This Week’s Sermon- Helping Others Reach Their Goals

This Day's Thought from The Ranch


by Eric Elder

As you head into 2014, I’d like to encourage you to consider making one of your goals to help someone else reach one of their goals.  That way if one of you succeeds, you’ll both succeed at the same time!  And you may just help someone do something they never could have done on their own.

About 8 years ago, I came to the realization that my wife had some goals for her life that she may never achieve without some help.  There were 3 in particular I was concerned about:  1) She wanted to go to Africa and help orphans in need.  2) She wanted to go to Israel and walk where Jesus walked.  3) She wanted to make a movie about St. Nicholas to inspire others in their faith at Christmastime.

Lana had talked about wanting to do each of these things from time to time, but was never able to move forward on them.  Raising our kids and helping me reach some of my goals had become her full-time focus.  She was happy to do these things, but I felt that some of her dreams got shelved in the process and I didn’t want her to miss out on anything that she felt called to do herself.

So I began to pray to see if there was anything I could do to help her reach her goals.  And I’m so glad I did.

The Bible says that each of us has different gifts, and we’re to use those gifts for the common good (see 1 Corinthians chapter 12), so God began to show me how I could use my gifts to help her with her goals.

First, I talked to her about her dream of wanting to go to Africa.  I asked if she would want to go on a missions trip if we could find one with a reputable group that we could trust was doing good work there.  She said that would be great.  The very next day, I was in a bookstore looking for a book that I had been waiting to come out for months.  The publisher had contacted me a year earlier to ask if the author might mention one of my stories in his book, but I never knew what he decided to do.

That very next day after talking to Lana about going to Africa, I happened to find the book in the bookstore!  It had just been published and I quickly began to skim through it to see if there was any mention of my story.  There wasn’t!  But I was enthralled by the vision of the author.  After skimming through the first 100 pages, I got to a line that stunned me:  the author said he was trying to recruit thousands of American volunteers to come to Africa the following year!

I bought the book and brought it home to Lana.  I said, “How would you like to go next year?”  Within 24 hours, we had found a reputable group!  She said, “Yes!” and we began to save money and raise money for both of us to go to Africa along with our two oldest kids and one of their friends.

Even though it seemed impossible, a year later, all 5 of us were on the plane and headed to Africa to do what Lana had dreamed of doing for a lifetime.  Here’s a picture of Lana holding one of the orphans there as he slept on her shoulder.

Lana Holding Sleeping Orphan Boy

(There’s a great 5-minute video you can watch about our trip too, if you’d like to watch it at the link below):

Having seen one “impossible” dream come true, the next year I began to pray about her desire to go to Israel.  We decided to put together a study-tour of some of the places she most wanted to visit and invite others who might want to come along with us, too.  We knew it would take a couple of years to save enough money for even one of us to go, but we decided to start making plans.  But before we even began planning, God provided another answer.

A woman who was staying at Clover Ranch for a few months and helping us to renovate it told us she was going to Israel at the end of her stay with us.  She asked Lana if she’d like to come along and be her guest!  Two months later, Lana was walking where Jesus walked!  When she came back, she said she was so inspired by the trip that she wanted us to still plan our own study-tour and bring some of the kids and anyone else who wanted to come along with us.

So we continued planning and saving for our own trip to Israel, and two years later both of us went, along with 4 of our 6 kids and several friends who wanted to join us!  (My 2 younger kids want to go now, so I’m hoping to take another trip over there in the next year or two if you want to join us!  Start planning now!)

Here’s a picture of us in Israel with the hills of Jerusalem in the background.

 Lana and Family in Jerusalem

(You can also still read a devotional book online that we put together when we came back, along with minute-long video devotionals you can watch to see for yourself the places you’re learning about.)

Having seen two of Lana’s dreams come true, I had begun praying about the third: a movie about the life of St. Nicholas to inspire others at Christmastime.  It seemed like a long-shot, but the first two seemed impossible and they came true, so maybe this one could, too!  But I had no idea what I could do to help her.

