“Christ’s method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Saviour mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, ‘Follow Me.’” – Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing, p. 143.
Usually when I think about that quote it is in the context of how to influence non-Christians for Christ; meet their needs, gain their trust and see them become disciples. All of that is applicable, but today I realized for the first time that for many in the church, myself foremost, this is the strategy Christ is using on us.For many years I’ve read this quote that has been the focus of our recent lessons. It serves as a blueprint for the evangelistic outreach of the church. So simple yet so encompassing that no one can deny the effectiveness of the strategy. However, I have been applying it to the wrong people.
As I researched for this week’s lesson I came upon some troubling quotes. They were troubling because, instead of showing the deficiencies of others, the unwelcome spotlight was shining on me. Here’s an example. The prophet Isaiah, apparently addressing erroneous ideas of what was pleasing to God, spoke about what true worship entailed.
“Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out;
When you see the naked, that you cover him,
And not hide yourself from your own flesh?” Isaiah 58:7
I have read those texts countless times. They’re straightforward so there is no mistaking what the words mean. However, when I read the following quote from my favorite religious author it became more personal and urgent to me.
“The fast which God can accept is described. It is to deal thy bread to the hungry and to bring the poor which are cast out to thy house. Wait not for them to come to you. The labor rests not on them to hunt you up and entreat of you a home for themselves. You are to search for them and bring them to your house. You are to draw out your soul after them. You are with one hand to reach up and by faith take hold of the mighty arm which brings salvation, while with the other hand of love you reach the oppressed and relieve them. It is impossible for you to fasten upon the arm of God with one hand while the other is employed in ministering to your own pleasure.” Ellen White, Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 2, p 34. (Read the entire passage HERE)
We cannot hide our personal responsibilities behind our corporate outreach initiatives. Whatever missionary endeavors we as a church body undertake does not lessen my obligation to be an individual who works personally, intentionally and constantly for the benefit of others. This is not the first time I’ve felt this conviction. I’m sure this goes for many of you who are reading this.
The “aha” moment for me as I considered our opening quotation was that God is trying to win the confidence of those who already claim to be disciples. The evidence shows that while we may acknowledge Him as Lord, we often do not follow Him as Master.
I believe that everyday God is ministering to our needs in the hopes that He will gain our confidence so that we actually begin to follow Him. To follow Him means much more than to join a particular church body. It means more than living a healthier, nobler lifestyle. It means more than participating in church sponsored outreach. It means personally living as He lived and working as He worked.
“God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good” Acts 10:38
Our mission is the same.
“As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” Galatians 6:10
Through the various unique circumstances of our lives, God is working to gain our confidence. In numerous ways He shows His love to us all with a desire that we would reciprocate that love. If we love Him we’ll trust Him. If we trust Him, nothing we possess is so precious that we would put it before Him and sharing His love with others. He’s asking us to follow Him. Completely. With no reservations.
Here are a few Hit the Mark questions for this week’s lesson discussion:
- What does the word confidence mean to you?
- What does “good works” mean to you?
- What part, if any, does self-sacrifice have in doing good works?
- Are all believers required to live lives of self-sacrifice? Explain your answer
- Is it true that the priority of every believer must be in helping others, especially the poor and the less fortunate? Why yes or no?
- What does James 1:27 mean: Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
- As a church, is the purpose of outreach a mechanism to convince people to join our church? Explain your answer.
- Explain possible ways a church congregation can gain the confidence of the community it serves?
- Is the following statement True, Mostly True, Somewhat True or Not True: God prospers His people with the expectation that they will in turn use His blessings to help others. Explain your answer.
We close this week’s lesson on Jesus Won Their Confidence with a promise Jesus made to those who make the decision to follow Him.
“If any of you wants to serve me, then follow me. Then you’ll be where I am, ready to serve at a moment’s notice. The Father will honor and reward anyone who serves me.” John 12:26 The Message
Until next week, let’s all continue to Hit the Mark in Sabbath School!