Fireworks or a Candle?
"It could cause us to laugh if it wasn't so sad, my son. These burned pieces of cardboard reminded me of too many people who were amazing or a short time but then ended up as burned-up cinders. Charismatic people, lofty preachers, men and women who sing like angels or make music worthy of the stars … but after being amazing, they disappear or blacken with soot those who came looking for more from them.
"Yes"—he repeated with a growing tone of sadness—"there are too many who from a distance amaze people, but up close they only tarnish."
My old pastor once again stuck his hand inside the wooden box, and this time he took out a simple white candle.
"Would you turn the light off, please?"
I flicked the switch, and the room went dark. My old pastor lit a match and lit the candle with it, whose flame stood straight up.
"This is better," he said. "Do you see it? This little flame … this orange point that can't even be seen during the day becomes a beacon for seafarers so they can make course corrections when it's dark out. Can you appreciate how this simple light has overcome the darkness? It will not amaze anyone, but it will be able to push back the darkness."
I realized the candle represents the hundreds of men and women who by simple, subtle, and inconspicuous acts bring about change and turn on lights in their community.
Don't focus on what astonishes, but rather what transforms. Don't let yourself be impressed by fireworks that amaze people for 15 minutes and then leave them tarnished. Look for something deeper. Don't make it your goal to amaze your audience. Don't rest until you are sure that your ministry crosses the frontier of the soul and touches the spirit, the place where change is accomplished.