The world’s problems look so big that sometimes we aretempted to say, What can one insignificant person do to help solve them? This is really a self-centered thing to say. It is not rooted in good theology. Actually there are no insignificant persons. Even though there are billions of people living right now and billions of others who have gone before, each of us still matter to God. If we were the only person who needed Jesus, He still would have died on the cross. I are redeemed by a personalSaviour who does not think we are insignificant.
Jesus taught thousand of people at times, but at other times He had wonderful dialogues with individuals – the woman at the well, Nicodemus, the man born blind, the thief on the cross, and many others. He didn’t just talk with them at one time, He saw them one at a time too. We also have to do this if we’re going to be significant in His service.
There are so many problems in this world that it can be hard to decide which ones to tackle. Here are my criteria:
1. First, let’s consider PROXIMITY. Which problems are closest to me geographically? Which do I have to walk around every day? It is possible to go to a missions seminar and become deeply concerned about people halfway around the world. Then we may leave the church and drive through a needy neighbourhood in our own city, still thinking about these people on the other side of the globe. Such hypocrisy is unacceptable. We must understand that God calls us to minister wherever we are.
The story is told of an evangelist who was serving in a church in one of the big cities. This church, he said, had compassion. They were always witnessing to people in the city slum districts. One day after the service, this evangelist walked out into the street in front of this elegant church and began to share Christ with people right there. After all, they were close to the church. It was their neighbourhood. And even though the people didn’t look like they needed the Lord, they turned out to be as needy as anyone. We should begin to serve right where we are.
2. Another criterion for deciding which problem to tackle is RELATIONSHIP. If we have a relative or a very close friend who has a problem, that’s the place to start helping. As Paulwrote, “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” – 1 Timothy 5:8.
3. Moving out just a little, another criterion is IDENTITY. We can help people best if we can identify with them – people who talk our language, who live in our neighbourhood, who have jobs like ours, who like to talk about the things that interest us. We can tackle problems better with people who understand us. Once sociological barriers come between us and others, it gets harder to minister to them.
4. And finally, we can most effectively minister to people who ESTEEM us. If they respect us, they will listen and they will open up to Christ words. If they don’t already respect us, we will have to earn their esteem before we can effectively minister to them. So if we see problems among people who already hold us in high esteem, we can confidently and more immediately offer our help.
What I’m saying is that we do not need to look halfway around the world to find people to help. We don’t need to seek out strange and exotic people. If we look in our way own neighbourhoods, in our own families, among people very much like we are, who already like and respect us, we can find plenty of opportunity to help. So proximity, relationship, identity, and esteem are good criteria for helping us decide how and where to start changing our world. If God wants us to serve in some more distant place, He will make this very clear to us, but only after we have had compassion for those ills near at hand.
“I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one.” – Ezekiel 22:30
Corruption among the leaders and the people was so widespread in Judah that God could not find even one person (outside of His prophet, Jeremiah, who had desperately tried to warn the people) who was willing to stand against evil and attempt to lead the people back to God. It is a tragedy when God’s people are so caught up in worldliness and spiritual compromise that He can find no one among them to intercede (i.e., to plead a case for others, to pray for their situations and needs) for spiritually lost and rebellious people. Such compassion and selflessness might have built a wall of mercy and protection around the people, shielding them from sure destruction. But no one would “stand in the gap” between God and the people, crying out against sin and leading the way in humble prayer, true repentance and a desperate plea for spiritual revival. Because good people often remain silent because of fear or compromise, they often miss the opportunity to inspire true revival and help people escape God’s judgement.
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