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Is anyone actually listening?

Right now in our country, there is a great deal of discussion, or perhaps debate over the issue of who should hold the highest seat of political office in our government. There are supporters on each side of the debate, but it is hard to tell which way the issue will end. The two parties oppose each other - one trying hard to have an impact on the other until whoever finally 'wins'. Have you ever wondered if your life could ever make an impact - if you could ever be a positive influence in the lives of others? Perhaps you have listened to people of your past or present who repeatedly belittle you, tearing you down every chance they get, making any hope of "impacting" the world in a positive manner a little less than a 'probable' vision for you. Maybe you have tried to make an impact, having ventured out in one area or another, only to find yourself running into brick walls and resistant forces.  Impact can be positive or negative - two possible outcomes exist. Impact is really nothing more than being an influence. It doesn't matter what we do (or don't do, for that matter), we are "impacting" someone! It may not be in a positive way, but we are always going to impact this world - we choose what type of impact we will make.

The people of Nineveh listened, and trusted God. They proclaimed a citywide fast and dressed in burlap to show their repentance. Everyone did it — rich and poor, famous and obscure, leaders and followers. (Jonah 3:5)

Jonah told himself he could never impact the city of Ninevah - a huge city which took nearly three days to traverse. He was one man, on a mission, across a huge city, with only one voice to proclaim a very important message. Let us never forget that the impact of one faithful and committed life can influence the masses - when the steps of the one are ordered by God. Imagine being in his shoes for a moment. This is a huge city, made up of probably hundreds of differing beliefs than his - all 'sides' trying to make their 'side' known. He is about to enter into some pretty "unfamiliar" territory. Isn't this one of the hardest things we are asked to do - going where we are the least familiar and maybe the least welcomed? I'd like us to consider that God often sends those who are least familiar into places where they are least welcomed because they are less likely to make excuses for the actions they see! In fact, God often uses the one who comes with "new eyes" into the situation because they have no preconceived "limitation" on how they can alter the situation.

He goes one day's walk into the city limits. The crowds are gathering around, listening as this one solitary preacher delivers the message of God's condemnation of this entire city of people. Imagine the impact this message had the potential of making in Jonah's life - or on the outcome of how long that life might still be lived! Here he was, a foreigner with a very unpopular message, proclaiming it just as God had asked, in a land with traditions and customs he was actually saying were not 'right'. I'd be trembling in my sandals, folks! I trust God, but come on! One small 'preacher' against an entire heavily armed city? The odds don't seem fairly stacked, do they? Oh, did I forget to mention it was one OBEDIENT soul against a city? God can do more with one obedient soul than he can with a million wishy-washy, mamby-pamby pew-warmers! Uh oh! Gone to meddling now! Whenever we get "real" with God, he gets "real" IN us. This reality of God's presence with Jonah was definitely an influence within the city of Ninevah. It was more than the message - it was the evidence of God within this preacher which made the difference! The presence of God determined the impact! It is the presence of God in your life that has the greatest potential to alter the lives of those you are called to influence today!

The story goes on to tell us even the king was touched by the message this one faithful 'preacher' brought to this city. The entire city is called to a fast - a time of mourning for their sin, deep repentance, and seeking God's mercy in their lives. Look at who God used to accomplish this - a man who struggled with obedience so much that he tried to actually run away from what God asked him to do - a man who had just experienced afresh the mercy of God, finding restoration and renewal at a time when he was at his lowest point! Nothing speaks louder to those we have the potential to influence others than the mercy of God evident in our own lives - never discount the power inherent in your example! If you think you have nothing to offer a hurting world - think again! The mercy of God speaks clearly even when we think we have nothing "good" to offer! Just sayin!

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