Making a Difference

By Jim Allen

One Sunday morning my pastor told a well-known story about a small boy walking along the seashore. From a distance, an old man and his dog were also walking and could see the young boy bending over, picking up what looked like rocks, and then tossing them into the sea. When the old man approached the boy he could see hundreds of starfish left behind from the receding morning tide. Surly, the old man thought, "They would all die in the mid-day sun." He said to the young boy, "Young man...why bother?...there are so many and what difference could you possibly make." The young boy paused for a moment, looked at the old man, looked at the starfish in his hand, and then gently flung the creature back into the sea. The boy brushed the sand from his hands and looked at the old man and graciously said, "Sir, I made a difference to that one!"
Original Story by Loren Eisley
As most everyone knows, starfish are not really fish, but echinoderms sometimes found in shallow water near coral reefs. Although able to move about, their pace is super slow and barely observable. Not too long ago I read about the negative impact "sea pollution" is having on these small, unassuming creatures. Along with other sea life, the starfish species is in a battle for survival, wholly unaware of its peril from the deadly toxins in the water. On an even broader scale, sea life and human populations world-wide are up against the same global peril. While the Bible warns the church about end-time events, some evangelicals appear to be wholly unaware of the ensuing battle for the soul. Like starfish, these lost souls have been swept onto the seashore of life to perish in the midday sun of unrelenting deception. The Bible warns about a time like this and that while some will be saved, most will be lost. For whatever reason, those who are perishing before our eyes are unable to reach the life giving sea of God's word (Matthew 17:13-14). Deception has a death-hold on their soul and its grip tightens with each passing day. Where are the "simple in faith" who walk along the seashore of life believing they can make a difference?

I know a Christian man, named Michael, who had a tract ministry. Early in his ministry he left a gospel tract in a shopping mall and stood aside to watch. Sure enough, a young lady came along and picked it up, read the first few pages intently, and then slipped it into her purse. Michael was pleased and hoped the gospel message would make a difference in her life. Much later in his ministry, he left another tract in a small business establishment and stood aside to watch. Soon, the business owner came along and saw the tract, picked it up by the tip of its corner (with two fingers), and carried it (like a dead rat held by its tail) to a garbage container and dropped it in. Michael was saddened to witness such disregard for the holy words written therein and although disappointed knew most tracts would end up just like that!

Heartbeat of the Savior

Occasionally, God is able to reach a person through the efforts of just one person. One such account occurred during the nineteenth century when a young man found a gospel tract on a bookshelf in his home, never being sure who placed it there. After reading it and sometime later, the man wrote about the moment when God opened his heart and he understood the gospel message in the tract and accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. The man was James Hudson Taylor, a missionary who took the Gospel of Grace to China. The unknown person who left the tract made a difference if only to just one.

Michael once said, "If only one person came to Christ by reading a tract I left behind, then it would have been worth my years of toil to make a difference if just to one." So then, what does the young boy with a compassionate heart to save starfish have in common with an old man and his gospel tract ministry? Both possess the heartbeat of the Savior, a desire to make a difference if only to save just one (Matthew 28:19-20).

Image Credit: Peter Dutton; "Starfish"; Creative Commons

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Published 6-21-12