We're flying home on this Saturday after Thanksgiving with a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. We've enjoyed a few special days with our son and daughter-in-law. We had much to give thanks for this Thanksgiving. One of the very best is that one of their foster sons has been cleared for them to begin the adoption process. Hopefully, by next Thanksgiving he will not only own my heart, but also wear our last name!

The difficulty in my heart going home, however, is that we don't have any such assurance with the younger foster grandson — this precious eight month old boy with no hair and a big smile with two bottom teeth. While we believe that we will probably see this little giggler and wiggler again, we have no assurance. Each time we part, it could be the last we see of him.

Can I tell you the truth? This is unspeakably hard — to share your heart and love and receive so much tenderness in return without having any assurance of a future! And for our kids, well it is not only gut-wrenching, it is heart-rendering when one of their little foster ones goes back into the system, especially when you are not sure where they will land and how they will be loved!

So why do it? Why love and give and risk when there may not be an obvious payoff? It all goes back to the last words of Jesus:

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age" (Matthew 28:16-20).

Jesus has given us each the incredible gift of influence. Our kids want to use their influence to plant Jesus — through their words, their actions, and their guidance — into the hearts of kids who are often wounded, damaged, forgotten, or hurt. This is their place of specific influence — the place they believe Jesus has called them to GO! They plant seeds of grace, trusting that the Lord will water them and they will one day enjoy the fruit of lives transformed by Jesus' love in a place where there will be no parting.

You and I also have a place of influence in the lives of many individuals and the power of incredible influence in the lives of a few persons. It may not be with foster kids, but it is certainly with several "someones" God has designed you to specifically touch!

But here's the truth about Jesus' last words: most of us dismiss them! We do so often for two simple reasons:

  • First, we don't see ourselves as evangelists, so this couldn't be for us. We feel inadequate in witnessing and evangelism, so we don't consider the Great Commission applies to us. We leave it for folks good at evangelism or missions, but surely it is not us.
  • Second, we minimize our influence in the lives of others. We downplay our influence because we doubt. We doubt ourselves because we know our mistakes, our failures, and our inadequacies. We don't feel that important to anyone else. Just like the apostles in the passage above "doubted," we DOUBT. We doubt that Jesus can really use us. We doubt that Jesus will really be with us as we seek to use our influence to help others know him and follow him and "obey" him. Isn't it interesting that we find it amazing that people who saw the resurrected Jesus would doubt (Matthew 28:16), but we fail to live out the call of Jesus and believing his promise to be with us because we doubt (Matthew 28:20).

So as we end our Thanksgiving weekend, I'd like to invite you to join me and let's pause, give thanks, and still the voice of doubt. Let's remind ourselves of the precious gift of influence that Jesus has given us — influence with family, friends, acquaintances, and people we have yet to meet.

Let's give thanks for ...

  • Knowing we are here for a reason, to make an eternal difference in the lives of others.
  • Knowing that Jesus is with us wherever we go and to whomever we go!
  • Knowing that having kids, grandkids, and foster kids, Big Brother Big Sister kids, and children we coach is more than being with kids: each is an opportunity of eternal influence. Each is about doing the work of God in children's lives. Each is about fulfilling the great commission, the last words of Jesus.
  • We often dismiss Jesus words because we doubt!
  • Knowing that the circle of our relationships is not random, but intentional, and we have an important role to play in each person's life ... an indispensable part to play in a few lives!
  • Knowing that when we go on mission trips and make relationships we are there doing the work of God in the lives of people God has chosen for us to touch!
  • Knowing that when we build relationships with the servers at the coffee shop or restaurant we are being given an opportunity to do the work of God in their lives.

I could go on and on about people in carpools, the person you may date, the person you might sit next to in class, the person you friend on Facebook, the person who does your nails or styles your hair or works on your car. And each of these people needs someone just like you to enter his or her life and realize that God has put you there on purpose, so they can know, follow, and obey Jesus.

Don't take my word for it: go back and read  Matthew 28:16-20 and realize that these are Jesus' words and our first priority.

Let's not waste this precious gift of influence!

Previous messages in the series "Last Words and First Priority":

  1. Last Words, First Priority — http://hlt.me/vXaG5O
  2. Beautiful Feet: Go! — http://hlt.me/urX99f
  3. Line in the Sand: Baptize! — http://hlt.me/tgkOK8