Don’t Live to Get Married. Live to Live.

Written by Debra Fileta, USA

Debra Fileta is a professional counselor, national speaker, relationship expert, and author of True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life and Choosing Marriage: Why It Has To Start With We > Me where she writes candidly about love, sex, dating, relationships, and marriage. She’s the creator of True Love Dates, which reaches millions of people with the message that healthy people make healthy relationships.

 

“All I want in life is to get married.” Her eyes welled up with tears as she told me about her one and only desire in life. I had just finished up a speaking engagement, when this 23-year-old woman came up to me to share a little about her journey.

She had been born and raised in a Christian home and from the time she could remember, she had been brought up with the mentality that her sole purpose in life was to find a man and get married. But when things didn’t seem like they were going according to plan, she started to panic.

Hers was one of the many conversations I’ve been having lately about marriage. Not just because I’m married. And not just because I’m a professional counselor who happens to specialize in relationships. But because this year in particular, I’ve been purposeful about gathering many different perspectives about marriage for my new book, Choosing Marriage, coming out this May. It’s a book for both singles and couples, so it’s been a necessary part of the process to “pick the brains” of both crowds as I tackle this important topic.

But something that has caused me take a step back is the realization that we live in a culture that idolizes marriage. We don’t necessarily respect it, but we sure do idolize it.

It’s not that I didn’t recognize this before. Growing up in Christian culture and then topping it off by going to Christian college, dreaming about marriage was commonplace. Some even joked that they went to college just to get their “MRS” Degree. It was the “ultimate goal” of a Christian single. It’s what you lived for. One day, you would get married, and then life would finally begin.

There’s nothing wrong with desiring marriage. In fact, it’s a desire placed in us by God Himself (Mark 10:6-8). I, for one, have been known to encourage men and women to be honest about their desire for marriage and then follow that up by engaging in healthy dating relationships and interactions with the opposite sex.

No, what scares me the most is not our desire for marriage, it’s our expectations of marriage.

 

Expectations Vs. Reality

I believe we put marriage on a pedestal expecting it to do things for us that it just can’t do. In gathering data for my book, I interviewed 1,000 singles and 1,000 married people asking them their perspective on what marriage was like. Needless to say, the results were fascinating. What singles think marriage will be like, compared to what married couples report marriage to be like turned out to be completely different things. In topics of sex, communication, conflict, and intimacy—what singles thought marriage to be like, was very different than what couples reported marriage to actually be like in those particular categories.

And when our expectations of marriage meet the reality of marriage, we end up disappointed. Devastated. Disillusioned. And sometimes, even divorced.

We have a generation of people who are entering marriage with high expectations coupled with low understanding. In fact, over 96 percent of the married people I surveyed reported that they believe singles don’t really know what they’re getting into when it comes to marriage. And who could blame them? It’s something that’s not being taught.

We spend so much time glorifying marriage, yet such little time preparing for it. Such little time getting to know ourselves. Such little time healing from our past. Such little time understanding what we need in a relationship. Such little time differentiating healthy relationships from unhealthy ones. Such little time determining the kind of people who are a good match, and the kind that aren’t. Such little time setting goals. Such little time living life abundantly.

And when the rubber meets the road and reality hits, that very thing that we put on such a high pedestal comes crashing down.

 

Resetting Our Expectations

I believe the first step in preparing for marriage, is getting our expectations right about marriage. Because Jesus doesn’t say that “life abundantly” starts when we get married, He says it starts when we enter relationship with Him (John 10:10). For the believer in Christ, life abundantly is happening right here, right now, in this very moment—no matter what your relationship status. The abundant life is taking place in the interactions we have with the people God has already placed in our lives. The abundant life is learning to share the love of Christ with those in desperate need of receiving it. The abundant life is found in catching a glimpse of our calling and taking steps to fulfill that calling no matter what our relationship status. The abundant life is lived out as we seek to become more like Christ in everything we do.

It’s so important to get this right: marriage may be a beautiful part of your journey, but it’s not your final destination. Not even close. For those of you who are living to find purpose in a relationship, I’m here to tell you that that’s not going to happen.

When we see relationships as the last step on our road of purpose, we find ourselves facing a wall of disappointment with nowhere left to go when we finally arrive. As one young woman put it in an email to me, “I thought marriage could give me all that I was lacking, but when I got there, I realized I was still lacking”. Marriage may be an avenue in fulfilling our purpose, but it is never the final destination.

