Christ sees people far differently than we do. Throughout the Gospels we see a pattern in the way Jesus taught His disciples. Whenever He saw the multitudes, Jesus would reveal to the disciples what was on His heart for the people. Jesus wanted His disciples to share His love for the people. The disciples did not always understand all He was telling them, but He assured them that later the Holy Spirit would reveal the significance of His words (John 14:25–26). When the multitudes began pressing in on Him, Jesus would get alone with His disciples and teach them about God’s love for people.
You will experience this same pattern as you walk with Jesus. When God places you in a crowd, you may sense the Holy Spirit impressing upon you the heart and mind of God for those people. Perhaps your Lord will lead you to a solitary place where He shares with you His compassion for the people you have been with. He may reveal to you His will for the people and invite you to join Him in His redemptive activity. He may place a burden on your heart to pray for them. If you are among people and are unmoved by their spiritual condition, God may develop your love for them so that you are prepared to minister to them as He desires.
The next time you are in a crowd, listen to what the Holy Spirit is saying. You may discover that God has much on His heart for those people and that He is waiting for one of His disciples to respond to His prompting.
When God places people in your life who are in need, He is aware of what they lack, and He knows He has given you the resources to meet those needs. You know God does nothing by accident. When a need surfaces around you, immediately go to the Father and say, “You put me here for a reason. You knew this was going to happen. What did You intend to do through me that would help this person become closer to You?”
Recognizing a need in someone’s life can be one of the greatest invitations from God you will ever experience. It’s easy to become frustrated by the problems of others. They can overwhelm you as you become aware of need after need. Rather than looking at each new problem as one more drain on your time, energy, or finances, ask God why He placed you in this situation. Allow God to help you see beyond the obvious needs of others to the things He wants to accomplish in their lives. Don’t miss God’s activity because you’re reluctant to carry the load of others.
Is God blessing you materially? It may be He is developing a “supply depot” in your life through which He can provide for others. Has God granted you a strong, healthy family life? It may be that He requires such a home to minister to the hurting families all around you. Has God released you from sinful habits? Has God’s peace comforted you in a time of great sorrow? Has God miraculously provided for your needs? It may be that He has been purposefully building things into your life so that you can now be the kind of person who will carry the burdens of others.
What you value most is your treasure. Where you spend your time and your money is your treasure. Whatever dominates your conversation is what you treasure. What others know you for is a good indication of what your treasure is.
Most Christians are quick to claim that God is their first priority. Yet often their actions reveal that their treasure is not God but things of this world. Some Christians find it difficult to discuss their relationship with God, but they can chatter easily about their family, friends, or hobbies. Some find it impossible to rise early in order to spend time with God, but they willingly get up at dawn to pursue a hobby. Some find it difficult to give an offering to God but readily spend lavishly on recreation. Some boldly approach strangers to sell a product, yet they are painfully timid in telling others about their Savior. Some give hundreds of hours to serve in volunteer organizations but feel they have no time available to serve God.
If you are unsure of where your treasure is, examine where you spend your available time and money. Reflect on what it is you most enjoy thinking about and discussing. Ask your friends to tell you what they think is most important to you. Ask your children to list the things most valuable to you. It may surprise you to know what others consider to be your treasure.
Pride is the great enemy of the Christian. Pride is an overly high opinion of yourself. It motivates you to do things that you know are not Christlike, and it hinders you from doing what brings glory to God. Pride influenced Adam and Eve to try to become like God (Gen. 3:5). Pride motivated Cain to murder his brother (Gen. 4:5). $>Pride provoked Joseph’s brothers to sell him into slavery (Gen. 37:8). Pride caused King Saul to resent David so deeply that he tried to murder him (1 Sam. 18:8). Pride led King Hezekiah to foolishly reveal his nation’s wealth to his enemies (Isa. 39:2). Pride was at the root of the Pharisees’ anger toward Jesus. Pride was the reason the disciples argued over rank in the kingdom (Luke 9:46).
