Category  |  Serving Others

What We Can Do

Even though confined to his bed, 92-year-old Morrie Boogaart continues to knit hats for the homeless in Michigan. By February 2017, he had reportedly made over 8,000 hats in fifteen years. Instead of focusing on his health or limitations, Mr. Boogaart looks beyond himself and does what he can to place the needs of others above his own. He declared that his work made him feel good and gave him a purpose. “I’m going to do this until I go home to the Lord,” he said. Though most recipients of his hats won’t know his story or how much he sacrificed to create each love cap, Morrie’s simple act of persevering love is now inspiring people across the world.

We too can look past our struggles, place others before ourselves, and imitate our loving and compassionate Savior—Jesus Christ (Philippians 2:1–5). God in the flesh—the King of Kings—took on the “very nature of a servant” in genuine humility (vv. 6–7). Giving His life—the ultimate sacrifice—He took our place on the cross (v. 8). Jesus gave everything for us . . . all for the glory of God the Father (vv. 9–11).

As Christ followers, it’s our privilege to show love and demonstrate concern for others through acts of kindness. Even if we don’t think we have much to offer, we can adopt the attitude of servanthood. We can actively seek opportunities to make a difference in people’s lives by simply doing what we can do.

Unexpected Kindness

My friend was waiting to pay for her groceries when the man in front of her turned around and handed her a voucher for £10 ($14) off her bill. Short on sleep, she burst into tears because of his kind act; then she started laughing at herself for crying. This unexpected kindness touched her heart and gave her hope during a period of exhaustion. She gave thanks to the Lord for His goodness extended to her through another person.

The theme of giving was one the apostle Paul wrote about in his letter to Gentile Christians in Ephesus. He called them to leave their old lives behind and embrace the new, saying that they were saved by grace. Out of this saving grace, he explained, flows our desire to “do good works,” for we have been created in God’s image and are His “handiwork” (2:10). We, like the man at the supermarket, can spread God’s love through our everyday actions.

Of course, we don’t have to give material things to share God’s grace; we can show His love through many other actions. We can take the time to listen to someone when they speak to us. We can ask someone who is serving us how they are. We can stop to help someone in need. As we give to others, we’ll receive joy in return (Acts 20:35).

Bring Your Boats

Hurricane Harvey brought catastrophic flooding to eastern Texas in 2017. The onslaught of rain stranded thousands of people in their homes, unable to escape the floodwaters. In what was dubbed the “Texas Navy,” many private citizens brought boats from other parts of the state and nation to help evacuate stranded people.

The actions of these valiant, generous men and women call to mind the encouragement of Proverbs 3:27, which instructs us to help others whenever we are able. They had the power to act on behalf of those in need by bringing their boats. And so they did. Their actions demonstrate a willingness to use whatever resources they had at their disposal for the benefit of others.

We may not always feel adequate for the task at hand; often we become paralyzed by thinking we don’t have the skills, experience, resources, or time to help others. In such instances, we’re quick to sideline ourselves, discounting what we do have that might be of assistance to someone else. The Texas Navy couldn’t stop the floodwaters from rising, nor could they legislate government aid. But they used what they had within their power—their boats—to come alongside the deep needs of their fellow men. May we all bring our “boats”—whatever they may be—to take the people in our paths to higher ground.

Gleaning the Fields

A Tanzanian friend has a vision for redeeming a piece of desolate land in the capital city of Dodoma. Recognizing the needs of some local widows, Ruth wants to transform these dusty acres into a place to keep chickens and grow crops. Her vision to provide for those in need is rooted in her love for God, and was inspired by her biblical namesake, Ruth.

God’s laws allowed the poor or the foreigner to glean (harvest) from the edges of the fields (Leviticus 19:9–10). Ruth (in the Bible) was a foreigner, and was therefore allowed to work in the fields, gathering food for her and her mother-in-law. Gleaning in Boaz’s field, a close relative, led to Ruth and Naomi ultimately finding a home and protection. Ruth used her ingenuity and effort in the work of the day—gathering food from the edges of the field—and God blessed her.

The passion of my friend Ruth and the dedication of the biblical Ruth stir me to give thanks to God for how He cares for the poor and downtrodden. They inspire me to seek ways to help others in my community and more broadly as a means of expressing my thanks to our giving God. How might you worship God through extending His mercy to others?

When We’re Weary

Sometimes trying to do the right thing can be exhausting. We may wonder, Do my well-intentioned words and actions make any difference at all? I wondered this recently when I sent a prayerfully thought-out email meant to encourage a friend, only to have it met with an angry response. My immediate reaction was a mixture of hurt and anger. How could I be so misunderstood?

