made the difference in their lives, but I didn’t, I only cared about me! Some may have died anyway, but they could have died knowing that they would live again--eternally, and clung to the hope that they would someday see their loved ones again in heaven. If only I would have listened--you never really know how many lives you touch, or how many wayward hearts you influence. Each one of you have someone that looks up to you, whether you know it or not; it may a brother or sister; it may a friend or cousin, whoever it is, they look to you for an example--don’t let them down like I did, you owe it to them, as well as to the Lord.
Vietnam-- In Vietnam, I lived foolishly, for myself, and not for the Lord. I called it “survival”, but what it really was, was foolishness, and sin. If I would have only talked to them, some soldiers may have come home; some Vietnamese might have been saved, and their entire lives become meaningful--if I would have witnessed to them. I did not care! I did not have a heart for them, because I was not yet saved. Suicide, drugs, all sorts of sin and debauchery prevailed, and I was right in the middle of it all! I shudder to think of it now, and of how I may have made a difference in the life of someone--even if it were one man, heaven would rejoice with him. Don’t “miss the boat” young people, look at the person next to you, what if their life was in your hands? What if what you did, or did not do, became a matter of life and death for them? What would you do?
Failed to Act.
I failed to report an incident while on guard duty one night. I had seen a group of VC (Viet Cong) heading into a clump of bushes; they were running toward the bushes where there was, no doubt, a tunnel that would lead them away from the town they had just left. They ran, single file, into the bushes, but didn’t come out the other side! I knew there had to be a tunnel there, but I failed to act. Actually, I did call it in later, but it was too late by then, they were long gone! That very night, an outpost up the line was overrun, and many men killed. It was partly my fault because I did not do what I should have done--it may have made a difference to them! You’re young, but you don’t have to be foolish; you can begin now to make a difference in the lives of others, or perhaps in your own life, with Jesus. You are going to make mistakes, but don’t make the kind that I did; make a decision for Jesus now, and accept Him as your Savior. That person sitting beside you may be waiting for you to move, to do something, to make a difference in their life. Many lives may hang on the decision you make today, right here, right now, be sure that you choose wisely. Don’t take it lightly folks, life and death may be in your hands; someone may need you to show them what’s right, and to lead the way. Compassion could have saved someone that I saw die; it could have been that they were looking to me for guidance, but I failed them; I have to live with that, but you don’t have to! You have a choice. Some choices stay with you the rest of your life.
Compassion doesn’t come with age; it doesn’t just overwhelm us somewhere in life; we have to work at it. We have to exercise it. We must know first what true compassion is--it is making a difference for good; making a difference for others by introducing them to Jesus. There is no greater love than that. Only Jesus can pull them “out if the fire”, because only He knows what real compassion is. He gave His life out of compassion for us, won’t you give a bit of your life to others? You are in the prime of life. You are full of vigor and strength; why not use it for the glory of God, and make a difference in someone’s life. It will definitely make a difference in yours!
Don’t let this your story be;
Don’t end up a wretch like me;
Begin to build, begin to care,
Save a life from great despair.