Christians are supposed to be giving people. We need to give to others generously, just as God has lovingly given to us out of the riches of His grace. We have a responsibility to give to the poor, both the believers and the unbelievers. But when it comes to giving to our brothers and sisters in Christ, simply “giving” is not enough: we need to share:
Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. (Romans 12:13).
To me, there is a big difference between giving and sharing. Giving means simply transferring a finite amount of your property over to someone else. But sharing is more than just a financial donation, it is a relationship with another person wherein you feel that they are part of your spiritual family, and any loss on their part is your loss too. Sharing means that you will accept their financial challenges as your own.
Think of it this way. Suppose you are a billionaire Christian who wants to help starving kids in Africa. And so you decide to send some money–maybe 100 million us dollars–overseas to help as many orphans as you can. In the end you may end up helping thousands of kids, but on the other hand, there are thousands of kids that you do not help. This is not sharing. This is giving. It is a good thing, but you are not really “sharing” with every kid in Africa, because if you were sharing with every kid in Africa you would accept their plight as your own. This you are obviously not doing, for there are some kids you decide not to help because of the limits of your resources. You have made a choice how much money to give, and you will give no more, even though you know that there are kids who are dying and starving, kids that could be saved if you gave more money. I am not trying to criticize such a philanthropist, because they have done a lot of good. But the good that they do has limits. In the end they will have to allow some to suffer because they are not God and are not able to help everyone.
Now imagine a different scenario. Suppose that the billionaire in question builds a close relationship with a specific orphanage in Africa and commits himself to meet all their needs, no matter how steep the price tag is. He will not accept anything to happen to them, he will sacrifice what it costs to help them. If they run into trouble and a storm ravages their compound, he will find the money to fix it. If he has no disposable money he will sell some of his own property in order to finance repairs and rebuilding. This is sharing. He is not simply giving in order to achieve a certain quota of goodness, he is giving in order to keep his friends safe at all costs. He will only stop giving to them if he is in a worse financial situation then they are.
Christians are supposed to be giving people. But when it comes to the family of God, we need to be more than just givers, we need to be sharers. We need to accept other Christians’ problems as our own. If we are truly functioning as a family, then everyone’s desperate needs will be met. We may not have enough money to solve hunger or poverty in the entire world, but we can solve poverty within the church.
Giving to our brothers and sisters in Christ, then, is not optional. It is a serious responsibility. It is something that we all fail at, but need to grow in. Let us as Christians work together in love and peace, giving to each other as they have need.
As the Apostle Paul nears the end (relatively speaking) of his great Epistle to the Romans, he focuses on some of the more practical attitudes that Christians must have. The book of Romans is famous for the depth of it’s theology, but there are parts of it that are very down-to-Earth. All true, good, theology must be lived out in sincerity and simplicity. Here are three simple commands Paul gives us of how to live the Christian life.
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. (Romans 12:12)
Christians need to be Joyful in hope. We know that our sins are truly forgiven because Jesus has died for them on the cross, and we know that our future in heaven in perfect communion with God is an assured reality. This is the only thing that gives us real hope in our lives. There are other things that we might enjoy, such as our careers, our families, and our ministries, but these would have no value if they were divorced from a relationship with Christ. Some people say that we should live our lives as if heaven and hell don’t matter. These people are completely wrong. We need to live our lives knowing that God’s promises are sure. Earth was created as a place to train up God’s children for heaven. If there is no heaven, then there is no meaning on Earth.
We should also be patient in affliction. I don’t like affliction, trials, hardships, but I know they are good for me. They produce spiritual maturity. As long as we remain “Joyful in hope,” we should be able to be “patient in affliction,” because the promise of what awaits us is greater than the pain that we presently endure. Here are a few more Bible verses about suffering:
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. (Romans 8:18-21 NIV).
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. (James 1:2-32 NIV).
Finally, Christians are to be faithful in prayer. We need to be faithful in praising God and adoring God in our hearts. We need to be faithful in praying for deliverance from temptations and help in times of difficulty, because we know that we have a God who is powerful and loves us. We also need to be faithful in praying for the needs of others. Do you really think God will be quick to rescue you out of distress if you never spend time in prayer, praying for the distresses of others? Be sure to constantly lift up others of the family of God in prayer in addition to praying for your own needs.
Christians need to be highly-motivated followers of Christ. The Bible says that we must have “zeal” and “spiritual fervor:”
Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor,serving the Lord (Romans 12:11 NIV).
Christians need to keep their lives focused. We should not be living our lives for ourselves, trying to get the “most” out of life from a secular perspective, but rather trying to give the most by “serving the Lord.” This service of the Lord should be done zealously, with excitement in dedication to Jesus Christ.
