Better Than You Can Imagine
Someone Has a Need Only You Can Meet
God doesn’t see the world first of all in terms of need. He sees it in terms of abundance, overflow, joy, and love.
You yourselves know, dear brothers and sisters, that our visit to you was not a failure. You know how badly we had been treated at Philippi just before we came to you and how much we suffered there. Yet our God gave us the courage to declare his Good News to you boldly, inspite of great opposition. So you can see we were not preaching with any deceit or impure motives or trickery.… As apostles of Christ we certainly had a right to make some demands of you, but instead we were like children among you. Or we were like a mother feeding and caring for her own children. We loved you so much that we shared with you not only God’s Good News but our own lives, too. (1 Thess. 2:1–3, 7–8)
Don’t you remember, dear brothers and sisters, how hard we worked among you? Night and day we toiled to earn a living so that we would not be a burden to any of you as we preached God’s Good News to you. You yourselves are our witnesses— and so is God—that we were devout and honest and faultless toward all of you believers. And you know that we treated each of you as a father treats his own children. We pleaded with you, encouraged you, and urged you to live your lives in a way that God would consider worthy. For he called you to share in his Kingdom and glory. (1 Thess. 2:9–12)
Joy doesn’t come from a guilt trip, it comes from a relationship with God overflowing into relationships with people.
Paul’s point is that his love for the people motivated him far beyond what was technically required of him.
After all, what gives us hope and joy, and what will be our proud reward and crown as we stand before our Lord Jesus when he returns? It is you! Yes, you are our pride and joy” (1 Thess. 2:19–20)
For Paul, the people God had called him to serve weren’t a burden; they were one of his greatest sources of happiness and satisfaction.
Do you feel the type of joy Paul felt when you are using your life gift to serve others and your clients?
The same God who gives you gifts also creates needs for you to fill. Like a lock and a key, they go together. God has given you a little less and given someone else a little more, so that they can meet your need. One student is better at math and another at writing, and they can tutor one another. One worker is better at laying a foundation and another at putting on a roof, and together they can build a better house.
Why does God do it that way? Why not just give to everyone the same?
An old tale…A man asks the difference between heaven and hell. He is taken first to hell, where he sees people sitting at a banquet table, surrounded by the most delicious food imaginable. However, the only way they can eat is with the spoons provided, and the spoons are so long they cannot hold them and still reach their own mouths. The people struggle forever to feed themselves. They are unable to enjoy the blessings right in front of them. Then the man is taken to heaven, where he sees the same banquet table, the same delicious food, and the same long spoons. The only difference is, in heaven each person is taking the long spoon and feeding the person across the table.
What did you get from tale?
The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ.… Our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it.… The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.” … This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad. (1 Cor. 12:12, 18, 21, 25–26)
You see, it’s not enough for each part to have something to give. The body must also be arranged so that each part has a need. When the gifts are perfectly matched to the needs, every part of the body learns to love every other part, because they all need one another.
Often God causes His gifts to come full circle.
Have you ever had someone serve you in your time of need, only to find yourself later helping by serving someone with the same need?
Our relationships are the sources of our greatest joys and of our greatest impact on the world.
Sharing your gift starts at home. 1 Timothy 5:8 warns us, “Those who won’t care for their relatives, especially those in their own household, have denied the true faith. Such people are worse than unbelievers.”
For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have—Jesus Christ. Anyone who builds on that foundation may use a variety of materials—gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw” (1 Cor. 3:11–12).
Let’s make sure we’re taking time to build them with things that will endure the test of time.
How can we do this?
Building lasting relationships takes time and energy, and we all have a limited supply of those resources.
We may think, If I don’t do this, no one else will. We forget that no one is a lone ranger for God. For example, the prophet Elijah once complained to the Lord that he was the only true prophet left in all of Israel, but God informed him that there were seven thousand faithful followers whom Elijah knew nothing about (see 1 Kings 19:14–18).
God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. (Eph. 2:8–9).
God loves you because God chooses to love you, not because you do good deeds for others.
Have you sometimes tried to meet every need you see? Have you failed to meet a need when God was nudging you to use your life gift?
The scriptural principle is to give out of our abundance, not our scarcity. Respond from your Life Gift.
Give in proportion to what you have. Whatever you give is acceptable if you give it eagerly. And give according to what you have, not what you don’t have. Of course, I don’t mean your giving should make life easy for others and hard for yourselves. I only mean that there should be some equality. Right now you have plenty and can help those who are in need. Later, they will have plenty and can share
with you when you need it. In this way, things will be equal. As the Scriptures say, “Those who gathered a lot had nothing left over, and those who gathered only a little had enough.” (2 Cor. 8:11–15)
Don’t let others pressure you into using your life gift.
Don’t get so caught up in serving that they neglected their own families. Some of the most vehement atheists attacking the Christian message today are actually the children of Christian leaders who got left out in the cold because Mom or Dad was always away, always putting someone else’s needs before their ow family’s.
Patrick’s mentor once said, “Whenever you have to choose between the church and your family, choose your family, and consequently you will have chosen the church.”
In our industrial world, we have gotten used to the idea that the most important thing is to be efficient—mass produce items using automated processes. Efficiency is great for making widgets but not for helping people. Pas tor Andy Stanley has a helpful saying: do for one what you wish you could do for all. In other words, it’s better to build a relationship with one person and go deep than to skimp on the relationship just so you can reach more people.
- When was the first time you fell in love? What’s the craziest thing you ever did, or saw someone else do, for love?
- Because Paul was motivated by love for God and love for people, he wasn’t just checking off a to-do list. What’s on your to-do list for God? Who put it there?
- Which part of the physical body would you pick to represent your part in the body of Christ? Why? What are the strengths and weaknesses of that body part?
- Review the quote by Thomas Merton: “As long as we secretly adore ourselves, our own deficiencies will remain to torture us with an apparent defilement. But if we live for others, we will gradually discover that no one expects us to be ‘as gods.’ We will see that we are human, like everyone else.” Based on your own experiences, what stands out to you about this statement?
- Which of these areas is the greatest struggle for you?
- Start at Home: I tend to meet the needs of others but ignore my own family.
- Running Ragged: I need to learn to say no; I’m killing myself trying to meet too many needs.
- Imposed Needs: I need boundaries so that other people don’t dictate for me what God is calling me to do.
- People, Not Projects: I tend to focus on the task more than the relationship.
- None of the above: I’m not really responding to other people’s needs.
- Andy Stanley gives the principle “do for one what you wish you could do for all.” How is love motivating you to do more for someone right now? What will you do this week to follow through?