In the past several posts, we have been laying the biblical foundations for missions. The first reason we serve is to glorify God. The second reason is to obey Christ’s calling. This post explores the final principle for our missional engagement.
The third purpose for missions is to meet the needs of others.
We Serve to Meet Needs
Among Jesus’ teachings about possessions and responsibilities, we find a most convicting statement: “When someone has been given much, much will be required in return” (Luke 12:48, New Living Translation).
Billionaires and lottery winners bear tremendous responsibility with their wealth. They have the potential to reduce poverty, fund research to cure diseases, and so much more. As I park my 10-year-old car and walk into my modest split-level home, I am underwhelmed by my ability to contribute to global needs. I have resources, but not like the wealthy people on the planet.
According to Richard Stern’s The Hole in Our Gospel, all who earn more than $50,000 annually are among the top 1% income earners of the world. What??! Yes…as a middle-class American, I and my neighbors are among the world’s wealthiest. We have resources. People have needs.
Our faith demands that we translate God’s promptings into practical acts of healing and restoration. We carry out this call by caring for orphans and widows (James 1:27), seeking the lost (Luke 19:10), clothing the naked (Matthew 25:36), feeding the poor (Matthew 25:35), being peacemakers (Matthew 5:9), and more. It is as if Christ himself is serving the lost and the forgotten peoples among us. Christ-followers embrace the responsibility of expressing the kingdom language of love in practical and tangible ways.
God knows the needs behind every tear, every muffled lament. “I cried to him with my mouth…God has listened; he has attended to the voice of my prayer” (Psalm 66:17, 20). “I love the Lord, for he heard my voice, he heard my cry for mercy” (Psalm 116:1). Through His promptings, God sends us – His Body on earth – to answer the cries of the vulnerable, the weary, the impoverished, the lost. We are literally His presence in this broken and hurting world. Hands and feet and ears and mouth, we respond and meet needs.
As we serve, our focus remains on God and not on the abilities we contribute. Our gifts and talents do indeed provide the means to meet needs, yet we must cautiously guard against pride creeping in as we use them. Always our goal is to glorify the Lord. Personal satisfaction and the chorus of human accolades can never be our purpose for missional engagement. When love for God remains our motivation to serve, we are able to persevere in the call to meet needs. He alone sustains us.
As we grow in our spiritual journey, we develop the eyes of Christ. We begin catching glimpses of the world as the Lord sees it. Our compassion expands, prompting our willingness to serve. With a growing awareness of the needs around him, a 42-year old computer programmer joined the ongoing efforts of his church to help improve housing in an isolated Kentucky community. They purchased cinder blocks, 2′ x 4′ boards, and linoleum to rebuild the kitchen floor for an impoverished woman. Much rejoicing followed when she praised God in the Wednesday worship service for his provision of repairs. She no longer saw the dirt ground through the floor cracks. Snakes and rats no longer found easy access into her home.
God worked through a 30-year old teacher to restore sight to aged eyes. She served on a short-term team that responded to the cries of the elderly in rural Guatemala who could no longer read their Bibles. The church in the impoverished village reached out for help to a local mission organization connected with partner churches in the United States. Trained teams arrived with suitcases full of donated reading glasses. They administered eye tests and distributed the glasses. Tears of joy spilled from men and women who praised God for the ability to once again read the Scripture.
Faith and Deeds
Caring for the needs of others is a natural outgrowth of a maturing faith. We serve out of the abundance of God’s hand in our own lives. “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone” (James 2:17-22).
Jesus served those He met during his incarnation 2,000 years ago. The day is coming when the Lord Jesus will return in glory. John R.W. Stott asks, “So what is to fill the gap between His two comings? The worldwide mission of the church!” Our priority is to meet the needs of others as appointed by the Lord. Time and time again, He works through believers to bless others.
What is the Goal of Missions?
We have a divinely-appointed mandate to actively engage in missions. We glorify God by obeying His command to tell the good news and to serve others.
Out of our gifts and our abundance, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we follow His calling to care for the spiritual and physical needs of others.
Posted by Sharon R Hoover