I think this verse makes it clear that we need to live our Christian lives with passion. But be careful, though, that you do not use this verse as an excuse to go into fits of rage, or anger, or selfishness. Make sure that your passion “for the Lord” is really, truly, for the Lord and not yourself. Some people claim to be passionate about the Lord but they are really passionate about themselves. Some Christians, for example, rant and rage against wicked politicians. They rarely are serving the Lord when they become red hot with anger towards some public figure they have never even met. Other Christians are passionate about their public ministry and thing they are serving God, whereas their actions in their ministry prove that they are really serving themselves. They are not really preaching, leading the music team, or organizing community events in order to do what is best for others, but rather to make a name for themselves, to hold themselves up as an elite Christian respected by all. You must be sure that you are not serving Christ for your own popularity, but rather that you are serving Him because you truly love Him and care for others. Our zeal for serving Christ should always be guided by a genuine desire to honor others above ourselves (Romans 12:10). True passion for others is characterized by self control, patience, endurance (Galatians 5:22-23). It involves controlling our emotions, it does not involve letting our emotions control us.
Pop-culture–especially the music industry–tell us that we need to live our lives for ourselves. Artists tell us that we won’t be happy until we start looking out for number one: ourselves. But the Bible tells us to put others above ourselves:
Be devoted to one another in love.Honor one another above yourselves. (Romans 12:10 NIV)
True love requires us to “Honor one another” above ourselves. This is the only way that we can be “devoted to one another in love.” The love that the world talks about is not really love, it is just lust: lust for sex, lust for attention, lust for excitement. True love involves us caring more about someone else than we do about ourselves, even if they don’t deserve it. Jesus loved us and died for us on the cross while we still hated him. Likewise we need have genuine love and concern for others even if they show no love at all towards us.
Don’t listen to the lies of Hollywood and the music industry that tell you that in order to be happy you must treat everyone else as inferior to yourself. They say that you must ignore other people’s opinion and treat yourself as number one. A famous artist once put it this way:
“Life’s a game, but it ain’t fair, I break the rules so I don’t care.”
What she is saying is that there is no justice in life, and so she treats other people awful so they don’t have a chance to hurt her first.
But she is wrong on two accounts. One, is that there is justice in the world. Yes, life on Earth may not be fair right now, but God will make things right in the end. The same God who created our beautiful world is perfectly capable of judging good and evil in the end.
Secondly, she is lying about her motivation. She is not breaking the rules so she doesn’t care, she is breaking the rules because she doesn’t care. She is part of the problem, not the solution. All of us are selfish, malicious creatures who care about ourselves more than others. But there is hope for us. Jesus died to reconcile us to God. He will save you from your selfish nature if you repent of your sins and believe in Jesus Christ for salvation.
“Love” is always a popular word among believers and non-believers alike. We like to talk about love, we like to tell people we love them, and yet we spend very little time thinking about what true love looks like and how to turn our words into action. The Bible tells us that unhypocritical, sincere love is vital for believers:
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. (Romans 12:9 NIV).
Love is the foundation of the Christian religion. Those who do not love others are not true believers (I John 4:20-21). Our love must be sincere, or it is worthless. We all need to spend time praying to God and meditating on our attitudes towards others to make sure that we truly love others. Love is not an emotion, it is a decision, and we must all decide to love at all times.
In addition to loving others, we need to hate what is evil; cling to what is good. When we say that we hate what is evil, that does not mean that we hate those who do evil. If we did, we ourselves would be hypocrites, because we ourselves have done evil. Rather we love the sinner and hate their sin. That is why we come alongside them and tell them of the good news of God’s grace towards sinners. We must always “cling to what is good”, by encouraging those we love when they do what is right. We must love sinners despite their sin, but we must not endorse their sin.
God has gifted Christians with different gifts with which to serve the church. You may not necessarily have the same gift as your role model or mentor. You need to be humble enough to accept your gift, whatever it is. Here is an example of some of the gifts that God has given people:
We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. (Romans 12:6-8 NIV)
Some people’s gift is to prophesy. Usually we think of a prophet as someone who can see part of the future before it happens, but I don’t think this word applies only to those who see the future; it is probably used more simply of those who have been permitted to see the spiritual truth of a matter when other people can’t. God has revealed to them what will happen in the future (Daniel 8:19), or what course of action God’s people should take (Jeremiah 42:1-22), or who to trust (Acts 9:13-17). You do not have to receive a vision from God in order to be a prophet. Prophets nowadays generally receive God’s revelation through the words of the Bible when the Holy Spirit moves in their hearts to make the meaning of the passages plain for their eyes to see. If you “prophesy” you will be gifted “in accordance with your faith.” You will be useless as a prophet if you do not take God at His word.
Some Christian’s gift is to serve. If this is God’s gift for you, then you had better be constantly serving. Don’t waste your time trying to pursue a more visible task than the one you have been given.
Some people have the gift of encouragement. This is one gift that Christians often overlook and treat as unimportant, but it is very important. Consider whether or not this is your gift. If it is, then make sure that you utilize it properly. If you are an encourager, it is your responsibility to give others the spiritual support they need in order to accomplish their own tasks.
If your gift is giving, then give “generously”. Do not withhold blessing from yourself and from others by not giving willingly and happily what God has given you the ability to give.
