As I mentioned in the last article, we simply cannot get past the fact that Christians were meant to be identified by the way they cared for others. Jesus Himself stressed the importance of this fact (John 13:35). Not only that, but it is also absolutely essential that we develop a heart of selflessness when it comes to others, because our very getting to Heaven depends on what we do for others (Matthew 25:33ff).
If we are to truly become like Christ, we must be humble and unselfish, as He was (Philippians 2:1-8). Jesus thought of others’ needs as being above His own, and we must do the same.
I this article we will examine two biblical examples that demonstrate to us what we need to be willing to give out to those who are in need.
I need to be willing to give out instruction and encouragement— like Job (Job 4:3, 4).
If we are not careful, Christianity can become a very individual pursuit. As a result, we can focus a lot on our own salvation and forget that others are important, becoming spiritual hermits. Yes, it is a good thing to focus on our personal relationship with God—praying and studying His written word—but it can’t stop there.
Job had a great relationship with God. He was called someone who was “perfect and upright” (Job 1:1) – so obviously this is a man whose example we want to follow. Though Job had a great personal relationship with God, he didn’t stop there. Job also cared for the well-being of those who were struggling, and had a reputation for being such a person:
“Behold, you have instructed many, and you have strengthened the weak hands. Your words have upheld him who was stumbling, and you have made firm the feeble knees” (Job 4:3, 4).
It is easy to think that when we have everything right with our personal relationship with God then God is okay with us, but God expects something more. He expects us to be there to carry others’ burdens (cf. Galatians 6:2). It doesn’t matter how strong we are—if nobody else benefits from our knowledge but us, then any strength we have is useless. Those who are strong in the faith have an obligation to look out for those who are weak and struggling and care for their needs (Romans 15:1).
Put God’s Word in your heart, pray for opportunities, and then take them. When we make ourselves ready for opportunities and then ask for them to come, God will give them to us (James 1:5). Opportunities arise every day, but often we are not aware of or ready for them. Put God’s words in your heart, pray to Him, and watch how you are able to face others with courage, conviction, and compassion. You are most useful when you are ready and waiting on the Lord.
Reach out to someone you don’t normally talk to every week. Do something to get in touch with someone—it doesn’t have to be anything earth shattering. Simply write a card, pick up the phone and call, or go out of your way to talk to someone. These little things open doors to get to know people and their needs.
Look for someway each day to be in a brother or sister’s life. The 1st Century church were with each other and encouraging one another daily (Acts 2:46). This is something that I don’t see practiced a lot today, and to be honest I could do a lot better with it. Creating a culture of family is important. Today it is so easy too! We really have no excuse not to communicate with someone every day. We can send a message over Facebook, text, email, visit, or call. Whatever it is, get in touch with a brother or sister every single day. Connect yourself to the body and build relationships. The stronger your relationships with people, the more likely it is that they will confide in you their needs so you can fill them.
Adopt a protege. There is always someone younger than you, whether it be because of age or maturity. Take someone under your wing who could benefit from some good advice. Isn’t this what Titus 2 is all about? My husband testifies often to the fact that he is where he is right now because of men who took the time to mentor him in his younger years—as his Dad left his mum and the faith. Could you be that mentor for someone else?
Always thank the teachers in your life. This is a simple one. Always thank your instructor with a comment that specifically tells them what you liked about their presentation. Make it truthful too—there is (usually) always something good about everything, if you look for it. There are too many people who don’t listen to their teacher and then shake their hand afterwards and have the nerve to say, “Great lesson.” It is so encouraging to have someone really listen. It can be discouraging when you are putting in hard work and no one appreciates it. Work to be an encourager to those who are working.
I need to be willing to give out time, energy and other resources—like the churches of Macedonia and Corinth (2 Corinthians 8:1-14).
There is a great example shown to us in the book of 2 Corinthians:
“We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints—and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us” (2 Corinthians 8:1-5).
Notice that the church at Macedonia gave, even though they were in deep poverty (2 Corinthians 8:1-5). Not only did they have a great attitude, but also because of their amazing example, the church in Corinth was encouraged to give to other brethren’s needs so that there would be equality (vv.13, 14).
It is the selflessness of giving that proves our love to both our brethren and our Lord Jesus Christ (vv.7-9; cf. Matthew 25:33ff).We cannot say we are truly practicing Christianity until we cultivate the level of selflessness that looks out for the needs of others and fills them (James 1:27), despite personal cost.
Yes, this means that sometimes we will have to open our pocket books as well as our hearts.
Visit and spend time with weaker/marginal members of the congregation, with the purpose of finding out what they need (spiritual and physical). Arrange to meet people outside of service times that you wouldn’t normally meet with. There are some people in every congregation that you will find sitting by themselves, shunned by others and rarely invited over for dinner. Make an effort to reach out to these people, and go outside of your peer group and comfort zone to talk to them. How can we know what people need unless we get closer to them? Make an effort to find out what people need, and give it to them (James 2:15, 16).
Really listen to people, don’t just talk to them. Give people your full attention when you talk to them, don’t be looking around for someone else to talk to. Try to talk about what they are interested in and ask questions. Try to find out their struggles and ask yourself how you can meet them. If we want to be more like God, we will listen, because God listens to us (Psalm 34:17).
Build relationships that are giving relationships. Making friends and planning lunch dates with a person whose company is pleasant, disposition is cheerful, and pockets are open is not difficult at all—but it takes maturity and sacrifice to make time for those who can give nothing back by way of either company or resources. Part of pure religion is visiting the needy (James 1:27). The word “visit” in the Greek implies visiting someone for the purpose of seeing how you can fill their needs. Give something to people that the world is not giving them – because the world doesn’t usually care for those who can’t give back. It is important to have relationships that require some give on our part—because to have only mutually beneficial relationships in our lives makes us no different from the world (Luke 6:32-35).
Make sure your giving is a sacrifice, relative to how much you are receiving. You may be giving a lot, but not a lot when it comes to your income—or you may be giving a little that is a lot for you. Jesus taught this principle when He pointed out the widow placing her two mites into the treasury (Mark 12:42-44). The example through the ages has always been that the faithful have given at least 10% of their income (usually more, when you count all the offerings as well as the free will offerings)—under a better covenant, shouldn’t we look to give at least that? I submit to you that it probably should be more—but whether it is or not, the amount needs to be a sacrifice, determined according to what you have been given, and given with joy (2 Corinthians 9:6, 7).
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I had someone tell me once about a time when they were thinking of leaving the church altogether. They were sitting in church thinking this, but when they got up to leave someone came over, smiled and introduced themselves. This man who was thinking of leaving the church is now an elder serving faithfully in the Lord’s church.
Think about it—If something that small can be so encouraging, imagine all the souls you could impact with the small things you do every day! I know that there have been times when I have needed encouragement and something from someone comes along to encourage me at just the right time. Try to be that someone who sends or says that something!
It’s not my money, time, or resources. Everything I have is God’s. I am just a funnel through which God’s blessings flow.
– – – – –In the next part of the series, we will be looking at how we sometimes must be willing to give in to some things in order to save souls.
Others in the Selfless Series:
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