We need to seek God’s purpose for our lives far beyond finding a spouse, allowing His will and His plans to be the course that guides our lives and influences our direction. Rather than asking what God can do for us, we need to look to Him in seeking what we can do for Him. In this is true purpose.

And who knows? We might just run into a spouse along the way—this I can personally vouch for. But nevertheless, purpose is not dependent on this possibility.

Marriage can give you perspective—but not purpose.

Marriage can bring you a helper—but not healing.

Marriage can offer you comradery—but it can’t complete you.

Only Christ can. And if you can’t find those things standing alone, you certainly won’t find them in marriage either. But for those of you who can grasp these things before marriage, you’ll enter marriage more fulfilled than you could imagine.

And two fulfilled people in a marriage makes for the best kind of marriage.

So don’t live just to get married. Live to live. Live to heal. Live to grow. Live to learn. Live to serve Jesus. Right here, right now, where God has placed you. Because life abundantly doesn’t start once you get married. Life abundantly is happening now. So learn to live life well, and you just never know who you’ll meet along the way.

When You Find Out Your Friend Has A Mental Illness

Written By Karen Kwek

A lifelong scribbler, Karen enjoys the company of friends, a great cup of tea and seeing the gospel transform hearts and lives. She worked as a book editor until she and her husband traded peace and quiet for parenthood. It seemed a good idea at the time.

 

*Simone and I were college-mates at university in England many years ago. Smart and popular, with a sarcastic sense of humor, she seemed to have it all: a strong Christian faith, a close circle of friends, top grades, and a guaranteed place in a prestigious postgraduate music program. As co-chair of our college Outdoor Activities Club, she was always brimming with ambitious ideas for weekend trips to conquer this or that peak, hiking through the forest, long walks along the coast, or summer boating races.

It wasn’t until our third and final year, when Simone and I were sharing a student flat with two English girls, that I started seeing a different side to her. We had always known that she had trouble sleeping, but I usually ran into her only in the dining hall and at club meetings. I had never noticed how tired and withdrawn she could be in private.

One evening, she scared us by locking herself in the bathroom, where we could hear her crying uncontrollably. But from the next day, she seemed to get through the week just fine. It happened a few more times, but as we were all facing final exams and under a great deal of stress, I assumed that was the explanation. I often stayed up late to study with her, and we prayed together whenever she was distressed. On Sunday mornings, we attended church together. We graduated that summer, staying in touch but going separate ways to different postgraduate institutions—she in France, and I in the United States.

Perhaps you may be wondering how Simone’s story is relevant. Maybe you think, as I did then, that nothing in her experience really warranted the label of “mental illness”.

The truth is, mental health issues are far more common than we suppose. In my country (Singapore), a 2010 study revealed that one in every eight people here suffers from mental health conditions. In the United States, that number was one in six in 2016, with the highest prevalence (22.1 percent) among younger adults (aged 18–25). The World Health Organization estimated that in 2017, more than 300 million people, or 4.4 percent of the global population, were suffering from depression.

Apart from depression and anxiety—the most common forms of mental illness worldwide—many also suffer from complex mental conditions including Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and epilepsy.

I am not writing all this from the comprehensive perspective of a healthcare professional, however, but as a flawed fellow believer who has known to some extent the struggle of friends. And as one who has personally lived through periods of depression and anxiety, I can say that there is no “us” and “them”.

All of us will almost certainly face challenges to our mental health during our lifetime; the difference is only in degree. I am deliberately recounting Simone’s story in some depth because she first helped me understand this better and taught me to be a better friend and sister in Christ.

If you have a friend with mental health concerns, here are a few helpful first steps you can take:

 

1. Empathize and encourage him or her to get help if necessary.

Heart palpitations, panic, nausea, vomiting, excessive crying, extreme risk-taking behavior, violence, self-harming—these and other physical symptoms can all be triggered by stress, anxiety, and forms of mental illness.

Your friend may be going through a temporary time of adjustment to a particular loss or trauma, and if so, you being there to talk through his or her feelings may be all that’s needed.

If, however, the problem is more serious or chronic (recurring), suggest seeking help from a pastor, counselor, or doctor. Symptoms that people may be too embarrassed or disturbed to mention include hearing “voices”, hallucinating, even having paranoid, suicidal or murderous thoughts.

Your presence is crucial because there is a social stigma attached to mental illness, even in Christian circles. People fear what we don’t understand, so the mentally ill are usually cut off from the meaningful relationships that “normal” people enjoy at home, at work and in church. They are often ignored or dismissed in jokes, tolerated in embarrassed or exasperated silences, “outsourced” to the care of “experts”, and so on.

