Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The best way to help others

In one of C. S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia books, two children are riding horses when Aslan, the lion who represents Christ, leaps on one horse and rips at the back of one of the children. When the other child asks Aslan why he did that, the lion says, “That is her story.”

This directly points to what happened in a conversation with Peter after Jesus rose from the dead. He indicated to Peter that he would be martyred in serving Him. Peter wanted to know about John.

When Peter saw him (John), he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” (John 21:21–22)
Over the years of being a Christian, I have learned to pray more instead of jumping into things that need to be “fixed.” Backing off is a tough lesson, particularly when it involves those close to me. This must be even more difficult for those gifted with compassion (not my strong suit). When others are suffering, we want to bail them out, or at least help them through it. I’m a parent of three adult children and as any parent knows, we must learn to let God do His work without interfering.

I have to trust God with His plans for the lives of others. Sometimes those plans include suffering, just as His plans for my life have included trials and difficulties. If I interfere with God’s plan by jumping in to help without seeking His mind on the matter, I’m apt to hear, “What is that to you? You follow me.”

Some instances, such as spiritual stagnation or being overtaken by a sin often require the people of God to go to the aid of a brother or sister in Christ. Sometimes others are in trouble with money, or illness, or dire need of some kind, but God teaches me to get into His presence and find out the reason for it. If it is none of my business, then I need to at least find out what He wants from me.

The surprise is that very rarely does God ask His people to propose or advise someone else in a direct way. Instead, the Holy Spirit tends to use His people almost unconsciously. That is, when I am rightly related to God and filled with His Spirit, I will be doing and saying things that He can use. Most of the time, I’ve no idea that He is using me. Instead, I’m merely doing whatever the Spirit puts in my heart, living in a joyful freedom of obedience.

Oswald Chambers likens this to the life of a child. A child is seldom self-conscious and making grand plans. Instead, children are abandoned to whatever play absorbs them. I am to be so abandoned to God that the awareness of being used by Him simply is not there. Instead, I am aware of my need of Him and my dependence upon Him. I know that in myself, I can do nothing, yet I know He is with me and I am free to live in His presence.

I’m also conscious of others. However, that awareness is never independent of a right relationship with God. He governs my burdens for them, any understanding of them, and gives a sense of what I must do (or not do) in regard to my relationship with them. Yet all of this is never contrived or planned. Walking with Jesus is about “being” more than doing, about focus rather than strategy, and about faith, not sight. When I am right with God, He can do whatever He wants with me and I will not notice — because my eyes are not on me, and not even on others so much as they are on Jesus.

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Father, You ask me to walk by faith, not by sight. The needs of others can sometimes overwhelm me. I hate to see others struggle and suffer, but at the same time, what do I know about Your plan in their lives? Their struggle might be the very thing You use to bring them into a right relationship with You. How dare I interfere with that!

At the same time, I know that sometimes You may want me to act. My own wisdom and understanding cannot tell when this is Your will either. Whatever is the best course of action always requires being close to You and listening to You. May this be true of my life, for this day, for the days ahead, and for all the needy people that come across my path.

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