约翰一书 1john 3:17
[1John 3:17] If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person
[约翰一书 3:17] 凡有世上财物的、看见弟兄穷乏、却塞住怜恤的心、爱 神的心怎能存在他里面呢。
It’s been a long road over the past 3 months as the life we knew has been put on long-term hold and a new reality of quarantines, continued outbreaks, and social distancing have become the new normal. This has been a very anxious and confusing time for us all. We had hoped that as soon as Wuhan re-opened, life would return to normal, but that is not the case as the virus continues to spread around China and across the world. As the virus spreads and economies shut down, fear and suffering have increased which results in hopelessness and anger. The idols which people have put their hopes in: family, wealth, career, the pursuit of self-gratification, have failed them leaving a feeling of emptiness, confusion, and despair. More than ever, people need the light and love of Jesus in their lives. God is using this virus to lay bare the hearts of many people who had built their lives on foundations of sand. But, it is not only the lost who are suffering. Our Brothers and sisters all over the world, especially in developing countries, are suffering too with disease, persecution, and food insecurity.
Jesus calls us, “The light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). But are we really being that “city on a hill” that shines out His light and love?
The enemy is very clever at helping us create our own little worlds, and before we know it we are cozy and comfortable in our little bubbles. The problem with being in a bubble is it’s hard to recognize it from the inside. This requires prayer, and sometimes pain, a little prick, that busts it. So, press pause and take a moment to pray. Ask the Lord to reveal the bubble, if it’s there, and pop it! Because if we cannot get outside ourselves we will be like the man who buried the minus in the ground.
If Jesus came to us today, and asked us to sell all we had, give to the poor, and follow Him, what would be our response be? Do we trust Jesus enough to let everything go knowing that He will provide for us? If not, how can we truly be the light of the world? Please don’t think that I have reached this level, these are questions that I struggle with, but let’s decide today to take a positive step in this direction and unlike the rich young ruler, (Luke 19:8) lets follow Zacchaeus’ example. Who upon welcoming Jesus, and seeing how the crowd reacted, gave half his wealth to the poor and promised to repay 4x if he cheated anyone. How joyful at meeting Jesus Zacchaeus must have been that he would just let go of his wealth and the status and influence that came along with it.
For the past two hundred years the Cristian world has been pouring resources and missionaries into China. Even today, many of the resources we enjoy have been donated to us. The hour for this kind of dependency should be coming to an end. Let us stand up with our foreign brothers and sisters and become givers and senders. Let us look beyond our own communities and country and pay it forward.
There are three levels of need that we are called to account for: First are our immediate families, then our local communities, and then the global community. It is this last one which is often neglected that we will focus on today, after all Jesus called us to have a global perspective when in Matthew 28:19-20 he tells us to: “… go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.
We might not believe it or feel it at times, but we are relatively quite wealthy. Rakesh Kochhar, associate director at the Pew Foundation said: “Globally, the majority of people live on about $3 a day” (that’s 21 RMB). So, in light of this fact Paul gives us a warning saying:
“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.” (1 Timothy 6:17–19).
Now at this point it is easy to hesitate at the thought of giving. Afterall we are in a time of global crisis and earthly wisdom encourages us to hold on to every penny because the future appears so uncertain, but Jesus teaches us not to hold on but to hold out our wealth with open hands trusting in our Heavenly Father to provide for us as we are generous with those in need around us and around the world. See how the impoverished church in Corinth reacted upon hearing about an opportunity to serve the saints in Macedonia:
“Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints” (2 Corinthians 8:2-5).
What a supernatural response! Not only were they impoverished they were being persecuted too, but begged for the opportunity to give, and they gave beyond their ability. I can imagine that some probably went hungry for a while so that others in Macedonia could eat. The Corinthians took Jesus’ words to heart when He said:
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21).
This last passage begs the question, are we giving, not only of our financial resources but our time as well, in a way that reflects our belief in Jesus and His words? Or, are we like those in the book of James who say: “… ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (James 2:16-17).
I do not pretend that it is easy to give like the Corinthians did, in fact it is impossible apart of the Holy Spirit. But if we walk by faith and not by sight,(2 Corinthians 5:7) trusting in Him, then all things are possible though Christ who gives us strength. We are not only serving the poor, but Jesus too as we reach out in love to those around the world who are suffering from this pandemic. Remember what Jesus said:
“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?’…"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'” (Matthew 25:35–40)
That last part deserves emphasis: “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” We honor the Lord and serve Him directly when we are proactively generous with others.
Up to this point, I hope that the Holy Spirit has touched your heart with a spirit of generosity, but we are running a marathon not a sprint, and giving is a spiritual discipline that needs to be cultivated throughout one’s life not only in a single act of charity. So, let’s quickly look at a few verses that show us how give.
Paul gives us some insight into how we should give that will help make our charity more sustainable and ultimately bring a greater amount of blessing to those in the world who are in need.
Paul says: “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: “They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.” (2 Corinthians 9:6-9).
Paul goes on to say: “On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.” (1 Corinthians 16:2).