So, if your friend has been open with you about his or her mental health issues, please recognize that this is the first sign of him or her placing trust in you. He or she is very likely feeling alone and misunderstood, or has felt that way in the past.

My friend Simone coped with her condition in silence for more than 10 years before the periods of gloom became so intense that she was repeatedly hospitalized for trying to end her life. Her then-boyfriend (now husband), convinced that something was very wrong, took her to seek help. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder only in 2015. The diagnosis helps her family and friends understand a little better what she has been struggling with since adolescence.

 

2. Be informed. Resist “Bible-bashing” and making assumptions about mental conditions.

While Simone has been diagnosed and possibly labeled as a mental health patient by some, to me, she is still Simone. Just Simone, my friend. It means a lot to her that I can see past her illness.

Even though the label doesn’t define your friend, try to understand as much as you can about his or her particular mental health concern, because not all conditions are the same. Ask your friend to describe what he or she faces. Read relevant pamphlets published by institutions that support mental health.

The most destructive myths are that only weak people have mental health issues; that someone can “snap out of it”; that it is a punishment that the person deserves; that someone’s faith is not strong enough; or that truly spiritual Christians will either never suffer from mental illness or will always be cured.

The causes of mental illness are usually a complex interplay of genetic, biological, psychological and environmental factors. In many chronic cases, the triggers are unknown. Physiological symptoms can also occur randomly, as if the body simply disregards instructions from the brain and goes out of control. Be sensitive when sharing Bible verses with your friend, so as not to discourage or hurt someone by implying that he or she is being disobedient or faithless!

Simone suffers from a mood disorder caused by an imbalance of brain chemicals. When she is upbeat, her thoughts are flighty and unrealistic—“disorganized, scattered all over the place”, in her own words. More frequent than those episodes are her lapses into hopelessness. During these periods, she can recall Bible passages about rejoicing in the Lord and finding refuge in Him, but they feel hollow. She cannot feel any positive emotions or muster any prayers except to beg God to end her life because she feels utterly cut off from everything. Panic attacks can also hit her unexpectedly and for no apparent reason. Simone has experienced sudden, paralyzing fear, a racing heartbeat, breathlessness, and crying fits, even in the middle of having a good time with friends.

 

3. Offer companionship and Christian hope.

If you are anything like me, you may hesitate to get too involved in your friend’s suffering—not because you don’t care, but because you worry about messing up. Yet Simone reassures me, “You could never make it worse by showing care.”

Galatians 6:2 tells us to “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” The law of Christ is love for God and love for our neighbors, so we are being told how to love others in concrete terms. The ultimate burden-bearer, of course, is Jesus, who carries our sin and died that we might live (Galatians 2:20).

Simone has been prescribed lithium to balance her brain chemicals, and taught not to allow the negative voices in her mind to overwhelm the truths that she is loved and saved by God. Still, she finds it hard to be sociable when she is depressed, and worries about not meeting other people’s needs or not being able to share our joys.

But when she can receive and accept our company, she finds great encouragement in Christian love, care and community. While Bible-bashing is judgmental and ultimately unloving, the Word of God, shared in a caring context and studied together in Simone’s Bible study group, is her lifeline. It teaches and reminds her that she can look forward to an eternity when she will not only be healed but also made whole.

In fact, the brokenness of Simone’s mind is not so different from the brokenness of spirit common to all us sinners. When she falls into the depths of despair, the hope that sustains me also helps her; it is the certainty of an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade, as it has been won for us by Jesus (1 Peter 3:3-7). How precious is the knowledge that this gift is kept in heaven for us and that God’s power protects us through faith, even if our present grief is great! When Jesus returns, our trust in Him, proved all the stronger for having suffered, will glorify God.

 

4. Look after yourself.

If you are the only person walking this journey with your friend, try asking other trusted friends to walk alongside him or her, too. You need physical rest as well as time to strengthen your own relationship with God. Remember that because your friend’s ultimate hope is in God, your role is to reflect His care and point your friend to Him. Trying to have all the answers or making your friend unhealthily dependent on you will not help in the long run.

 

5. Pray for and pray with your friend.

Simone is sometimes too sad to pray, but she has the Holy Spirit to intercede for her at times like this. Do we pray for God to heal her bipolar disorder? Certainly! However, He has not chosen to do so yet, and we may not understand His reasons in our lifetime. Yet, knowing Christ has given Simone meaning in life, purpose and hope even as she lives with mental illness. With medication and the support of friends, she has been able to return to her job teaching music.

