Call – Opelika-Auburn News
person can have an extraordinary influence in the lives of others
On May 16, 1700, in the city of Dresden, the wife of
a German nobleman gave birth to a baby boy. The wealthy parents named their boy Nicholas
Ludwig Graf von Zinzendorf. They had no idea that little Nicholas would have an
extraordinary influence in the world. But he did. That baby boy became one of
the most influential Christians of his time.
Converted at age four, young
Nicholas entered into a serious covenant with Christ at an early age. Later,
reflecting on his childhood, Zinzendorf wrote, “At age five I was as sure of my
faith in Jesus as I was sure that I had five fingers on my right hand.” During
his youth he struggled with his mission in life – whether to enter the ministry
or fulfill the expectation that he would become a Count. His struggle ended in
an art gallery in Düsseldorf.
He stood for hours contemplating a
painting of Christ on the cross by gifted artist Domenico Feti. The painting
was titled Ecce Homo, “Behold the
Zinzendorf felt as though Christ was
speaking those words directly to his heart. Stirred deeply, he vowed that day
to devote his life to the service of Christ. He began to work with a group of
Moravians whom he had allowed to live on his land. The Moravians emphasized
personal piety. This contrasted sharply with the state Lutheran Church which
had grown to symbolize a largely intellectual faith centered on belief in
specific doctrines. Zinzendorf believed in "heart religion," a
personal salvation built on the believer’s relationship with Christ.
In 1727 Zinzendorf left public life
and began working zealously with the Moravians. His leadership in Bible studies
led soon to an intense experience of renewal often described as the
"Moravian Pentecost." During a communion service the group felt the
powerful presence of the Holy Spirit uniting them in love for one another. And
it was out of his renewal that the Protestant World Mission Movement was born. Under
the inspired leadership of Zinzendorf the Moravians began sending out
missionaries – first to St. Thomas in the West Indies, then to Africa, America,
Russia, and other parts of the world. By the end of Zinzendorf’s life their
missionaries were at work from Greenland to South Africa, from one end of the
earth to the other.
Zinzendorf visited America where he
worked with German Protestants in Pennsylvania. He is credited with founding
the town of Bethlehem where his daughter organized a school that would become
Moravian College. His desire to evangelize Native Americans led him to visit
several chieftains of Indian tribes.
Methodists like me are greatly
indebted to Count Zinzendorf. He had a profound influence upon John and Charles
Wesley, the founders of Methodism. The Count’s inner peace and calm assurance
inspired the Wesley brothers to trust Christ for salvation and the assurance
they had been seeking.
The Wesleys influenced thousands of
A person’s influence is an
extraordinary thing to consider. Think, for example, about the old painting of
the crucifixion that touched Zinzendorf’s heart in the art museum. The artist,
Domenico Feti, would never have finished the painting without the help of a
nameless little girl.
Three hundred years before
Zinzendorf was born Feti finished the first sketch of the face of Christ. The
story is that he asked the landlady’s little girl to look at his sketch and
tell him what she thought it was. She did and said, “It is a good man.”
Disappointed, the painter destroyed
the sketch and after much prayer started over. Again he asked the little girl
to tell him what she thought about the face he had painted. This time the girl
said it looked like a man who had suffered a lot.
Again Feti destroyed his sketch.
After more prayer he painted the face of Christ a third time. Once more he
asked the girl to tell him who it was. The girl looked at the painting for a
few minutes, and then fell to her knees, saying, “It is the Lord.”
Such a story compels me to remember
never to underestimate the power of a person’s influence. Even the observation
of an unknown little girl made a powerful difference three hundred years later.
Your influence is one of your most
important possessions. Be careful not to waste it. Use it wisely. It can make
an extraordinary difference in the lives of others – perhaps for centuries to
come. + + +