(December 14, 2021) Robert and Maureen McQuillan share a Christmastime reflection…
Watched yet another great Christmas-centred Hallmark movie the other night in which it was mentioned that one never knows the final effects of a pebble dropped in a pond.
Now there are many variations of how this old saying really goes or what is means… but basically it is saying that one never knows what helping someone achieves, how your attitude of doing something well affects others, even people you’ll never meet. In other words, where the subsequent rippling effect finishes.
We first realised this when ministering in northeast South Australia… enroute to Adelaide, we stayed overnight at a particular motel and in the morning noticed a lake nearby. As we viewed the splendour of the surrounding scenery, I (Robert) casually picked up a pebble and cast it into the very calm water. We were mesmerised as we watched the ripples spread across the lake, realising we’d never see exactly how far they’d go as we couldn’t see the far side of the lake.
The thought came to us that one never knows how something we do, say, or teach has ongoing meaning or results or blessings. Such as a kind word. A treat. Helping hand. Piece of advice. Warning. Blessing and kindness shown… the list goes on.
An incredible pebble
Take that Luke 1:38 ‘pebble’ for example.
Remember how a confused but mesmerised young girl once said, ‘Okay, if that’s how it is, I’ll be a pebble in this large pond – whatever it is all about – and go with flow.’
No, of course that’s not what she said! But the ongoing effects of how she responded are rippling on today… despite the ongoing worldwide pandemic and variations. And many enemies including the big enemy himself, Satan, trying to stop the flow! We just can’t see the ‘other side of the pond.’
We’re taking about that girl’s response to the angel Gabriel who had just assured her that no word from God will ever fail… ‘I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May your word to me be fulfilled.’ The KJV has ‘ servant’ as ‘handmaid’… doulē, meaninga female slave, voluntary or involuntary.
Wow! Anyone else would have been scared ‘out of their wits’ having been told that she, a virgin, would become pregnant by God’s Holy Spirit and would bear a baby who would be called the Son of God (verse 35) but not that young girl, this willing female slave. Puzzled, yes… but voluntarily willing to believe she was hearing God’s plan for her life.
If we dare to call Mary’s willingess a pebble, think of the ripples it made and is still making! Her babe of Bethlehem becoming the most brilliant teacher of scripture and insight into God’s love and ways (Luke 4:22); someone who could heal the sick and work miracles (Mark 2:12) including casting out evil spirits (Mark 9:5); berating Satan who tried to trick him when he was tired and hungry in that lonely desert place (Matthew 4:2-4); have his own disciples who would ask for what was known as a rabbi’s prayer (luke 11:1); as well as hundreds of followers, one such multitude adoring him so much they led him into Jerusaelm proclaiming many a loud ‘Hosanna!’ (Matthew 21:9).
Despite his religious enemies, betrayal, and gruesome agonising crufixion on Calvary’s cross and death, he would rise from the grave, enter heaven to his Father and send the Holy Spirit to fill everyone who received him as the Messiah.
Mary’s pebble ripple effect continued spreading… the church was born and thousands soon accepted him as Saviour. Missionary journeys by Paul and others with the good news – the gospel – was only the beginning of the spread of Christianity across the world. In time we would have home meetings, then mission halls, then churches and cathedrals. And great (genuine) Bible teachers, missionary societies and evangelists.
That ‘pebble’ effect ripples on today!
Some have thought that the early church believed that Jesus would return in their lifetime. ‘But, this argument simply doesn’t hold,’ wrote Professor Michael J. Kruger inhis Canon Fodder article (Did Early Christians Believe Jesus Would Soon Return).
In fact, the early church continued to be about their master’s business, the great commission of Matthew 28:18-20 that Jesus gave his first disciples!
That rippling effect continues today… despite reports of decline in some denominations.
Yes, due to the covid-19 restrictions and lockdown, church attendance has been hampered. What is not being reported is that during these restrictions, troubled individuals have been finding Jesus as Saviour and friend outside of church buildings! Either through their own searchings or through ‘good neighbour’ Christians who took opportunity to bless them and also share their faith.
We had shared with some church leaders last year that like many other ‘new’ aspects of life caused by this pandemic, church too would not be the same. That they’d be finding some of their members not coming back for some time, but on the other hand they’d be discovering new people turning up, some who’d never been to church before. And this has been happening.
Yes, it’s good to have ‘a spiritual home’ but Christianity, as many are realising, is much more that a building with a Sunday service and other meetings! It’s a real lifestyle ‘out there!’
We’re living in days when people, especially Christians, are looking for reality, for truth, not loud music, meaningless worship and hyperfaith! Churches that are attracting followers are those proclaiming the gospel that Jesus Christ is Saviour and Lord and through him a relationship with God is now possible! That despite the changes in our way of living and the ongoing pandemic troubles, God is still in control!
Allow God to build renewed churches his way and see the kingdom of Christ grow in new ways, a new and welcome genuine God-arranged revival!
No cessation of that pebble effect
Despite false predictions, as we’ve often pointed out no one knows exactly when Jesus will return (Matthew 24:26). We just can’t see the other side of the lake of time and life! We don’t know where the rippling effect peters out.
Jesus will definitelyreturn one day. In the meantime, let’s honour that little handmaid who said, ‘I am the Lord’s servant’ – not just at this Christmastime but every ‘whenever/wherever’ the Holy Spirit gives opportunity to share Jesus, to do a good neighbourly deed.
May we be pebble-casters ourselves, willing to be the Lord’s servant wherever, however he desires! Let’s not be concerned about where the ripple ends of the pebble we throw into the pond of life. Or what the Lord requires us to be or do and be fearful.
Mary wasn’t… that young girl moved immediately to be of service to her cousin and then to honour her betrothed. And would be there for her boy, the Son of God, even at Calvary heartbreaking though it would have been (John 19:25), and be in the upper room (Acts 1:14).
She became an effective pebble the day she believed and trusted God. In hurrying off to see Elizabeth (Luke 1:39), God gave her a new song, a confirmation, an assurance… one that she would joyfully sing… her magnificat, that proclamation of divine fulfillment (Luke 1:46-55).
Dr Robert and Maureen McQuillan’s links are OnlinerConnect@gmail.com and Facebook (Scripture/other emphases in this Onliner ours. Appreciated images/pics: various general sources).