Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Relax: You Are Not What the World Needs

Sometimes looking around at a group of people, each with their own wounds and troubles, is overwhelming. If you have compassion for them and want to ease their burdens, the sheer magnitude of all of their needs combined feels like drowning in the middle of the ocean. You may even feel like there are too many needs to pray for them all.

At one of those moments, this thought comforted me immensely: standing in a room full of people, I remembered that I am there with Jesus. He's looking around at them right alongside of me. It's easy to look at all of those people and feel weak and unequal to meeting their needs - if you're thinking you have to meet those needs yourself. But you're not there alone. If you're in Christ, then wherever you go, Jesus is right there. In fact, it's not just that He's available to help; in truth, He's there to handle it all. You came in with Him. He went in first, and you're just following His lead. What these people need is not your desperate efforts to try to solve as many of their problems as possible before you drop from exhaustion. They need Christ.

If you think of your role in helping people as simply taking orders from Jesus and going to the people He sends you to, it takes enormous pressure off your shoulders. You aren't responsible for that whole group of people. Jesus is in command, standing there directing who goes to care for each need. You just go to the ones He indicates. One person at a time, one need at a time, and all you are doing is taking what Jesus gives you and passing it out.

Isn't this exactly what we see in the feeding of the five thousand by Jesus? Too often we seem to take this example from Scripture as a lesson that says: "You can keep giving as long as there's a need. God can multiply all you have in order to be able to do it all." I think that may be missing the point - or one of the points. There is a lot going on here about Jesus revealing who He is. But for now, just look at who meets the need in this story:
When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick. Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.” (Matthew 14:14-18)

The disciples didn't do anything except bring the simple meal to Jesus. He did all the work. And all the disciples did afterwards was pass out what Jesus had provided.

Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. (Matthew 14:19-20)

We do not meet people's heaviest needs out of what we ourselves possess. We aren't meant to be the solution to people's problems. What we are called to do is to bring the people and their problems to Christ. We take people in need, and we bring them to Christ. We take what Christ gives us, and we go and share it among people.

One of the lessons common in biblical counseling is that the counselor's job is not to be a problem solver. The counselor's job is to get people to God. Their greatest need is not for someone to come in and take a problem and sort it out for them. Their greatest need is for God, and our greatest work of ministry is to bring people to God through Christ so that long after we have turned to another need, they will still be receiving grace and mercy and strength from God directly. We must not shortchange that need by trying to fix them up ourselves. God is the one who solves problems. As Ralph Erskine (Scottish pastor, 1685 –1752) said: "All your work is to put the work in His hand." That will serve them much better than us substituting ourselves for God, trying to take it all on our own shoulders.

Realizing that we aren't the solution to the world's problems should increase our compassion significantly. When loving others and caring for them doesn't mean having to drain yourself dry for endless needs, then you are free to give without hesitation. If all you have to do is bring them to God and take back to them what God provides, then He's carrying the load. You're just helping distribute it. May this kind of grace from our Provider make us bold and confident in going to care for those around us.


Mike h said...

Good words!

Anthony Bushnell said...

Thank you, Mike! I am grateful you found them helpful. Thanks for the encouragement.