Before I responded out of anger, I remembered that we won’t always see the results (or the results we desire) when we tell someone about how Jesus loves them. When we do good things for others hoping to draw them to Him, they may spurn us. Our gentle efforts to prompt someone to right action may be ignored.

Galatians 6 is a good place to turn when we’re discouraged by someone’s response to our sincere efforts. Here the apostle Paul encourages us to consider our motives—to “test our actions”—for what we say and do (vv. 1–4). When we have done so, he encourages us to persevere: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people” (vv. 9–10).

God wants us to continue living for Him, which includes praying for and telling others about Him—“doing good.” He will see to the results.

Serve Continually

When educational psychologist Benjamin Bloom, researching how to develop talent in young people, examined the childhoods of 120 elite performers—athletes, artists, scholars—he found that all of them had one thing in common: they had practiced intensively for long periods of time.

Bloom’s research suggests that growing in any area of our lives requires discipline. In our walk with God, too, cultivating the spiritual discipline of regularly spending time with Him is one way we can grow in our trust in Him.

Daniel is a good example of someone who prioritized a disciplined walk with God. As a young person, Daniel started making careful and wise decisions (1:8). He also was committed to praying regularly, “giving thanks to God” (6:10). His frequent seeking of God resulted in a life in which his faith was easily recognized by those around him. In fact, King Darius described Daniel as “servant of the living God” and twice described him as a person who served God “continually” (Daniel 6:16, 20).

Like Daniel, we desperately need God. How good to know that God works in us so we long to spend time with Him! (Philippians 2:13). So let us come every day before God, trusting that our time with Him will result in a love that will overflow more and more, and a growing knowledge and understanding of our Savior (1:9–11).

The Gift of Time

I headed into the post office in a big hurry. I had a number of things on my “to do” list, but as I entered I was frustrated to find a long line backing up all the way to the door. “Hurry up and wait,” I muttered, glancing at my watch.

My hand was still on the door when an elderly stranger approached me. “I can’t get this copier to work,” he said, pointing to the machine behind us. “It took my money and I don’t know what to do.” Immediately I knew what God wanted me to do. I stepped out of line and was able to fix the problem in ten minutes.

The man thanked me and then left. As I turned to get back in line, it was gone. I walked straight to the service counter.

My experience that day reminds me of Jesus’s words: “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Luke 6:38).

My wait seemed shorter because God interrupted my hurry. By turning my eyes to others’ needs and helping me give of my time, He gave me a gift. It’s a lesson I hope to remember, next time I look at my watch.

The Joy of Giving

It was a dreary week. I had been feeling lethargic and listless, although I couldn’t figure out why.

Near the end of the week, I found out that an aunt had kidney failure. I knew I had to visit her—but to be honest, I felt like postponing the visit. Still, I made my way to her place, where we had dinner, chatted, and prayed together. An hour later, I left her home feeling upbeat for the first time in days. Focusing on someone else rather than myself had somehow improved my mood.

Psychologists have found that the act of giving can produce satisfaction, which comes when the giver sees the recipient’s gratitude. Some experts even believe that humans are wired to be generous!

Perhaps that’s why Paul, when encouraging the church in Thessalonica to build up their faith community, urged them to “help the weak” (1 Thessalonians 5:14). Earlier, he had also cited Jesus’s words, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). While this was said in the context of giving financially, it applies as well to the giving of time and effort.

When we give, we get an insight into how God feels. We understand why He’s so delighted to give us His love, and we share in His joy and the satisfaction of blessing others. I think I’ll be visiting my aunt again soon.

Overcoming Challenges

We gathered monthly to hold one another accountable to our individual goals. My friend Mary wanted to reupholster the seats of her dining room chairs before the year’s end. At our November meeting she wittily reported her progress from October: “It took ten months and two hours to recover my chairs.” After months of not being able to obtain the materials required, or find the quiet hours away from her demanding job and her toddler’s needs, the project took merely two hours of committed work to finish.

The Lord called Nehemiah to a far greater project: to bring restoration to Jerusalem after its walls had lain in ruin for 150 years (Nehemiah 2:3–5, 12). As he led the people in the labor, they experienced mockery, attacks, distraction, and temptation to sin (4:3, 8; 6:10–12). Yet God equipped them to stand firm—resolute in their efforts—completing a daunting task in just fifty-two days.

Overcoming such challenges requires much more than a personal desire or goal; Nehemiah was driven by an understanding that God appointed him to the task. His sense of purpose invigorated the people to follow his leadership despite incredible opposition. When God charges us with a task—whether to repair a relationship or share what He’s done in our lives—He gives us whatever skills and strength are necessary to continue in our effort to do what He’s asked, no matter what challenges come our way.

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