One Letter Different 

Jeff was one of my favorite speakers to invite to special events for teenagers during the years when I was a youth minister. He always held their attention, and he always had them crying by the end—one of the unspoken standards for success in youth ministry. Our teens loved the drama of Jeff’s testimony and the real transformation they saw in him. Each time he told his story, a handful of them realized they were on the same path of rebellion and made a dramatic turn with their own lives.

But then there were the rest of the kids—regular churchgoers living less than dramatic lives. Many of them had already given their lives to Christ. Most could not identify with the remarkable circumstances of Jeff’s life. When asked to tell about how God was working in their lives, some of them lamented, “I don’t really have a testimony. God hasn’t done much in my life compared to Jeff.” They didn’t realize that they were being daily transformed in little ways, or that it was important to expect God’s help with the smallest things. They were becoming new and different people, but sometimes the alterations were almost too small to see.

In light of the big changes God wanted to make in Abram and Sarai’s lives, the changes in their names seem so small. In fact, it was just one Hebrew letter each. But when God makes changes, the tiniest adjustment can communicate big things for us, our futures, and those whose lives we will impact.

hello-my-name-is Abram and Sarai each received the same letter as an addition to their names. In Hebrew the letter is called “Hey” (similar to our “H”). Abram became Abraham and Sarai became Sarah.

What did the addition of that one letter mean to Abraham and Sarah? It shift- ed the meaning of their names to fit God’s plan for their future. Abram, which means “The Exalted Father,” was now Abraham, which means “The Father of Many Nations.”

The slight alteration in the spelling of Sarai’s name to Sarah changed the meaning from “Little Princess” to an actual royal title. Sarah means “A True Princess,” one who will be the mother of kings and princes.

Hearing their new names spoken by God must have been an awesome moment, one where God painted a clear picture of the future He had in mind for them. That little letter revealed a God who wanted to dwell in their hearts, making His presence as accessible as their next breath, as well as the new life awaiting them—a life that was fruitful and reproductive, infused with hope for a family they had dreamed of and a God who would surround and bless them.

Too often we underestimate the value of small changes God makes in our lives. What looks like one little letter to us meant the world to Abraham and Sarah. Dramatic testimonies are inspiring, but if we miss the small changes God is making, we will miss the big picture He’s painting for a big future. 

For every person with a big testimony, marked with a clear and instantaneous before and after story, I know dozens who can testify to tiny, incremental change. Change like this is almost imperceptible if you try to catch it happening, like trying to watch a tendril of ivy wind its way up a brick wall. Stare at it and it seems never to change. Look at it every few days, or every few weeks, and you’ll see its progress. Check on it once a year and you’ll see it take over the whole wall. I think God designed it this way. He knew we would need constant reminders, repeated help, and consistent attention to our relationship with Him. If everything changed in an instant, we wouldn’t need the help He offers on a daily, hourly, minute-by-minute basis. With His patient attention, though, the changes in us will become apparent over time. Our faith will bloom.

What are some changes you’ve experienced over the years with God’s help—whether small or large? How are you different now than five to ten years ago? 


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