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The Significance of One

by Charles R. Swindoll on July 7, 2006 in Articles

In an overpopulated world, it’s easy to underestimate the significance of one. Yet history is full of accounts of single individuals who have made a difference. Think of the military battles that have turned on the axis of one heroic person. Think of the artists and the contribution of their individual lives, from Michelangelo and da Vinci to Brahms and Beethoven. Think of the scientists, inventors, explorers, and technological experts who have literally changed the course of history. Think of the courageous preachers down through time who have stood alone in the gap and made a difference. The face of the church was changed by significant individuals like Augustine, Tyndale, Bunyan, Luther, Calvin, Whitefield, Wesley, Edwards, Spurgeon, Moody, Chafer, and Graham, to name only a few.

When I read God’s Word, I don’t find that many stories about great crusades and city-wide revivals and mass meetings where God’s attention rested on an entire country or a whole community. More often, I find individual men and women who made a difference, who set the pace or cut a wide swath or stood strong and changed their times. From Genesis to Revelation, we see God’s hand on the lives of individuals who thought and said and did what was right—regardless—and as a result, history was made.

Read a few verses that declare the importance of one:

“For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His” (2 Chron. 16:9).

“Now the LORD saw, and it was displeasing in His sight that there was no justice. And He saw that there was no man, and was astonished that there was no one to intercede” (Isa. 59:15–16).

“Roam to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, and look now, and take note. And seek in her open squares, if you can find a man, if there is one who does justice, who seeks truth, then I will pardon her” (Jer. 5:1, emphasis added).

“And I searched for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one” (Ezek. 22:30).

The Book of Esther describes the story of one woman who decided it was worth the risk to stand alone, break with protocol, and speak her mind...and a nation was preserved. “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?” (Esth. 4:14).

Only one missionary invests his whole life in an area and a tribe is ultimately evangelized. Only one statesman determines to do what is right and a country is saved. Only one strong-willed and determined citizen says, “I stand against this evil,” and a community ramps up morally and changes its direction.

What does it matter if I get involved or not? It matters greatly—to your character! Yes, it’s true that God has other ways to accomplish His objectives. He has other people He can use. He isn’t frustrated or restrained because you and I may be indifferent. But any time that happens, we are the losers.

There will be no celestial shout urging you to take a stand. Nor will a flash of lightning awaken you in the midst of your slumber. It doesn’t work like that, so don’t sit around waiting passively. Numerous needs and issues surround us. They summon us to stand up and be counted. While we will not be able to respond to all of them, the solution is not to respond to any of them! So let me ask you: What are you doing to stand up, to stand alone, to answer the call of God in this hour? Allow me to spell out a few issues and needs worth considering.

Are you involved in helping dysfunctional families? How about those who are homeless and hungry? Or those who are addicted to drugs and/or alcohol? What do you do for the orphans and widows? In “such a time as this,” what do you stand against and stand for? Do you stand against pornography? Do you support any part of the cause of the pro-life movement against abortion? Where do you stand as it relates to the absence of masculinity, the whole extreme feminist movement? What about the horror of sexual abuse that has become so rampant in our society? Or prejudice against other races or nationalities? What about the developmentally disabled? This is an hour of need. Are you there, ready to be salt and light, in such an hour? As David asked before facing Goliath, “Is there not a cause?”

What do you do to fight crime in your community, the battering of wives or the mistreatment of children? You say, “Well, I don’t believe in marching. I don’t believe in blocking the way to an abortion clinic.” All right. I respect your convictions, but what will you do in place of that? Have you opened your home to an unwed mother? I’m not suggesting that you do it someone else’s way; I’m simply urging: Do something! Be counted! In the PTA meetings, stand up and say, “I vote against it! I stand for this, but not that.”

Two primary principles apply here. First, not until we believe one person can make a difference will we be willing to risk. Second, only when we move from the safe harbor of theory to the risky world of reality do we actually make a difference.

Let me put it straight. Quit being so careful about protecting your own backside. Stop worrying about what others will think. You don’t answer to them. You answer to God. He will help. He will give you wisdom and courage. You may be only one, but you are one. So risk!

It was back in the early 1970s that Cynthia and I first opened our home to an unwed mother. We had four children of our own already. And our little home was just a bit over 1,000 square feet, so why add to the challenge? The desire for privacy and an ultra-busy schedule could easily have kept us safely removed from the world of reality. And nobody would’ve said a word. After all, I was a pastor with a growing flock who had needs, too. But we decided we needed to make a difference, and we did. And later we did it again...and yet again.

When it comes time to vote, we vote! We don’t think about how nice it would be to vote. We don’t tell others how they should vote. We vote! We vote our conscience. We go to the trouble. Men and women have died that we might have the privilege. When an issue arises and we vote against it, we say by voting, “I stand against that.”

You are a thinking citizen, an individual who knows Christ—OK then, do something about it! It’s the deed that connects us to reality. It’s the deed that moves us from the safe harbor of theory.

We evangelicals are great on evangelical theory, great on theological theory, great on moral theory. But we are not rewarded for our theories. We’re rewarded for the deed.

Does one person make a difference? Let me ask you, did Christ? God so loved the world that He did something. He didn’t select a committee. He didn’t theorize how great it would be for someone to come to our rescue. He didn’t simply grieve over our waywardness and wring His hands in sorrow. He did something! And, in turn, the Son of God responded to God the Father, “I will go.” He did something about it. And that’s why lost men and women can be saved. We don’t believe in a theory; we believe in the person of Christ, who died and rose again that we might live...and make a difference.

The significance of one dare not be ignored.

Adapted from Esther: A Woman of Strength & Dignity (Word Publishing, 1997). Reprinted with permission.

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