Union University R.G. Lee Society of Fellows

"Impression or Impact?"
1 Samuel 12-13

by Dr. Dennis Trull
Pastor, First Baptist Church
McKenzie, TN

“If you will fear the Lord and serve Him, and listen to His voice and not rebel against the command of the Lord, then both you and also the king who reigns over you will follow the Lord your God” (I Samuel 12:14).  “But now your kingdom will not endure.  The Lord has sought out for Himself a man after His own heart, and the Lord has appointed him as ruler over His people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you” (I Samuel 13:14).

Several weeks ago, we had revival services at our church.  The preacher began on Sunday morning with a question, which would be his theme for the revival.  The question was: “Do you want to make an impression with your life, or an impact?”  That question  touches every area of our lives. It is searching, pointed, pertinent, and powerful.

One of the real problems of our time is the near celebrity status of many preachers.  On one occasion Thomas K. Beecher substituted for his famous brother Henry Ward Beecher at the Plymouth Church in Brooklyn, New York. Many curiosity seekers had come to hear the renowned Henry Beecher speak.  Therefore, when Thomas Beecher appeared in the pulpit instead, some of the people got up and started for the doors. Sensing that they were disappointed because he was substituting for this brother, Thomas Beecher raised his hand for silence and announced, “All those who came here this morning to worship Henry Ward Beecher may withdraw from the church; all who came to worship God may remain.”[i]

The Beecher Brothers had the right attitude. They weren’t trying to make an impression, but they wanted to be used by God to make an impact.  To seek to make an impression is to make a display. To seek to make an impact is to make a difference. To seek to make an impression centers on people.  To seek to make an impact centers on Christ.  Making an impression is what we do for ourselves.  Making an impact is what we do for others.  Dr. Robert G. Lee said, “All lovers of the game of baseball know of Babe Ruth. Listen to what he said of the service of an aged minister whose name only a few knew: ‘Most of the people who have really counted in my life were not famous. Nobody ever heard of them---except those who knew and loved them.  I knew an old minister once.  His hair was white.  His face shone.  I have written my name on thousands of baseballs in my life. The old minister wrote his on a few simple hearts.  How I envy him!  He was not trying to please himself.  Fame never came to him. I am listed as a famous home-runner. Yet beside that obscure minister, who was so good and so wise, I never got to first base.’”[ii]

Do you want to make an impact with your life? A physicist made this discovery:  When a 240-pound linebacker (capable of running 100 yards in 11 seconds) collides with a 240-pound running back (capable of covering the same distance in 10 seconds), the resultant kinetic energy is enough to move 66,000 pounds-or 33 tons-one inch. You can make a greater impact than that, because what you and I do in the spiritual realm can impact others for all eternity. R.G. Lee said, “When our garments have been moth eaten, when our photograph has faded, when our house has been pulled down, when our grave has sunk as level as the road, our subtle image will remain among men, in blackness or beauty, influencing posterity. Our physical life is a span, our moral life is millennial.”[iii]

Two men in the Old Testament stand as examples for us.  One wanted to make an impression, the other desired to make an impact. Let’s begin with King Saul.  The Israelites wanted a king like other nations around them.  They had God as their King, but they wanted to be like everyone else.  That usually ends up getting you in trouble.  God allowed  them to have their desire,  and Saul was chosen.

The prophet Samuel told Saul  when God chose him to rule over Israel  to meet him at Gilgal.  Saul was to wait seven  days until Samuel arrived, at which time Samuel would offer burnt offerings and sacrifice peace offerings. Saul went to war with the Philistines so he summoned all Israel to meet him at Gilgal so they could gather to fight. However, when the Philistines showed up with 30,000 chariots, 6,000 horsemen, and people as the Bible described “like the sand which is on the seashore in abundance,” the Israelites were terrified and began to hide in caves, thickets, and pits.  Saul then waited the seven days prescribed by Samuel, but Samuel did not show up.  By this time, the people of Israel were scattering from Saul.  So Saul assumed the priestly office and offered the burnt offerings.  When he had finished the offering, guess who showed up? You got it, Samuel. Saul had such potential to impact an entire nation and he squandered the opportunity.