Life remains full of ups and downs for all of us, but ultimately, we are blessed because we can truly say, in the words of 1 Peter 1:3-7:

 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

 

 

*Not her real name. Changed for confidentiality purposes.

How Do We Respond to Same-Sex Attracted Friends?

Written By Ng Chee Boon, Singapore

Ng Chee Boon is a Millennial with a passion to see the Church present good news to same-sex attracted people. He is actively serving in his local church in the areas of community engagement, missions, bible teaching, and youth.

 

My first close encounter with a gay person was back in my pre-university days, when a classmate expressed his feelings for me. I had no idea how to respond except to discourage any further advances (or false hopes) there and then.

Looking back, I realized what a big step it took for my classmate to come out to me—and how inadequate my response was.

Now, many years later, I find myself researching more deeply into Christians’ attitudes towards LGBTQ. This is a pressing issue of our time, and if we follow mainstream and social media reports, we might easily think that the natural Christian response is to frame the LGBTQ issue as a “threat”. That is, to portray the matter primarily as an issue of “marriage and family under attack” (which is indeed an important issue), but sometimes fail to recognize the fact that there are individual lives and hearts involved.

Our biblical convictions compel us to not condone homosexual behavior. But if our focus is on the good news of our Lord Jesus Christ, shouldn’t we first consider how “they” are a mission field—people who need the Lord just like you and me? More than that, have we considered that there are people with same-sex attraction (SSA) who are family—members of the body of Christ? Even in our local church?

Along the way, I’ve been privileged to hear stories of various Christians who experienced SSA. One is a pastor’s kid. Another shared about how he ignored God for many years, but God broke through into his life and moved him to start reading the Bible, break up a long-term relationship, and even attend cell group for the first time.

Two others, a guy and a girl, shared about their struggles with sexuality and how they press on in their walk with God even though they do not feel it safe to share with most people in their church. Another young man talked about his church-hopping as he searched for a place where he could get help. There are many more stories.

My heart is so uplifted by these brothers’ and sisters’ perseverance in the face of challenges. At the same time, however, I am burdened by my belief that the Church can do better—much better—in offering the help, healing, and hope that is available in Christ. I have heard gay men and women complain about being ostracized by churches. Many keep their SSA secret, for fear of how their family and friends will react. I have also seen the anguish of parents whose child came out to them.

What, then, can we the Church do to reach out to those who experience SSA? Here are some pointers which I’ve found useful through my research and my interactions.

Before I continue, let me explain some of my use of terms. First, I use the terms “gay” or “same-sex attracted” somewhat interchangeably, without assuming the extent to which these individuals have acted on their SSA. Second, I am aware that SSA is just one facet of the LGBTQ collective term. While I focus on SSA here, I know that more will have to be said concerning transgender issues and persons.

 

1. Recognize that same-sex attracted people are in the church.

Just because we don’t know of anyone struggling with SSA in our local church doesn’t mean there aren’t any. In my church alone, I personally know two; but the actual number, according to my pastors, is higher.

There are other churches with dozens. I have even heard of one church where almost anyone who experiences SSA will tell their cell leader. They also have staff who are same-sex attracted. What this means for the rest of us is this: Take heed to how we talk about it in our everyday conversations. Let’s be careful not to offend our fellow brothers and sisters through careless remarks we make—whether it’s those that poke fun at those who experience SSA or those that marginalize them—so that we don’t make church an “unsafe” place for them.

 

2. Be clear about the ultimate “why”.

This is a question of purpose—what do I ultimately desire for my same-sex attracted friend, as I do for anyone? I believe it is that he or she may come to Christ, and live life in abundance as members of the kingdom (and the family) of God, as much as possible on this side of eternity.

People who experience SSA, are first of all, persons. They are made in the image of God, and therefore worthy of dignity and respect. We have much to learn about how to better relate to them as persons, and we need to repent of ways in which we have excluded them from the grace and love that is in Christ. Our challenge is to do this while affirming the orthodox view of biblical gender and sexuality, and that we too are sinners saved only by God’s amazing grace.

We need to relate to them and to present Christ to them, not just because there are public laws and social norms at stake, but because they are individuals who need Jesus. We are all sinners, and need to be saved from our idols and our brokenness.

At the same time, we should also note that the rest of the world is watching. How the church speaks and relates to people who experience SSA can play a decisive role in shaping people’s perception of the gospel—especially among Millennials.