As I prayed, I read about a project called “National Novel Writing Month” (  It was started by a group of writers who wanted to encourage other writers to “write that novel they’ve always wanted to write.”  It didn’t cost a thing–just a commitment to try to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days and they would walk alongside you and encourage you along the way.

I don’t know how to make a movie, but I do like to write.  So I asked Lana if it would help if I tried to write down some of the highlights of what we had learned about St. Nicholas and put them together in a compelling story of his life.  Then, once we fleshed out the story, maybe we could try to find someone who could help us turn it into a movie.  So we outlined our ideas for a book and I dedicated time each day during the month of November to write a chapter of the story.   I went a little over on the time, going a few days into December, and went a little under on the word-count, writing just 35,000 words instead of 50,000.  But in the end, we felt the book had captured the essence of the story and most importantly what Lana wanted to share.

We still had some changes we wanted to make to the story, so we set the book aside and began to pray about what to do with it next.   One day we were able to get in touch with a Hollywood scriptwriter who said he was interested in the project and wanted to see our book when we had finished it.  Ironically, that was the very same day we got the call that Lana was diagnosed with cancer.  Our life and focus shifted dramatically and as most of you know, by the end of the year, Lana was gone.  But during those final weeks of her battle, she took out the St. Nicholas book again and made her final edits and suggestions, asking me to take it the rest of the way.  So for Christmas this year, I made the changes she suggested and published the book online and got it ready for printing by Christmas Eve.

It makes me cry to think about it, but not just with sadness for missing her.  It makes me cry with thankfulness that God would have prompted me 8 years ago to help Lana fulfill each one of these lifelong dreams.  Had I not followed those promptings, she may never have had a chance to do any of them.

I say all of this to encourage you to consider making one of your goals this year to help someone else reach one of their goals.  Maybe your husband or wife has said something to you over the years about a dream that’s been on their heart.  Or maybe your children or parents have wanted to do something that you think is impossible. Or maybe your friends or family or co-workers have talked with you about something they’ve wanted to do for years, but have never gotten around to doing it. Perhaps the only thing they’re waiting for is you!

The Bible says that God has given each of us different gifts for the common good.  None of us are given all of the gifts, but working together we can accomplish all that God has called us to do.  As the Apostle Paul said to the Corinthians:

“Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.  All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and He gives them to each one, just as He determines” (1 Corinthians 12:8-11).

Paul then goes on to describe people who have all kinds of gifts, but then makes note that no one has all of the gifts:

“And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers,then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?” (1 Corinthians 12:28-29)

We need each other to help us accomplish all that God has put on our hearts to do.  And that means that others need us to help them accomplish what God has put on their hearts to do.

Kent Sanders, a good friend of mine, sent me a small key one day with a thank you note that read:

“I am enclosing a little something as a reminder of the incredible power you have to unlock the God-given potential of others.”

Kent’s note and Lana’s stories reminded me to be on the lookout for ways I can use my gifts to help others accomplish their goals as well.  Perhaps they’ll encourage you to do the same.

Let’s pray:

Father, thank You for giving us a brand-new year with a clean slate and a wide open calendar.  Help us to accomplish all that You’ve put on our hearts to do this year, and help us to be on the lookout for how we can help others accomplish what You’ve put on their hearts as well.   In Jesus’ name, Amen.

P.S.  I’m amazed that so many of you have already posted reviews on Amazon about the St. Nicholas book!  The book now has over 30 4- and 5-star reviews and counting!  If you’ve posted a review but haven’t sent me an email with your name and address, please let me know so I can put a complimentary copy of the book in the mail to you.  For those of you who have sent me their name and address, your books are on the way!

For those who would still like to get a paperback copy of the book, here are three ways to get it:

1) Buy the book directly from Amazon:

OR 2) Make a donation of any size to The Ranch and get the book as our way of saying thanks:

OR 3) Write a review on Amazon and get a copy of the book for free! (Remember to send us your name, address and a link to your review so we’ll know where to send your book!)

St. Nicholas: The Believer, by Eric and Lana Elder

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