Pride is your relentless enemy. If you succumb to its influence, there will be consequences. You may know that you have offended someone, but pride holds you back from asking forgiveness. You may realize you need to reconcile a broken relationship, but pride will lead you to deny that need. The Spirit may convict you that you are living a sinful lifestyle, but pride will discourage your admitting it. Pride will convince you that you deserve better treatment. Pride will impede your serving others. Instead, pride will have you striving for places of prominence. Pride will have you listen to flatterers and ignore honest counselors. Pride will lead you to isolate yourself so that you are not accountable to others.
Humility, on the other hand, is pleasing to God and places your life in a position where God will honor you. If pride has crept into some areas of your life, ask God to give you victory over it before it robs you of God’s will for you.
There are two ways to look at every situation: How it will affect you, and how it will affect God’s kingdom. The apostle Paul was always concerned with how his circumstances might aid the spreading of the Gospel. When he was unjustly imprisoned, he immediately looked to see how his imprisonment might provide God’s salvation to others (Phil. 1:13; Acts 16:19–34). When he was assailed by an angry mob, he used the opportunity to preach the Gospel (Acts 22:1–21). When Paul’s criminal proceedings took him before the king, his thoughts were on sharing his faith with the king! (Acts 26:1–32). Even when Paul was shipwrecked on an island, he used that opportunity to share the gospel there. Regardless of his circumstance, Paul’s concern was how he could use his current situation to tell others of God’s good news of salvation.
Often when we encounter a new situation, our first thoughts are not about God’s kingdom . When we face a crisis, we can become angry or fearful for our own well-being, rather than looking to see what God intends to do through our circumstances. If we remain self-centered we will miss so much of what God could do through our experiences, both for us and for those around us.
Ask God to make you aware of how He could use your present circumstances to bless others. Perhaps someone around you needs to see the difference Christ’s presence makes in your life. Are you willing for God to use your circumstances to demonstrate His saving power to those around you?
Mercy is a gift. It is undeserved. Punishment and consequences are sin’s just reward, but the merciful person does not demand justice for the guilty person. If it were not for God’s mercy, we all would have faced His terrible judgment long ago. If not for His mercy, He would have condemned us after our first offense. If not for His mercy, He would punish us each time we sin. But rather than letting us bear the full punishment for our sin, God demonstrated His mercy when He paid the penalty for our sin Himself.
Do you find it hard to show mercy? It may be that you do not comprehend the mercy that God has shown to you. Jesus commanded His disciples to extend the same mercy to others that they had received from God. When they considered the incredible, undeserved mercy they had been granted, how could they refuse to extend the same unconditional mercy to others?
Could anyone sin against us to the same degree that we have sinned against God? Could any offense committed against us be as undeserved as the abuse hurled against the sinless Son of God? How quickly we forget the mercy that God graciously bestowed on us, only to focus on the injustices we endure from others!
If you find it difficult to forgive others, you may need to meditate on the mercy of God that prevents you from experiencing God’s justifiable wrath. Scripture describes God as “Ready to pardon, / Gracious and merciful, / Slow to anger, / Abundant in lovingkindness” (Neh. 9:17b).
The measure of greatness in the kingdom of God differs vastly from that of the world. Our society idolizes the rich, the powerful, the beautiful, and the athletic. We even make celebrities out of those who brazenly flaunt their immorality. The world claims it is demeaning to serve others. However, God’s kingdom completely rejects the world’s measure for esteem, giving the greatest honor to the one who serves most. The person who serves selflessly, lovingly, without complaint, and without seeking recognition is highly regarded in the kingdom of God.
When Jesus and His disciples entered the upper room, the disciples looked for a prominent place to sit; Jesus looked for a place to serve. As they awkwardly waited to be served, Jesus took a towel and basin and washed their feet (John 13:1–15). We Christians like to refer to ourselves as servants, but we are seldom content to be treated as servants! We are tempted to adopt the world’s evaluation of importance. But when we look to Jesus as our model, we see that it takes a far more noble character to serve than to be served.
The world will estimate your importance by the number of people serving you. God is more concerned with the number of people you are serving. If you struggle to be a servant, your heart may have shifted away from the heart of God. Ask Jesus to teach you selflessness and to give you the strength to follow His example. Watch for Jesus’ invitation to join Him in serving others. It will come.