Three simple things I would like to point out: First we ought to be generous with our giving, next we should give with a joyful heart for as Jesus says “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). Finally, we should do it on a regular basis. Paul encourages us to do it weekly. But what about the amount? 10%, 20%, 50%, or even more, the New Testament does not lay down a number like the Old Testament does, but leaves the amount to the individual. As Paul says “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give,” (Mark 12:42-44) but Jesus sitting in the temple seeing the widow put in two copper coins, all she had to live on, praised her over the rich who donated far grater amounts than her. The Pulpit Commentary says this:
“God does not weigh the gift so much as the mind of the giver. That gift is really the greater in his sight, not which is actually of greater value, but which is greater in respect of the giver. Therefore this poor widow, when she gave her copper coins, gave more than they all, because she gave all her living - all, that is, that she had beforehand for that day, trusting that the Lord would give her her bread for that day.”
This is the type of giving that the Lord loves, giving out of faith, even when it hurts, trusting that the Lord will provide. After all, didn’t Jesus say:
“Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? …. So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:25, 31-33).
So, don’t be afraid: “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them” (Hebrews 6:10).
Since we have determined to follow in Jesus’ footstep in our desire to serve the poor, especially those brothers and sisters abroad, who like the widow, have nothing and are trusting that God will provide, let us be His hands and feet. I am sure many of us already have places where we give, and maybe that is something we can share in the group, but just in case some of us are starting at zero let’s give a couple of guide lines that can help in choosing a suitable place to give because all charities do not have the same goals.
Where to give requires prayer as we seek the Lord because He knows how best to utilize our time and resources. After prayer, there are two general ways to give: 1. We go there ourselves usually with the support of others. 2. We give to an organization that already has the infrastructure in place and are already assisting those in need.
Since we are all still under quarantine, we will overlook the first one and quickly focus on the second one. In choosing an organization, looking at Mark 2:1-12 can give us some basic guidance. When the Paralyzed man was lowered from the roof in front of Jesus, he could have immediately healed him, but did not. Rather Jesus forgave his sins. The deeper issue of separation from God, because of our sins, is a more acute illness that is absolutely fatal apart from Jesus. If Jesus had just healed him directly curing his body he would have left in joy, but that joy would soon have faded as the sins of his heart and the brokenness of the world came crashing back in. It was out of the deepest compassion that Jesus first healed the man’s soul then went on to heal his body. Only then could he be truly restored. Like Jesus, we want to seek total restoration. So, as we are praying to the Lord asking how and where we should use the resources He has given us, we should seek a place that promotes total restoration of both the person’s soul and body.
A few weeks ago, as my wife was reading Proverbs chapter 3 to our son. As she was reading, she was convicted by the Holy Spirit that she was not honoring the Lord because she had been stingy with her money. In chapter 3 verse 9 we are told to “Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the first-fruits of all your produce;” So, she went to Samaritan’s Purse a Christian charity lead by Billy Graham’s son to send medical aid, and the Good News to those who were suffering severely in Italy. At first it was not because she had an outflow of compassion for the suffering in Italy that initially compelled her to send, because that crisis felt so distant, but it was out of a desire to honor the Lord. It was only after she had given and seen firsthand the result of her giving and the joy of the patience who had experienced the Lord though the prayers, and care of the doctors, all done in the name of Jesus, that she herself felt concern and compassion for those who had been suffering. As well as encouragement from the testimony of the patience she has served through her giving. As Jesus said: “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”
During this time of global fear and doubt, the Lord is opening the doors of people’s hearts. Idols have been broken, and people are searching for a solid foundation to build their house on. That foundation is Jesus! We have a unique opportunity as a body of believers to shine like stars in the deepening night. To be the hands and feet of Jesus not just in Haidian or China, but the rest of the world. As the fallout of this pandemic continues to spread, let us stand in faith reaching out to those in need. For many the end has come, some are now with Jesus in eternity and others have lost that chance for ever. Let us decide now to: Rescue those being led away to death, and hold back those staggering toward slaughter. (Proverbs 24:11) Let’s get the Good News of Jesus into the hands of the lost, food in their stomachs, and clothes on their backs. We also have the privilege, like the Corinthians, of supporting the global church as the global church has and continues to support us. Let us show our love through action, a sacrifice of self and want, that the Lord’s name may be glorified, as the supernatural agape love of His saints brings healing to the land in Jesus’ name. Amen!
Jesus Calling - by Sarah Young
I LOVE YOU regardless of how well you are performing. Sometimes you feel uneasy, wondering if you are doing enough to be worthy of My Love. No matter how exemplary your behavior, the answer to that question will always be no. Your performance and My Love are totally different issues, which you need to sort out. I love you with an everlasting Love that flows out from eternity without limits or conditions. I have clothed you in My robe of righteousness, and this is an eternal transaction: Nothing and no one can reverse it. Therefore, your accomplishment as a Christian has no bearing on My Love for you. Even your ability to assess how well you are doing on a given day is flawed. Your limited human perspective and the condition of your body, with its mercurial variations, distort your evaluations.
Bring your performance anxiety to Me, and receive in its place My unfailing Love. Try to stay conscious of My loving Presence with you in all that you do, and I will direct your steps.
The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying:
“I have loved you with an everlasting love;
I have drawn you with loving-kindness.”
JEREMIAH 31 : 3
I delight greatly in the LORD;
my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
ISAIAH 61 : 10
Let your face shine on your servant;
save me in your unfailing love.
PSALM 31 : 16
Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love
and his wonderful deeds for men,
PSALM 107 : 8