Not long ago I was listening to a podcast of a famous author talking about the Butterfly Effect. In essence, the Butterfly Effect states that a butterfly could flap its wings in Central Park and cause a hurricane on the other side of the world. It sounds a bit crazy, I know, but the emphasis is on the fact that a small, ordinary action can have a huge outcome or result. I’ve heard about the Butterfly Effect several times but, in truth, was always confused by it; but it all started making sense when this author began to relate it to people.
When you look at someone’s life or some huge result that has taken place, where do you give the credit (or blame)? Often we congratulate the individual when in reality, they were greatly influenced by a person earlier on in their life that somehow allowed them to be where they are. But when you take another step back, someone had tremendous influence on that person, and on and on it goes.
Let me give you an example. Soon after I listened to the podcast, I listened to a phenomenal radio drama on the life of John Newton. Many of you may have seen the movie “Amazing Grace” – the epic tale of William Wilberforce who gave his life to abolish the slave trade throughout the British Empire. And as they should, most people credit Wilberforce as the one who changed the course of an entire world in relation to slavery.
Yet, as you go back in Wilberforce’s life, you find a man named John Newton. Newton was a pastor in England after he spent most of his life as captain of a slave ship. He would travel between Africa and places in the British Empire, picking up and delivering slaves. He was a mean-shrewd businessman and did very well as a slave boat captain. One day there was a fierce storm and when he thought all was lost and was about to die, he cried out to God. Someone gave him the classic book entitled The Imitation of Christ which convinced him of the necessity of Christ. He soon gave his life to Jesus and eventually became a pastor who had tremendous influence on England. He wrote the famous hymn “Amazing Grace” and became a friend and mentor to young William Wilberforce. It was in part because of Newton’s influence on young William that Wilberforce lead a lifelong campaign against the slave trade.
But we can go another step backwards. John Newton stated that if it wasn’t for his mother’s example and prayers when he was a child, he never would have sought God later on in life. Though she died when he was young, she continued to have incredible influence in Newton’s life.
So while it may be a stretch to say it, Mrs. Newton (John’s mother) could be credited to ending the slave trade throughout the British Empire. She had influence on her son John who effected Wilberforce who gave his life to the cause of ending slavery. And yet, who knows who had a part in changing Mrs. Newton’s life …
Do you see, dear friend, that one encounter, one influence in another’s life has the possibility of radically changing the world?!?! Who knows who you might encounter today that by investing in them, spending time talking, or sharing the love of Christ with them, might one day change the world.
God wants to use you to create a Butterfly Effect in this world. Are you willing?
Check out Part 2 where we look at how this idea might radically change the way you live.
Question: Who are the people that has had incredible influence in your life? What changed because of how God used them? Answer in the comments below.