 

3. Recognize that SSA is a very personal thing.

One of the biggest mistakes we can make is to treat SSA merely as an issue or a theological problem. The truth, however, is that SSA is a very personal matter for many, whose sexuality may be an important part of their identity. We need to also remember that when people who experience SSA are called upon to follow Jesus, it inevitably comes with costly implications. This calls for a pastoral spirit on the part of the one relating to a person who experiences SSA (or anyone for that matter). This also means that there are no cookie-cutter solutions—we have got to meet each person where he or she is, and learn to understand their life story.

 

4. Help our same-sex attracted friends to feel safe in church.

Until this happens, we will not get to speak to those issues in the person’s life. Let us not single out homosexual sin as if it is the worst of evils. If you are strong on this, be strong too on adultery, divorce, and extramarital sex. Be stronger still on pride, spiritual pride, and idolatry.

Are we doing our part to forge a church culture where people do not pretend to be sorted and well, but where people can be honest and open about their brokenness and vulnerabilities in all their forms? I was challenged when speaking with a pastor in Singapore. After he and his wife decided to become very open—in his words, “verbally naked” about their own sin struggles—quite a few members in his church came out.

For sure, it will take amazing grace to be that kind of church. We will have to overcome the norms of this world and learn to be really open and vulnerable about our brokenness. How can we expect someone to feel safe to come out to us if we ourselves are not honest with our own struggles?

And after a friend has come out on SSA, what next? Will we be willing to walk with that friend or family member, to help him or her stay on a path of spiritual growth? It could well be a difficult and long journey, but perhaps along the way we will discover for ourselves what it really means to be like Jesus.

 

5. Speak the full counsel of God.

My views of homosexuality are not shaped definitively by the so-called “clobber passages” (specific portions of the Bible that talk about homosexuality). These passages are important, but more decisive for me is the warp and woof, the overarching story of God in Scripture.

I am reminded of what English pastor and author Vaughan Roberts, who himself struggles with SSA, said: “Don’t talk about sex without talking about marriage, without talking about creation, without talking about redemption and new creation.” The full counsel of God points to Christ. In Him, all things hold together. So let’s speak in such a way that we are always trying to draw the person’s attention to Jesus.

I think it’s important to keep this in mind because it is so easy to let our identities and our values become centered on things other than Christ. Gender and sexuality are important but they are not the core issues; God is. When our Lord Jesus met the woman at the well, He didn’t start by pinpointing her faults. Rather, He started by offering Himself, the spring of life.

I know of a former gay-activist turned evangelical who devoted his life to ministering to the emotionally and sexually broken in the church. At a leader’s training, he shared about how his sexuality used to take up a large part of his identity. But when Jesus came into his life, the importance of his sexuality gradually shrank relative to Jesus who came to fill up more and more of his self-identity.

 

6. Create a culture that opens the door to a flourishing life in Christ.

There are a good number of same-sex attracted Christians who, based on their conviction of God’s Word, have chosen the path of celibacy. Will they all come to a point where they would seek marriage with a member of the opposite sex? I don’t think so.

If this is true, I hope we can appreciate what these Christians might feel if we keep touting marriage as the highest, most important form of relationship. While we are keen to strengthen the foundations of marriage and family, we need to be sensitive about whether we are inadvertently excluding others. We also need to actively explore other paths by which these Christians can experience deep relationships and intimacy. The same goes for singles and others who for some reason are not married and cannot (or do not) entertain the prospect of marriage.

Can Christians be good friends with others of the same gender without sexualizing it? This is a problem of the world’s culture. Ever since the sexual revolution, we have tended to sexualize everything. But it was not always so, and it need not be so. Dr. Wesley Hill, an American Bible scholar who struggles with SSA and who wrote about it in his moving memoir, Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality, speaks refreshingly and affirmatively of the unique gifts and contributions that same-sex attracted persons can offer to build the church, especially in the recovery of friendship. For someone like Wesley, spiritual friendships* are a critical means for enjoying relational intimacy as a celibate gay Christian. Can church communities provide such depths of friendship so as to enable all persons, whether married or single, to flourish?

 

7. Finally, speak with radical acts of mercy.

Demonstrating love and compassion is not conditional on the recipient’s holiness or level of agreement with you. I think of C. Everett Coop, a former Surgeon-General of the United States. He was unequivocal about his conservative biblical stand on homosexuality, yet he was feted by LGBT people, because he did so much for AIDS education and for AIDS sufferers.