If you have been chosen to lead, then do it “diligently”. Laziness or lack of concern cannot be tolerated in leaders, because so many people depend on them. They must be faithful, willing to fight doggedly against all obstacles in order to protect the church from evil.
If your gift is to show mercy, do it “cheerfully.” Do not be like Jonah, who resented being a vehicle of God’s mercy to Ninevah (Jonah 4:1-3). Rather, show mercy to sinners with much joy, knowing that God was merciful to you.
It is important for us to be involved in our local church. Some of us clean the church, some of us participate in the music team, some of us teach Sunday school, some are elders, some are preachers, some are deacons. Some are prayer warriors, some are encouragers, some are counselors. But all of us have a role in the church. All of us have some God given ability to minister to others.
Unfortunately we sometimes interfere with God’s plan by taking ministries on ourselves that we ought not to have. Often times we become jealous of other people’s ministry, so we try to take their job and prove that we are better at it then they are. The Apostle Paul warns us that we need to remain humble about our own role in the church:
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. 4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others (Romans 12:3-5 NIV).
Paul encourages us to think of ourselves as members of a body. The body will only function properly if each part performs it’s own task to benefit the others. Thus, as brothers and sisters in the body of Christ, we must remember that we “do not all have the same function.” We need to be humble in Christ, doing whatever lowly task we have been called to do in order to serve the others in the church. Remember, you are not supposed to be serving yourself in your ministry, but your brothers. You need to lay aside your selfish ambitions about who you want to be, and instead do what your other brothers and sisters in Christ need you to be. Remember, you do not exist to exalt yourself, for indeed, “each member belongs to all the others.” Your responsibility is to serve Christ through serving them.
In my last post I explained how Christians are to find God’s will for their lives. They need to move forward by changing now to conform to the kind of person God wants them to be. This is done by reading the Bible and learning what attitudes and characteristics we are supposed to have today. Then as we get rid of selfishness and pride in our lives God will reveal to us more about what He wants us to do tomorrow. We looked at the following verse for inspiration:
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will (Romans 12:2 NIV).
In this post I want to reflect briefly on the next verse. It gives us a description of what being “transformed by the renewing of your mind” looks like. You must conform to these attitudes if you want to find God’s will for your life:
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you (Romans 12:3 NIV).
The key here is humility. YOU CANNOT FIND GOD’S WILL FOR YOU AS A CHRISTIAN IF YOU ARE NOT HUMBLE. As humans we often have aspirations and goals that are not in line with God’s will for us. We want to be rich or popular, and therefore we are not willing to consider that God may have something other than what we want to do planned for us, something that we think is pure drudgery, beneath our dignity. The problem with you (and me) is that you “think of yourself more highly than you ought.” We need to think of ourselves “with sober judgment” realizing that the great opportunities that God has for us to serve Him and the church may not be the ones that we want to do. For instance, you might want to be the music leader at your church; but it might be God’s will for you to be the janitor. You might want to be rich, someone who has extra money to give to missionaries: God may want you to be poor, so that other Christians can have the joy of giving to your needs. You may want to be a missionary, serving God in an orphanage overseas, God may want you to be a factory working, working extra long hours so that you can give some money to the missionaries. Whatever we want to do, we need to be humble enough to recognize that God might want us to do something else. He may have something totally different planned for us.
This is a lesson we all need to learn. It is something that I fail at greatly. I need to be humble, stop thinking of myself pridefully, and be willing to consider service in the lowest position for God’s kingdom.
Finding out God’s will has always been a popular topic of discussion among Christians. It is a particularly important topic for young people who are moving out of their parents home and starting new lives on their own. How can they know what God wants them to do?
The Apostle Paul answers this question in his epistle to the Romans:
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will (Romans 12:2 NIV).
According to Paul then, the way to find God’s will is to change your life, that is, be transformed away from what is natural for you as a worldly human, and into the pattern of your new nature; the selfless humility that characterizes true believers. The mistake that some young people make when trying to figure out God’s “will” for their lives is that they just sit around and wait for some great revelation. But sitting around and waiting isn’t the answer. You need to be constantly changing to be more like God. All of us conform too much to the pattern of this world. We are self-indulgent hypocrites who lust after popularity and money. Indeed, these things infect our dreams and aspirations. So before God will reveal His will to you, you need to be “transformed by the renewing of your mind.” You need to change.
If think a lot of the problem with us humans, is that we only ask God for advice about the big things in our lives. We tend to be very content and happy with the way we are living our lives on a day-to-day basis, and are resistant to change and reform. But if you want God to show you what he wants you to do tomorrow, you need to begin by focusing on what you should do today. Be willing to rethink everything you are already doing. Ask yourself if you are spending your time and money wisely, if you are really living out Godly principles today. If you answered “no” to this question, then it should be obvious to you why God has not revealed his will for you to follow tomorrow. It’s because you are not interested in following His will today. You need to prepare yourself for tomorrow by submitting and obeying today.