Monday, June 2, 2014

Following Directions: Meeting the Needs of Others

by Timothy Howe

Recent posts have dealt with the question of "What did Jesus expect from his followers?" As we have seen, these expectations are not mysterious. Jesus gave clear guidance for those who want to follow after him. The clearest directive from Christ was to love. We know this by the fact that when specifically asked what was the greatest commandment, Christ offered the command to love God and love others. I have spent time with each of these components. Jesus had more to say, though, on what it takes to be a follower. 

Meet the Needs of Others
Jesus explained to His disciples that how they treat other people is very important to Him. He makes this teaching very clear. Feed the hungry, welcome the foreigner, provide clothes for the needy, visit the sick, visit the incarcerated (Matthew 25:31-46). In no uncertain terms, He indicates that one's participation in these action reflects which eternal path one is traveling on. His followers are to be characterized by such actions, those who neglect these actions are not functioning followers. 

We can find the heart of Jesus' teaching on this subject in the Old Testament. God provided many regulations regarding taking care of the poor, the widow, the orphan, and the stranger. Jesus' teaching builds on the Old Testament foundation. He explains that when we minister to these, we are in effect ministering to Him. 

Effective Ministry
Feed the Hungry
Welcome the Foreigner
Provide Clothes for the Needy
Visit the Sick
Visit the Incarcerated
The above list is an excellent checklist for us to evaluating how effective we are in ministry. In using the term "ministry" I am not referring to those who serve in the clergy, but rather I am referring to the work all followers of Jesus are called. Jesus didn't applaud having good intentions towards those in need, he extolled turning intentions into realities. We do that in three ways.

Praying Ministry
The first thing we can do is pray. There are many facets to prayer, too many to cover in detail here. But regarding ministry, prayer accomplishes at least two things. First it puts ministry on our hearts and minds. Our prayers focus our attention on the needs at hand. Our prayer demonstrate what is important to us. Second, prayer turns our attention from what we are capable of accomplishing to what God is capable of accomplishing. Prayer demonstrates our faith. It moves our eyes from our capacity to God's capacity. 

Who are you praying for specifically by name today? 
What ministry are you praying for specifically by name today?

Supporting Ministry
As potent as prayer is, the Lord expressed that more is required of his followers. We are to actively support the causes that make a difference in this world. It is easy to take for granted all the agencies out there meeting the needs of people without realizing that these agencies only exist on the basis of voluntary donations of our resources. We are to employ our financial resources, our energy, our time and our attention to meeting the needs of other people. It is easy to find a ministry that fits your interests and passions. There is a charity for every cause. Get behind one and support it.

What ministry are you supporting with your time?
What ministry are you supporting with you finances?

Doing Ministry
Prayer is important. Support ministry is important. But neither of these actions completes the calling. Christ explained that what we did to the "least of these" equates to ministering to him. We regularly pray and support many ministries. But this does not substitute for actively participating in ministry. Make it a priority to actually engage in helping those in need. 

Where have you gone out of your way to meet needs?
Who are you specifically meeting the needs of today?

Each of us have been called to make a difference. Are you doing your part? What can you write on your calendar right now that will be an activity that will make a difference?