I remember, as a boy, taking a certain taxicab ride. Another car overtook us and immediately swerved off the road, crashing into a tree. The driver was thrown out on impact. Our driver stopped and I ran towards the man who was crumpled on the grass. But as I ran, fear gripped me and I slowed down, feeling helpless and useless. By then others were on the scene and a doctor took charge of the situation. I never reached the man! Fear paralyzed me into remaining a spectator instead of a participant in that boyhood drama. Years later on the same stretch of road, I was riding home in an old taxi when the steering mechanism broke. We drove off the road and hit a couple trees before coming to rest just before a large canal. We both got out of the car shaken but unhurt. As the driver walked around his car surveying the damage, other cars arrived. I paid the taxi driver my fare and walked the rest of the way home, feeling thankful that I wasn’t hurt and that it wasn’t my car. Later, much later, I asked myself if I shouldn’t have stayed on to help. A mixture of indifference and fear of involvement prevented me from participating, and once again I played spectator to the events. Down through history, all too often believers have preferred the role of spectators rather than participants. But when we look at our own hearts, do we find something even worse – our own lack of involvement? I wonder how often we shy away from helping in our neighbor’s hurts and problems. Do we avoid witnessing and evangelism or are we reluctant to participate in our local church fellowship with the gifts God has given us? Are we simply being spectators?
Three major areas in which God wants us to be involved are: with individual Christians, in our local churches, and with non-Christians. Let’s look at some of the key principles that God wants us to apply in each area.
With Individual Christians
While living in France as a student, one of the things that impressed me most was the hospitality of French believers. They exemplified the Biblical instructions “offer hospitality to one another without grumbling” (1 Pet. 4:9) and “share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality” (Rom. 12:13). These verses not only tell us to show hospitality to fellow believers – but they also tell us how to show it! Are we obeying them?
Jesus told His disciples to “love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. All men will know you are My disciples if you love one another” (Jn. 13:34-35). This love is not the type that goes around saying “I love you, brother,” but it is the sort that shows love through actions! “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth” (1 Jn. 3:18).
In Local Churches
Can you imagine a human body in which only a quarter of the vital organs are functioning? Such a body would be in the last throes of death, or at best paralyzed in bed. God’s Word states that “in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us” (Rom. 12:5-6). And in the parable of the talents (Mt. 25:14-30), Jesus warned us of the severe consequences of not using the gifts He has given us. Unfortunately in the church today many members are vegetating without developing and exercising the gifts God has purposely given them. Are we guilty of doing this? It is easy to criticize the way others are using or not using their gifts, but are we doing the best we can with ours, according to the will of the Lord?
We have many needs in our local churches including well-prepared messages, visitation and pastoring, children and youth work, and encouraging and peacemaking. For each of these needs God has given gifts that must be exercised. Paul said to Timothy, “Do not neglect your gift … Be diligent in these matters, give yourself wholly to them … watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them” (1 Tim. 4:14-16). And let’s not forget Jeremiah’s chilling words: “A curse on him who is lax in doing the LORD’s work” (Jer. 48:10).
“And who is my neighbor?” asked the expert in the Law as he squirmed under Jesus’ answers (Lk. 10:29). Jesus replied with a story about a man, known today as “The Good Samaritan”, who showed practical compassion to a foreigner. We often read the story as an allegory of man’s lost condition and Jesus’ saving grace. While this is a valid illustration, it was not the immediate purpose of the Lord’s reply. He wanted to show the expert in the Law, and us, how to treat our neighbors.
Let’s apply this especially to our non-Christian neighbors: Are we binding up the wounds of those around us? Are our homes open to unbelieving friends? Do we actively seek to befriend our neighbors? In a world that is crying out in loneliness, are we showing Christ’s love in practical ways? It is only as we learn to do these things that real witnessing becomes possible. “You are the light of the world … let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Mt. 5:14-16).
We live in a world which is over-saturated with talk and words through radio, TV, internet, newspapers, magazines, advertisements, leaflets, and more. People are skeptical about what they hear or read, but they are willing to believe what they see in our lives. As we gain credibility through our actions, our words about the Lord Jesus Christ, which are also vital, will take on real meaning. “Go and do likewise,” Jesus told the expert at the conclusion of His story. The Lord’s words are the same for us today.
Perhaps we should end by looking at four popular and worthless excuses that we often use for not participating actively in the areas mentioned. They are:
- Fear and Feelings of Inadequacy: We are afraid to take part in a church meeting or to visit our neighbor – we don’t feel adequate. God commanded Gideon, “Go in the strength you have … Am I not sending you? … I will be with you” (Jud. 6:14-16). We need to rely on His strength and go out in faith.
- Lack of Knowledge and Preparation: While we should give high priority to studying God’s Word so as to be better prepared, we should not let this become an excuse to avoid involvement. “What is that in your hand?” God asked Moses (Ex. 4:2); and then He proceeded to use his staff as a means of deliverance for His people. Likewise God wants to use what is in our hands if we are willing to let Him.
- Too Busy, No Time: Actually we all have exactly the same amount of time – 24 hours per day. When we say we have no time for a particular activity, what we really mean is that we do not consider it important enough to make it a priority. Matthew 6:33 tells us to “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness.” This leaves little doubt as to what God thinks our priorities ought to be.
- Indifference and Laziness: This is perhaps our biggest problem. What is the solution? “Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that One died for all … that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again” (2 Cor. 5:14-16). The more we realize how much our Lord loves us, the more we will be willing to love Him and obey Him in return.
There are key areas in our lives in which our Father wants us to become participants – not merely spectators nor learned critics. It is high time we wake up to this realization. We can never again plead ignorance. “Anyone then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins” (Jas. 4:17). Let us live life to the full, grasping each God-given opportunity to be involved!
By Andrew Nunn
|May I leave with you what I feel is a relevant insight into 2 Timothy 3:16-17? The verse begins by saying, “Every Scripture is divinely inspired, and profitable for” (JND). The omission of any statement about the Scripture being profitable for “knowing” is striking! Obviously it has to be known to be put into use, but its real profitability is in the use. The Lord stresses the importance of doing the truth (Lk. 6:47-49). The Scripture, inspired by God, is “profitable for teaching, for conviction, for correction, for instruction in righteousness that the man of God may be complete, fully fitted to every good work.” Thus for believers, the Scriptures are to be used to encourage good works.
By Alan H. Crosby