Last Thursday I came home after an afternoon spent with other faithful people at our church’s food pantry. That day we handed out a ton (literally) of groceries – canned goods, frozen foods, diapers, soap, shampoo, and fresh produce- to 43 households. Did we change the world? No. Did we save anyone from starvation? No. We just did a little bit of good in Jesus’ Name, as we had the opportunity. As gratifying to me as it is to put a couple of bags of groceries into someone’s car, even more important is looking for a way to encourage with a word, to let that person know ‘you matter to me and to the Lord.’ Our pantry is a ministry, but we do not preach with words, nor do we push the Gospel in people’s faces. We try to live it!
The Word tells us that part of belonging to God, through Jesus Christ, is the responsibility of doing good every day. “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10, NIV) Some of you who are tuned into church debates are ready to argue – “Jerry, sounds like you have sold out to the social gospel.” The truth is that I am committed to the full Gospel, which involves pointing people to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ that changes their eternal destiny and bringing God’s good to the world in which I live by loving, giving, encouraging, feeding the hungry, standing with those who are broken, and resisting injustice. Both are part of our divine commission, dear Christian!
John Wesley taught his ‘methodists’ (those he led in personal spiritual renewal with practical methods 250 years ago) that God desired them to “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”
Jesus says “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16, NIV) Yes, ‘good deeds!’ When we are made new through the Spirit, reconciled to our Father through Christ Jesus, there must be a change in the way we live – selfish to sacrificial, hating to loving, generous, kind, empathetic – GOOD.
In his inaugural speech in 1961, JFK famously said, “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.” In America, the year 2020 has brought us to a time of crisis. Our nation needs people who ask a new question of themselves regarding their faith life in Christ – “Ask not what Jesus can do for you, but what YOU can do for Jesus!” It is so natural, so easy, to slip into a faith practice that creates a zone of comfort, in which we surround ourselves with people of similar interests, and pray only for more blessings. My prayer is that God will burden us, once again, for the world – that we will pray and work for salvation and the Kingdom come. It is often a costly commission but what a rich reward awaits the faithful.
IF you focus only on those things that you think will change the world, it is likely you will do nothing. If you take the opportunities you have, where you are, there will be change that God can bless and use, with results known only in eternity.
A little over twenty years ago, Rich Stearns, a successful business executive with a comfortable life, found himself in a mud hut in Rakai, Uganda. He began some soul-searching as he heard a heartbreaking story of an orphaned child. He left his office at a great corporation to answer the call of God to serve the needs of the world’s poorest people. He wrote a book a decade ago that remains a compelling and engaging presentation of the whole gospel- a world-changing social revolution, a revolution that begins with each one of us. Get a copy of The Hole in Our Gospel. Remember you do not have to go to Uganda to answer the call. Serving in His Name starts in your home, extends to your town, through your community, in your church, and ultimately wherever God, the Spirit, leads.
The word from the Word is an extended passage, Jesus’ commission to the disciples. Spend a few minutes prayerfully with the truth as you begin this week.
“Don’t begin by traveling to some far-off place to convert unbelievers. And don’t try to be dramatic by tackling some public enemy. Go to the lost, confused people right here in the neighborhood. Tell them that the kingdom is here. Bring health to the sick. Raise the dead. Touch the untouchables. Kick out the demons. You have been treated generously, so live generously. “Don’t think you have to put on a fund-raising campaign before you start. You don’t need a lot of equipment. You are the equipment, and all you need to keep that going is three meals a day. Travel light. …
“Don’t be naive. Some people will impugn your motives, others will smear your reputation—just because you believe in me. Don’t be upset when they haul you before the civil authorities. Without knowing it, they’ve done you—and me—a favor, given you a platform for preaching the kingdom news! And don’t worry about what you’ll say or how you’ll say it. The right words will be there; the Spirit of your Father will supply the words. “When people realize it is the living God you are presenting and not some idol that makes them feel good, they are going to turn on you, even people in your own family. There is a great irony here: proclaiming so much love, experiencing so much hate! But don’t quit. Don’t cave in. It is all well worth it in the end. It is not success you are after in such times but survival. Be survivors! Before you’ve run out of options, the Son of Man will have arrived. “
(Matthew 10: 5-10, 17-23, The Message)
So send I you to labor unrewarded
To serve unpaid unloved unsought unknown
To bear rebuke to suffer scorn and scoffing
So send I you to toil for Me alone
So send I you to bind the bruised and broken
O’er wand’ring souls to work to weep to wake
To bear the burdens of a world a weary
So send I you to suffer for My Sake
So send I you to loneliness and longing
With heart ahung’ring for the loved and known
Forsaking home and kindred friend and dear one
So send I you to know My Love alone
So send I you to leave your life’s ambition
To die to dear desire selfwill resign
To labour long and love where men revile you
So send I you to lose your life in Mine
So send I you to hearts made hard by hatred
To eyes made blind because they will not see
To spend tho’ it be blood to spend and spare not
So send I you to taste of Calvary
As the Father hath sent Me so send I you
Margaret Clarkson © 1954 New Spring (Admin. by Brentwood-Benson Music Publishing, Inc.)
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