I think of a Canadian friend who serves at the Bissell Centre in Edmonton, Canada, which ministers to the homeless. She told me that a disproportionate number of homeless young people in her community are gays who have been kicked out of their homes. Her ministry reaches out to them without discrimination. Can we hear of such stories among Jesus followers in Singapore?

 

We (myself included) have much to repent of, and much to learn. But let’s start talking about this and strive to be a gospel community, by the amazing grace of God.

 

*For more details, read Wesley’s other book, “Spiritual Friendship: Finding Love in the Church as a Celibate Gay Christian”.

Can I Really Make A Difference?

Written By Tay Boon Jin

 Boon Jin has been a staff with Singapore Youth for Christ for the past 15 years. She now serves in Malaysia—reaching children through the teaching of English.

“50 Inspirational Quotes On Making A Difference”
“Quotes About Making A Difference (153 quotes)”
“The Power of One”

There is no lack of websites that encourage people to make a difference. One of the most common quotes which often pops up comes from the 35th President of the United States, John F. Kennedy, who said, “One person can make a difference, and everyone should try.”

Although most of these quotes are not given in context, it is not difficult to guess what they’re pointing towards. Poverty, war, crime, discrimination, and abuse of our environment are but some of the perennial issues we often read about in the news.

We sense the urgent need for a cure to the issues plaguing us. Yet, the problems our society face seem too big and complex, the resources needed to solve the problems too immense. “Can I make a difference?” becomes empty rhetoric and unachievable.

Of course, we’ve read of how some people made a huge impact individually. However, we may struggle to believe that what they achieve is actually attainable for us, too.

 

 The Root of the Problem

If we view the world from the big picture that God Himself has painted for us, we cannot but be persuaded that the root of all our problems is our sin. Thus, in some sense, there’s nothing that anyone can do that can make a real and permanent difference. The fallen state of our world makes human effort futile; the permeating effects of sins cannot be undone. In fact, each of us as a sinner contributes to the problem, in both large and small ways.

But God gave the solution to the world’s problem: the Lord Jesus Christ. He so loved the world that He sent His Son, who came in a humiliating fashion to take our punishment for us (John 3:16). If God holds the solution, perhaps the only difference we can truly make is to point someone to the solution by the word we preach and by the way we live.

When God makes us right and brings us back to Him, our perspective of the earthly life will change. A man may remain poor, but he no longer measures his worth by his wealth (or lack of it). A man may live in a war zone, but he trusts God for the peace in his heart.

 

Having the Right Motivation

That said, this does not change the fact that the social problems we face are tangible and affect us at every level. Neither does it mean that Christians should avoid all form of social good and humanitarian work. But perhaps we need to re-examine our motivations.

Jesus told this lesson in Matthew 25:31-40: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”

In this passage, our Lord Jesus illustrates how a follower of His ought to respond to the needs in this world—by helping out in a very practical and tangible way. But Jesus doesn’t say this because He wants His disciples to change the world. Instead, the reason He gives for us to serve others, even the “least” of all, is this: By doing so, we are serving Jesus Himself. That should and must be our motivation as we go about doing social good. We are to live Christ-centered lives so that the world will be attracted to Jesus.

As we look at great men of faith who have gone before us, we see countless servants of God who have left their homes to sow the gospel seed in foreign lands. They did not go because they thought they could change the world; they went because God called. Some did not live to see the fruit of their labor; in fact, some gave their lives that the fruit may be borne.

In my recent phase of life, God has given me opportunities to minister to a poor community in another country. My initial encounter with this community got me thinking hard about how to meet their needs. Some of the ideas that sprang to mind included ways to alleviate poverty, put all the children through school and keep them there, guide the youths to find a clear and good purpose in life, and even provide employment for the adults. These were all good goals, but I soon realized that they were beyond my means. It was discouraging to know that I could not provide the help that they needed.

It was then that I was reminded of Jesus’ words that the smallest effort to the least is by no means insignificant. I began to look at how I could help the individual: provide socks and shoes when a kid went to school in slippers, provide a month’s breakfast when a kid stopped going to school because he had no food to sustain him through the morning’s learning, provide information to unemployed parents whenever I knew of factories that had job vacancies.

As each of these recipients thanked me for relieving them of their worries and needs at those points, it gave me opportunities to testify to them that God was the one who had provided. Some of them even thanked God with me.

So let’s continue to labor on in helping others practically and spiritually. Let’s take heart that God will bring about this great work of sanctifying His people to live lives that glorify Him. And ultimately, let’s be encouraged that God will bring about perfection in the world when Christ comes again!