Category  |  Serving Others

Sharing More Than Stuff

“But I don’t want to share!” wailed my youngest child, broken-hearted that he would have to part with even one of his many LEGO pieces. I rolled my eyes at his immaturity, but truthfully, this attitude is not limited to children. How much of my own life, and really all of human experience, is marked by a stubborn resistance to freely and generously give to others?

As believers in Jesus, we’re called to share our very lives with one another. Ruth did just that with her mother-in-law, Naomi. As a destitute widow, Naomi had little to offer Ruth. And yet Ruth connected her own life to her mother-in-law’s, vowing that they would press on together and that not even death would separate them.  She said to Naomi, “Your people will be my people and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16). She freely and generously gave to the older woman—showing love and compassion.

While sharing our lives in this way can be difficult, we should remember the fruit of such generosity. Ruth shared her life with Naomi, but later she bore a son, the grandfather of King David. Jesus shared His very life with us, but was then exalted and now reigns at the right hand of the Father in heaven. As we generously share with one another, we can be confident that we will experience greater life still!

Jesus Is Right Behind You

My daughter was ready for school a little earlier than usual, so she asked if we could stop by the coffee shop on our way. I agreed. As we approached the drive-thru lane, I said, “Do you feel like spreading some joy this morning?” She said, “Sure.”

We placed our order, then pulled up to the window where the barista told us what we owed. I said, “We’d like to pay for the young woman’s order behind us too.” My daughter had a huge smile on her face.

In the grand scheme of things, a cup of coffee may not seem like a big deal. Or is it? I wonder, could this be one way we carry out Jesus’s desire for us to care for those He called “the least of these”? (Matthew 25:40). Here’s a thought: How about simply considering the person behind us or next in line a worthy candidate? And then do “whatever”—maybe it’s a cup of coffee, maybe it’s something more, maybe something less. But when Jesus said “whatever you did” (v.40) that gives us a great deal of freedom in serving Him while serving others.

As we drove away we caught the faces of the young woman behind us and the barista as she handed over the coffee. They were both grinning from ear to ear.

Transformed & Transforming

Tani and Modupe grew up in Nigeria and went to the UK to study in the 1970s. Having been personally transformed by God’s grace, they never imagined that they would be used to transform one of the most deprived and segregated communities in England—Anfield in Liverpool. As Drs. Tani and Modupe Omideyi faithfully sought God and served their community, He restored hope to many. They lead a vibrant church and continue to run numerous community projects that have led to the transformation of countless lives.

Manasseh changed his community, first for evil and then for good. Crowned king of Judah at the age of twelve, he led his people astray and they did great evil for many years (2 Chronicles 33:1–9). They paid no attention to God’s warnings and so He allowed Manasseh to be taken prisoner to Babylon (vv. 10–11).

In his distress, the king humbly cried out to God who heard his plea and restored him to his kingdom (vv. 12–13). The now reformed king rebuilt the city walls and got rid of the foreign gods (vv. 14–15). “He restored the altar of the Lord and . . . told Judah to serve the Lord, the God of Israel” (v. 16). As the people observed the radical transformation of Manasseh, so too were they transformed (v. 17).

 As we seek God, may He transform us and so impact our communities through us.

New Year, New Priorities

I’ve always wanted to learn how to play the cello. But I’ve never found the time to enroll in a class. Or, perhaps more accurately, I haven’t made the time for it. I had thought that in heaven I could probably master that instrument. In the meantime, I wanted to focus on using my time in the particular ways God has called me to serve Him now.

Life is short, and we often feel the pressure to make the most of our time on Earth before it slips away. But what does that really mean? 

As King Solomon contemplated the meaning of life, he offered two recommendations. First, we’re to live in the most meaningful way we can, which includes fully enjoying the good things God allows us to experience in life, such as food and drink (Ecclesiastes 9:7), clothing and perfume (v. 8 nlt), marriage (v. 9), and all of God’s good gifts—which might include learning how to play the cello! 

His second recommendation was diligent work (v. 10). Life is full of opportunities, and there is always more work to be done. We’re to take advantage of the opportunities God gives us, seeking His wisdom on how to prioritize work and play in a way that uses our gifting to serve Him.  

Life is a wonderful gift from the Lord. We honor Him when we take pleasure both in His daily blessings and in meaningful service.

Following the Leader

In the sky over our house, three fighter jets scream through the sky—flying in formation so close together they appear to be one. “Wow,” I say to my husband Dan. “Impressive,” he agrees. We live not far from an Air Force Base and it’s not unusual to see such sights.

Every time these jets fly over, however, I have the same question: how can they fly so close together and not lose control? One obvious reason, I learned, is humility. Trusting that the lead pilot is traveling at precisely the correct speed and trajectory, the wing pilots surrender any desire to switch directions or question their leader’s path. Instead, they get in formation and closely follow. The result? A more powerful team.

It’s no different for followers of Christ. Says Jesus: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).  

His path was one of self-denial and suffering, which can be hard to follow. But to be His effective disciples, we too are invited to put aside selfish desires and pick up spiritual burdens daily—serving others first instead of ourselves, for example—as we closely follow Him.

It’s quite a sight, this humbling close walk with God. Following His lead, and staying so close, we can appear with Christ as one. Then others won’t see us, they’ll see Him. There’s a simple word for what that looks like: “Wow!”

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?

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