Most educators go into the profession for one main reason—to make a difference. In my opinion, there is no other profession that has the potential to significantly impact the life of others like the field of education. We have the opportunity to empower children to learn, to help them believe in themselves, and to enable them to become successful. The influence one teacher can have on a child is simply too big for words.
Having said this, we also know the negative impact we can have if we are not careful. This is not something we really like to talk about. While we all make mistakes and sometimes make poor choices, we need to remember that God has placed a high calling on our lives.
And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father. Colossians 3:17
In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.
I think it is so easy to get bogged down in the world’s view of “making a difference.” When it comes to working with humans—little ones and big ones—problems frequently arise, and the answers to these problems can be difficult to find. At times it may feel like we take two steps forward and three steps back, never really making progress.
It is only natural to want to see the fruit of our efforts. Everyone wants to feel that are making a difference in the world—especially educators. Yet, I can tell you there have been times in my career when I thought I was just pouring my efforts into a black hole. If we aren’t careful we can lose sight of what it really means to make a difference from God’s perspective. While it may be impossible to measure the impact our actions have on others, I believe there are three key questions we can ask (and answer) to help put our minds at ease and reassure ourselves that we can make a difference!
Question #1: Am I being obedient to the Word of God?
I know this is a BIG one to start with, but I’m not doing anyone any favors by pretending this isn’t important. Lucky for you (or maybe not), I have been studying about King Solomon. There is so much I could say about Solomon—good and bad. He was a man that was exceedingly blessed by God. Not only was he the wisest man (before Christ), but he was also the richest, most powerful, and most honored. Yet, he lost it all and ended his life lamenting. He was disobedient despite his father’s warnings, God’s warnings, and his own warnings.
As the time of King David’s death approached, he gave this charge to his son Solomon: “I am going where everyone on earth must someday go. Take courage and be a man. Observe the requirements of the Lord your God, and follow all his ways. Keep the decrees, commands, regulations, and laws written in the Law of Moses so that you will be successful in all you do and wherever you go. If you do this, then the Lord will keep the promise he made to me. I Kings 2: 1-4a
The Lord said to Solomon….
As for you, if you will follow me with integrity and godliness, as David your father did, obeying all my commands, decrees, and regulations, then I will establish the throne of your dynasty over Israel forever. For I made this promise to your father, David: ‘One of your descendants will always sit on the throne of Israel.’ “But if you or your descendants abandon me and disobey the commands and decrees I have given you, and if you serve and worship other gods, then I will uproot Israel from this land that I have given them. I Kings 9: 4-7
Solomon wrote in Proverbs (inspired by God):
My father taught me, “Take my words to heart. Follow my commands, and you will live. Get wisdom; develop good judgment. Don’t forget my words or turn away from them.
At the end of his days and the end of Ecclesiastes, Solomon leaves us with this thought:
That’s the whole story. Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty. God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad. Ecclesiastes 12: 13-14
The wisest man that ever lived in the Old Testament emphatically reminds us that obedience is not an option if we want to make a difference.
Question #2: Is my obedience fueled by love or duty?
Growing up in a Christian home, there were many times for me when the Christian walk felt more like a duty and not a love affair with Christ. I was young when I accepted Jesus into my heart, and somewhere along the way I lost sight of what that really meant. Looking back now, I know much of this was a result of not being in God’s Word. I simply did not know what Jesus said about obedience. Now I do.
If you love me, obey my commandments. John 15:15
Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them. Anyone who doesn’t love me will not obey me. And remember, my words are not my own. What I am telling you is from the Father who sent me. John 15:23-24
I will do what the Father requires of me, so that the world will know that I love the Father. Come, let’s be going. John 15:31
This last verse almost makes me shudder. Just think—what if Jesus had not been obedient? You and I would be lost. Jesus loved the Father so much that he went to the cross for you and me. When Jesus was asked which commandment was the greatest, he didn’t hesitate in His response.
Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ Mark 12:29-30
I want a love like that, but I know it isn’t possible in my own strength. No worries! Paul assured us that God has us covered.
This hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. Romans 5:5
Question #3: Do I truly KNOW God?
Obedience and love are the byproducts of a true relationship with Jesus Christ. We can’t know God apart from His Son, Jesus, and we can’t be filled with the Holy Spirit without accepting Jesus. God’s Word is so crystal clear on these matters.
Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is.” John 14:6-7
We can be sure that we know him if we obey his commandments. If someone claims, “I know God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth. But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him. I John 2:3-4
Be encouraged! Despite Solomon’s demise, he had wise words for us.
God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. Ecclesiastes 3:11.
If you truly know God, love God, and obey God, He will take care of the rest.
We CAN make a difference!