God gave Saul another opportunity to reveal his heart in I Samuel 15:1-3 and 15:7-9.  Saul disobeyed God  and discovered that when he lived in disobedience, even partial disobedience, God could not use his life to impact those around him.  I Samuel 15:24-30 reveals that Saul was concerned only with making an impression.  He was concerned how he would look if Samuel did not accompany him.  Scottish preacher James Denney said, “No man can bear witness to Christ and himself at the same time. No man can at once give the impression that he is clever and that Christ is mighty to save.”[iv]

Making an impact or an impression is a heart issue.  If God has your heart you aren’t seeking to impress others, but you desire for Jesus to impact the world around you through you. Let’s look at Saul’s counterpart, David.  I Samuel 13:14 tells us that God saw in David  the potential  to impact the world. Even before he was declared king, God knew that David’s heart was in tune with His.  Yes, he messed up! Pride reared its head in David’s life at least two memorable  times.  First, when his son Absalom rebelled against him, then returned to him, David would not receive him into his presence.  Second, when David wanted to take a census of the nation. I guess he wanted to see how great he was by the numbers.

He was a man of lust, committing adultery with Bathsheba. He was a man with blood on his hands when he arranged for Bathsheba’s husband Uriah, to be killed in battle. He was a man who resisted the truth, because it was Nathan who confronted David with these sins. But, he was also a man of repentance.  He was a man who loved God, trusted Him, walked with Him, and sought His counsel. And God said, “ David is a man after My own heart who will do all my will.” Obviously, God did not mean every time, but over the scope of his life, David’s heart belonged to God. David was one through whom God could make an impact.

“If you will fear the Lord and serve Him, and listen to His voice and not rebel against the command of the Lord, then both you and also the king who reigns over you will follow the Lord your God.” (I Samuel 12:14)  This verse contains some principles which, if followed, will help you be a person who makes an impact. Let me ask you again, “Do you want to make an impression or an impact?”

1. Fear the Lord.  When we truly acknowledge who God is,  we will fear Him. We will give Him respect, reverence, and know that we are at all times in His presence. We will seek to exalt Him. Our actions will show whether or not we fear Him. That brings us to a second aspect.

2. Serve the Lord.  If we truly fear the Lord, we will serve Him.  We can’t fear Him and seek to impress others at the same time. We can’t serve Him and seek to impress others at the same time. We will impact others when we fear and serve the Lord. He will do that through us. A servant’s responsibility is not to impress his master, but to serve him. His priority is not to impress, but to please and obey. The servant’s impact is felt when he obeys the master.

3.  Listen to God’s voice. This is more than reading and hearing God. This is obedience! Immediate obedience! Vance Havner said, “When I was a boy, my father had a habit of calling me to do things with the summons, ‘Come, right quick!’ I didn’t mind the ‘come,’ but the ‘right quick’ irritated me sometimes. He didn’t mean, ‘Take your time; think it over; come if you feel like it.’  I had the impression that I had better feel like it! Father considered himself to be the head of the house, and the rest of us were inclined to agree with him. The big word with God is ‘now.’ If we are going to get anything done for Him, we had better get at it now.”[v]

Rebellion kills our potential to be used of God to make an impact (1 Samuel 12:14). Saul was full of rebellion therefore God could not and would not use him.  David, on the other hand, feared God and served Him.  He obeyed God’s voice, and God used him mightily to impact an entire nation.

Of course, our perfect example is Jesus Christ. The One who truly can impress chooses rather to make an impact. I John 2:6 says : “The one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.”  If your heart belongs to something or someone other than God, then you will seek to make an impression.  If your heart belongs to God you will seek to make an impact.  The Bible says, “For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His” (2 Chronicles 16:9 NAS).  R.G. Lee said, “Without boasting I can say what Samuel Rutherford once said: ‘Next to loving Christ himself, I love preaching of Christ more than anything in this world.’  If I have poorly preached Christ, it is not because I love him poorly! I love Christ Jesus more than anyone whose name I have ever heard--more than anyone whom I have ever known.”[vi]

Will the world remember that you were in it? That’s really the wrong question. Will the world remember that Jesus was in it because of you?

Written by: Dr. Dennis Trull, Pastor
First Baptist Church
McKenzie, Tennessee 38201



[i]. Cited at <http://www.irsweb.com., number 766.

[ii].Lee, Robert G., Latest of Lee, Le Roi Publishers, Jefferson City, MO.  1973, pp. 39-40.

[iii].Lee, Robert G., A Charge to Keep (Volume 5 in Robert G. Lee Sermonic Library), Christ for the World Publishers, Orlando, Fl.  1959, p. 114.

[iv].Cited at <http://www.irsweb.com., number 1359.

[v].Cited at <http://www.irsweb.com., number 383.

[vi].Lee, Robert G., Payday Everyday, Broadman Press, Nashville, TN, 1974, p.143.



Dennis Trull has been pastor of First Baptist Church in McKenzie, Tennessee since 1997. He holds the bachelors degree from the University of Memphis and the master of divinity and doctor of ministry degrees from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife Suzanne have three children: Brandon, Jordan and Anna.