The other day, I was pulling weeds in my vegetable garden. Fortunately, I found and uprooted most of the “little guys.” But there were some weeds that had been growing a bit longer. They were stubborn and tough. I had to get my fingers right down at their entrance into the earth, take a “death grip,” and pull with my whole body – just to get those “bigger guys” out of my garden! From the roots up, those weeds were supported . . . until my hands came along!
There are two concepts people all over the world cling to: Faith and Family. These ideas mean different things to each person. Yet they are a bedrock for people of any culture. Interestingly, the ideas of Faith and Family are interwoven, and it all starts in the heart of God.
(This is Part 5 in a series on faith. See below for the entire Faith Series articles/podcasts links.)
Does it ever feel like your prayers bounce off the ceiling? There have been times I’ve wondered if my prayers make a difference. It seems everyone goes through experiences when it’s easy to be discouraged. Disappointments and injustices can knock the wind out of you. But little things still matter – like receiving a text, a notecard, a phone call, or even just a hug with the message “I’m praying for you often.” Knowing someone prays for you really helps. And it takes things to a new level to remember – someone prays for you always!
Pretend with me. You are a child. It’s Christmas. The tree is up and decorated. Glow and sparkle fill the room with Christmas magic. Being a curious child, you have already checked out the landscape of presents under the tree. You noted the gifts with your name on them. And – you’ve counted them. Now you wait . . . and wonder . . . and hope! But the pretending stops and you are an adult again. You ask yourself – “are there gifts for me as a grown-up? Is there something special under God’s Great Tree with my name on it?”
You know how it feels to be over your head in responsibilities, stress, or disappointment. Sometimes it’s just tough rising up to keep doing what needs to be done. People depend on you to do your part. And you need others to do their part, too. This is when you care for each other. Through caring, we participate in God’s love for each other. And we encourage one another to each do our part.
There was a man who lived many years ago. Centuries ago. He knew living a good life was critical. So he worked hard to live such a life. Yet, he did not know God personally. It wasn’t until God made the first move to him (God always does) that relationship with God became an option for this man. God reached into his life, his world, His reality and invited him closer. This man believed and responded. Even though he was already living a good life, it wasn’t until he actively believed God that he had the reality of living a holy life. This man decided to reach back to God.
Ways to Help
It’s impossible to live a sinless life, unless your name is Jesus Christ. Remember how easy it is to slip into a wrong response or an old pattern. You’ve been there, and so has everyone else. There are ways to help.
When you see a person caught in sin or paralyzed in a pattern, it’s critical that you respond. You can’t just turn away. However, what you do next, how you think and interact, reveals your character, your maturity, your dependence on God, and your heart. Your best response should be to please God and to help a brother or sister in need. If you want to respond like Jesus, side-step fear and follow these help steps.
Encouragement is always easier to receive than rebuke. Yet, we all need both. Truly we do. Unfortunately, most people put all their energy into defending and protecting themselves instead of opening to whatever truth is being presented. That’s a sign of insecurity, and possibly pride. A secure person who is humble doesn’t worry too much about their defense. Maybe a little. But they rally with courage, receive an honest message, pray through it, filter out whatever is irrelevant, and apply whatever is helpful. It’s as if they are saying, “It is what it is. And that’s OK, because I’m aiming for more of Christ.” They are willing to accept the bottom line: we affect each other.
Most of the time, you are able to distinguish between friend and foe. Sometimes, however, you aren’t so sure. It takes time to figure out people and relationships. So, give your relationships time. Be wise and exercise discernment as you explore the parameters that will define each situation. Meanwhile, however, you can genuinely care about each person in the same way God does. That means caring about their salvation, as well as their physical life.