Sir Isaac Newton said, ‘If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants’, a phrase which has come to mean “one who discovers by building on previous discoveries”. Yesterday we acknowledged the importance of people in God’s creation and one of the things I soon discovered in my Christian life was the importance of the church. We are not meant to ‘go it alone’ in this faith but are part of a body.

That body is universal (the Apostles’ Creed reminds us that we believe in the ‘holy catholic church’ – see ’Church’ for further thoughts on that) and we can learn from so many others of faith throughout the ages. Today I’d like to pay tribute to the many ‘giants’ who have helped me in my walk with God.

Some of these are famous, well-known, probably people who may also have helped you, for their influence has been great. The ones who have shaped my thinking, my understanding, my beliefs and my spiritual walk are obviously people in the BibleNoah, Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, David, Samuel, Esther, Ruth, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Mary, Timothy and so on.

But there are other people throughout history who have helped me: people like Tyndale, Wyclif, Erasmus, Martin Luther, Julian of Norwich, Blaise Pascal, Cruden and Strong (whose concordances opened up the Bible before ever computers were invented!), John and Charles Wesley, Spurgeon, Florence Nightingale, David Livingstone, Gladys Aylward, Hudson-Taylor, William Wilberforce.

Then there are those more recently whose writings (either in word or song) or whose art have helped me on a daily basis: C.S. Lewis, John Stott, Alister McGrath, Billy Graham, Luis Palau, F.F. Bruce, Dorothy L. Sayers, G. K. Chesterton, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Adrian Plass, Selwyn Hughes, Joyce Huggett, Richard Foster, Frank Peretti, Eugene Peterson, Brennan Manning, Beth Moore, Francis Chan, Charlie Cleverly, Tim La Haye, Timothy Keller, Louie Giglio, J.D. Walt, Gary Collins, Ravi Zacharias, John Piper, N.T. Wright, Phil Vischer, Mike Nawrocki, Hannah Dunnett, Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, Tim Hughes, Jeremy Camp, Michael Card, Michael W. Smith, Phil Keaggy, Wes King, Kristian Stanfill, Kutless, Aaron Shust, John Waller, Graham Kendrick, Chris Bowater, Rich Mullins, Adrian Snell, Aaron Keyes, Robin Mark, Phil Wickham, Casting Crowns, Third Day, Al Gordon, Ben Cantelon, Nikki Fletcher, Reuben Morgan, Brenton Brown, Paul Baloche, Brian Doerksen and Darlene Zschech, to name just a few.

But people who have influenced me can also be found much closer to home. There are the teachers who nurtured talent and encouraged me when I was young: Mrs Simpson, Miss Barron, Miss Shaw, Mrs Ross, Mrs Haigh, Mr Heald, Mrs McGinty, Mrs Larner, Mrs Mirfield, Miss Caswell, Mrs Kent, Miss Hardcastle, Mrs Armitage, Mrs Turner, Denys Potts, Richard Green, to name a few. There are the colleagues I have worked with over the years: Garrie-John, Mark & Angie, Dave, Paul, Ali, Sue, Su, Sue, Paul & Julie, Matthew, Mark, Rachel, Joanne, Mike & Julie, Jayne, Laraine, Sandra, Jane, Jackie, Bethan & Howard, Sarah, Moira, Sarah, Jeff, Andy, John & Jackie, Jacqui, Pat, Gareth. There are friends from my own schooldays and from university, too numerous to mention. There are Christians from all over the world, including Raymond & Jane, Ruth, Beate, Rahel, Jillian, Kate, Helen and Carin. There are also, of course, all those I have served alongside in churches: Steph, Phil & Sharon, Chris & Norman, Doreen & Tony, Dawn, Paul & Dawn, Beryl, Joy, Rick, Shain, Dawn, Richard, Pam, Colin & Glenys, Paul & Lily, Pete & Sue, Paul, Joy, Ellen, Malc & Ella, Dorothy, Connie, Shirley from previous churches and, of course, everyone who is such a vital part of Goldthorpe Pentecostal Community Church (I won’t name you all, but believe me, you are all spiritual giants as far as I am concerned!)

Closer to home are my family: my parents, aunts, husband and son whose commitment to God and to me give me a very strong sense of security and worth.

The thing about spiritual giants, however, is that most of them are unaware that that is how they are viewed by others. Mentoring may be a very ‘in’ concept nowadays (though the principle of getting alongside others and teaching them through doing is as old as the hills…!), but for most of us, we are completely unaware of the influence we have on other people. Even the ‘famous’ people on the list above who are consciously involved in ministering to others have not the faintest idea who I am or how their words and music and art comfort, inspire, nurture and shape my faith. We are all too aware of our own faults, failings and weaknesses to believe that we can ever inspire, teach or have a positive influence on others and yet the individual input of each person I’ve mentioned on my life goes beyond words. Not only do people matter: individuals matter and your input and influence matter.

To the above, I say a very sincere ‘Thank you’ for all the help, inspiration, strength and wisdom you’ve imparted to me over the years. At five foot two, I’m never going to be a giant in the natural sense of the word. But I pray that I may become a spiritual giant through standing on the shoulders of all these other giants.