Photo taken by Cherie
When you see someone in need does it move you to compassion? Does it break your heart? Do you want to reach out and help? Or do you simply turn away and go on with your life? As a missionary I have seen things and been places that touched me to the core of my being. Perhaps that which breaks my heart the deepest is seeing the look of hunger, true hunger, in the depths of a person’s eyes. And that hunger, many times, can even be a spiritual hunger.
Yet, when I arrive back to the States and step off the plane so many times it is hard to digest within the depth of my heart the wealth and abundance that I am faced with, even the spiritual abundance—numerous churches in every city, choices of Christian radio stations and even Christian clothing stores. (Please know that I am not saying that these things are bad. But sometimes we miss just how blessed we are in the United States and we take our blessings for granted and we forget that there are those throughout the world who haven’t even heard the name of Jesus.) It is even harder, I am sad to say, to then go to church on Sunday and see so many “Christians” who come just to get fed. They don’t look for ways to help make the world a better place. They don’t look for ways to give back what they had just received. Perhaps this is why Ezekiel 34:20 jumped off the page during my morning devotions.
Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says to them: See, I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep.
Between those who cared and those who did not care. Between those who gave and those who took. Between those who were generous (with their time, resources and/or knowledge) and those who were selfish. Perhaps Jesus said it best in the parable of the Sheep and the Goats in Matthew chapter 25. The parable is too long to include in its entirety here, but verses 37 to 40 say:
Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?” The King will reply, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”
Whenever we reach out and help another person, even with something as simple as a cup of cold water to one who is thirsty, it is as if we had done that deed unto the Lord. As if we had handed Jesus that cup of cold water. Yet, Jesus goes on to warn in verses 41-45:
Then he will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me… I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”
That’s the difference between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. Between the one who does something and the one who does nothing. Between the one who cares and makes a difference and the one who could care less. I want to be a lean sheep. I want to be one who hears the good news and goes out to share it. I want to be one who is sensitive to the Holy Spirit and know when I should help. But we need His wisdom. There are so many out there who are just users. I don’t believe God wants us to help users, because if we do we truly aren’t helping them. Instead, we are enabling them to remain users. And thus we are helping them not become all the God created them to be! God’s Word says in 2 Thessalonians 3:10:
If a man will not work, he shall not eat.
In view of this, we need godly wisdom in who to help and how to help. We need to be sensitive to His prompting and guiding. This is who we are in Christ. We are the sheep of His pasture and we are called to give out that which we have received.
On the mission field the need is so great! In fact, it is so overwhelming that when I first went to Bulgaria I didn’t know who or where to help. But the Lord taught me that I can’t help everyone—I don’t have the time or resources to do that—so instead I needed to be sensitive to His Holy Spirit to lead me and to guide me. He knows who is reachable. And I am amazed at all the ways that He has prompted me to reach out and touch another’s life—some with a simple word or a simple prayer, others with material means such as food, clothing or medicine and even more with simply sharing that which I received while sitting in the pews on Sunday—the truth of God’s Word which has the power to save and change lives. And as I simply share that which I feasted on, it helps me to not become a fat sheep.
Which are you—a fat sheep or a lean sheep? And more importantly, which do you want to be? I’m looking forward to your comments. Oh and by the way, Lindsey our oldest daughter, and I are leaving for Bulgaria on Sunday. If you think of us please keep us in your prayers. Pray that God will show us ways to be lean sheep! And as we are sensitive to the Holy Spirit we will try to take time to share with you ways that God helped keep us fit—fit for His Kingdom! Still enjoying His grand adventure.