Making a Difference by Fire

Have you ever prayed a prayer like this?

Lord, let me make a difference for you utterly disproportionate to who I am?

That’s the prayer I wrote in the margin of a book last week beside a quote from David Brainerd. Brainerd was a missionary to the New England Indians 200 years ago. He wrote,

Oh, that I might be a flaming fire in the service of the Lord. Here I am, Lord, send me; send me to the ends of the earth…send me from all that is called earthly comfort; send me even to death itself if it be but in Thy service and to promote Thy kingdom.

Brainerd has made a difference for God utterly disproportionate to who he was. He was an obscure missionary in New England. He died at the age of 29. He was not well known. He was extremely vulnerable to depression. But his life has inspired the modern missionary movement perhaps more than the life of any other person in modern times. Why?

He was so aflame for God that Jonathan Edwards felt led by God to put Brainerd’s brief missionary career of five years and his journal into a book. And that book has changed the world. It is amazing what God can do through a short life ablaze for his glory. The impact can be all out of proportion to who a person is.

I hope hundreds of you pray, “O, Lord, let me make a difference for you utterly disproportionate to who I am.” This is a prayer that the so-called nobodies in the world can pray without fear of presumption. The prayer contains a disclaimer: “I am not great. But you, Lord, are very great. And in your astonishing sovereignty you can let my little life make a difference far beyond all my little powers.”

But what is the key to making a difference for God? Is it not flaming zeal for God? Twice God asked Elijah, “What are you doing here?” And he answered both times, “I have been very jealous for the Lord of hosts.” (1 Kings 19:10, 14). Passion for the glory of the Lord is not the prerogative of old or young, intelligent or simple, men or women. It can be the heart of any saint—if we want it enough to seek it.

It comes from prayerful immersion in Scripture. In Luke 24:32 the disciples who had talked with Jesus on the Emmaus road said, “Did not our hears burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” The fire of zeal for the Lord comes from the opening of Scripture in conversation with Jesus (=prayer).

Question: If you do not burn with the zeal you want, are you willing to make some experiments with high-dosage, extended-time Bible opening? Very honestly, there is in my own life a close correspondence between the time and amount of prayerful Bible opening and the depth and strength and warmth of my zeal for God. I am very vulnerable to worldly mindsets without massive doses of God’s Word. One church in Korea expects its members to read 5 chapters of the Bible a day and its pastors to read 20 chapters of the Bible a day. The question is: if you want it, are you willing to make serious experiments?

I am praying that Bethlehem be full of people who burn for the glory of God, and who make a difference for God utterly disproportionate to who they are. Let’s pray it for each other!

Getting near the Fire with you,

Pastor John

©2014 Desiring God Foundation. Used by Permission.

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in its entirety or in unaltered excerpts, as long as you do not charge a fee. For Internet posting, please use only unaltered excerpts (not the content in its entirety) and provide a hyperlink to this page. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Desiring God.

Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By John Piper. ©2014 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org