Okay, I admit it. I used to be a huge WWF fan. You may think that’s sweet, but I’m not talking about the “save the polar bears” WWF, I’m talking about the “throw your opponent through a folding table” WWF. That’s right, I was in attendance when Cactus Jack first won the Heavy Weight Championship at Raw; I was there when Mike Tyson refereed the championship match between Shawn Michaels and Stone Cold Steve Austin at Wrestlemania XIV. I personally smelled what the Rock* was cooking. The WWF (now called The WWE for World Wresting Entertainment after being sued by the aforementioned “save the bears” WWF), was always looking for ways to up the violence, and one of those concepts was something called a Ladder Match. They would hang the championship belt or a briefcase of cash 20 feet above the ring, place some ladders around the squared circle then wait to see who could fight their way to the top first. No rules. No disqualifications. All that mattered was getting that prize. It was spectacularly violent and horrifying.
Sometimes our lives feel that way too, like we’re just climbing a ladder trying to get the prize. The problem is that other people try to pull us down or knock over our ladder so they can get the prize we’re reaching for. We get so busy trying to “make it” that we don’t have time to make a difference in the world. At least, that’s what we think. God has hard-wired us to want to make a difference. We’re designed to be a reflection of His grace and mercy, so when we don’t feel we’re making a difference it gnaws at us. But the truth is you are making a difference—every day. The question isn’t, “Why aren’t I making a difference,” but is instead, “what is the difference I’m making right now?” The truth is that every interaction you have with another person makes a difference in their life. Are you primarily making a positive or negative difference in the lives of your co-workers, family members and or even strangers you meet? How do our every day interactions with people change the perspectives they have of God or the Church? Paul addressed this question when he wrote:
Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (Colossians 4:5-6)
As we climb the ladder, there are two major issues that can distract us from positively impacting the lives of others. The first is blind personal ambition. Are you so focused on reaching the top of the ladder that you don’t care how many people fall off the rung and through a folding table as you climb? The second issue is that we’re struggling to climb the ladder ourselves. Does the next step seem too hard? That can keep us from making a positive difference in someone’s life too. Chances are, if you’re still reading this, you fall into the second category (since the blind ambition group probably stopped reading somewhere after the Stone Cold Steve Austin bit). Are you clinging to your ladder rung, unable to move forward, and feeling bad because you haven’t helped anyone else either? Well, sometimes there’s a reason you can’t move forward. It’s not always because you’re not strong enough. Sometimes God has you in a place of waiting because there’s someone on the rung below you who needs a hand up. That’s worth waiting for.
Here’s the great thing about God’s ladder: there’s not just one prize. We don’t have to fight for a single championship belt because God has a separate reward for each one of his children. The difference between God’s ladder and the WWE ladder match is that God’s not concerned about whether or not you get there first. He’s only concerned about how you climb the ladder and that you’re trying to reach Him, not a prize. There’s no penalty for stopping on a rung to make sure the person behind you makes it up safely. God has a purpose for your life and he wants you to succeed:
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
God may be calling you to volunteer in a ministry or work on an outreach project. Those are important, but don’t forget you’re already making a difference. You make a difference with every smile or every scowl you share along your climb. Stop worrying about whether or not your making a difference and start paying attention to the difference you’re already making.
DON’T THINK: “I don’t make a difference.”
THINK: “Everything I do makes a difference. I’d better pay attention.”
Prayer: Father God, Thank you for the opportunities you give me to change people’s lives. Open my eyes to see those around me as you see them. Show me where I can make a positive difference in someone’s life today. If there’s a project or a ministry you want me to work in, show me and I will follow leading, but don’t let me be complacent in the difference I make every day. Amen.
Engage: How do the things you do affect those around you? Tell us about a time when you unexpectedly made a difference in someone’s life.
For those of you who are wrestling fans, don’t think the world of professional wrestling can’t make a positive difference in the world. I encourage everyone to watch this inspiring video about professional wrestler, Diamond Dallas Page, who changed the life of an injured Gulf War veteran by simply believing in him.
*For those of you who are not wrestling fans, do not confuse “The Rock” mentioned above with Jesus. They are not the same person.
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© Joshua J. Masters and Think This, Not That, 2012.
Photo Credits: Wresting Ladder Match by jrandallc, Air Raid Drill from the State Library of Victoria Collection.