by Walter Olsen
Life is filled with many challenges for all of us, including believers. No one is exempt from the effects of the fall in the Garden of Eden. Everyone, including each of us, is burdened with some special care or burden. Granted, sometimes life seems easy and carefree and we appreciate those times. Still, as believers grow in the Lord, they are made more aware of the special needs in their own lives.
This paper, though, is about seeing and caring for the special needs of others. Christians are not to live their lives independent of the needs of those about them. The Apostle Paul reminded the Galatians, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2). He further admonished, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10). Jesus was very compassionate of the needs of others and, as believers, we should be also.
Now, let’s consider some of the needs others may have in which we may be able to extend some much needed help.
Help needed because of illness. There are people all around us who are suffering from illness. Illness may prompt feelings of loneliness and discouragement. Sometimes a friendly visit can be very encouraging, or a telephone call, or a letter. Some illnesses are relatively short lived while others are terminal.
A major part of our help should be of a spiritual nature. That doesn’t mean we always need to share Biblical truth with them, but then again, it might. Let the Spirit dictate according as He reveals the need. A primary concern is that whatever we do, we do in the Name of Jesus Christ. In rewarding faithful servants, Jesus said, “...Verily I say unto you, ‘In as much as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me,’” (Matt. 25:40). A good idea every day is to pray and ask the Lord for His direction in ministering to others.
Sometimes not much needs to be said. One’s presence may be a major channel of blessing.
Our help should also be of a practical nature if possible. Ill people cannot do the things they normally do or need done. An offer to run an errand or to do a particular chore may be of much help. When I was in the hospital a year ago with a broken hip and BJ with pneumonia, family, friends, and neighbors were an immense help to us. They did many necessary things there was no way we could do. We will be forever grateful for their help. Our church kept in constant contact with us regarding our various needs as well.
One word of caution is in order. One should never foist themselves upon another even in time of great need. We need to be sensitive to the needs and feelings of others. It is one thing to do; it is another thing to overdo what we may think needs to be done. When possible, let the ill or injured person decide for themselves what they want done. We need to be sure we are helping with a burden, not adding to them!
Help needed because of the death of a loved one. This is often a very distressing time for those left behind, especially if the death was unexpected. The burden they must assume is often a very heavy one. It is normal to be shocked, bewildered, saddened, and upset. Some may even deal with feelings of anger and maybe even guilt depending upon the circumstances of the death. For most, it is a time of sadness and grief. Yes, the believer has the promises of the Word of God and the presence of the Lord Himself. Still, the grief can be very heavy and burdensome. Remember that, at the death of Lazarus, “Jesus wept” (Jn. 11:35). When my missionary uncle, Walter Olsen, died, it was a great grief to me. We pretty well knew he would not get better. We had seen him in Oklahoma City and knew he was very ill. Still, when the call came on Sunday evening, it was a shock. I had to announce his death to our church on a Sunday evening and it was extremely difficult.
When my dad died unexpectedly at the age of 56 of a heart attack, it was even more difficult. I grieved for several months knowing I would never see him again on this earth. I knew he was born again and I would see him in heaven, but the grief was still very heavy. Now, the Word of God and the presence of the Holy Spirit was certainly my comfort and stay during those days. The believer has great hope for the future regardless of the number of days on the earth.
The care given depends upon many things, such as your relationship to the grieving person(s), the known needs, and the availability of others to help as well. I think a big thing is to contact the grieving ones as soon as possible, depending of course upon one’s closeness to them.
We should keep in mind that, as believers, we don’t just do things out of friendship as important as that is. We do things out of our fellowship with Jesus Christ so that whatever we do is really a ministry done out of our relationship to the Lord Jesus. Our relationship to Him will govern what we say and do and how we say and do what we do. The fact is, it is easy to turn a well meaning act into a burden in itself! If we are not careful in what we say and do, we may do more harm than our intended good.
Help needed because of the presence of a sin problem. True, all believers must battle the temptations of sin. What I mean by a sin problem is a particular problem of sin that the believer has fallen into. It may be a special problem of immorality, of a relationship to some other person or people, of unacceptable conduct, or any number of other things. Paul spoke of this when he said to the Galatians, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted” (Gal. 6:1).
This is given in the context of the local church. The local church is to be a body of sanctified individuals, a people set apart from sin unto God. They obviously are not perfect in their walk with God, but there is a marked difference in their lives from what they were before they came to Christ. There is a heart desire to live for God and to serve Him in truth. They have come to realize that they have been crucified with Christ and that they now share in His life. Now, when such a one departs from the way, there should be a move made to restore such a one to fellowship with the church. This is part of the ministry of the church to its membership.
On a personal basis, should there not be an effort made to restore a friend, or a family member to fellowship again? Such a ministry to another could save much hurt and personal loss. This seeking to restore one to fellowship could involve a personal confrontation (as led by the Holy Spirit), earnest prayer, and being the Godly example Christians are meant to be. Of course, great caution is advised in such ministry. If one approaches another with anger, harsh words, or a superior attitude, the problem most likely will be made worse.
Help needed because of personal problems. Many people have personal problems and they don’t know where to turn. Some linger in lack and discomfort needlessly because no one sees their plight! As believers, we should see the needs of others even as Jesus Himself did. Helping others in their need is very characteristic of Jesus and should be of Christians as well. He saw the hungry and turned the little into much, He saw the sick and injured and healed them, He saw the lonely and hurting and comforted them. He saw the spiritually lost and preached the gospel of the kingdom to them. Granted, we cannot change the little into much, or change the water into wine, or raise the dead, but we can see many of the specific needs of those about us and do our best to help them.
Of course, what we do should be done as unto Jesus Himself. Note the words of Jesus,
“For I was an hungered, and ye gave Me meat (food): I was thirsty, and ye gave Me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took Me in. Naked and ye clothed Me: I was sick and ye visited Me. I was in prison and ye came unto Me” (Matt.25:35-36).
When the disciples questioned him when and how they served Him, He said, “...Verily, verily, I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it unto the least of one of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me” (Matt. 25:40).
Ministry to others, then, is a ministry as unto Jesus Himself.
For the one who desires truly to serve Jesus, it would be good to start every day asking the Lord for His direction in whom they might minister to in that particular day. If we are walking with God, we will have something of the eyes of Jesus to see the needs of those about us. Such service to others is not for our own aggrandizement, but for the glory of God. If we serve others for our own benefit, God is not really glorified as He should be and we lose the benefit of being obedient to Him out of a pure heart.
Help needed because of a loss of hope. Particularly in the world we live in today, many have lost all hope for the future. Indeed, these are distressing times and we may be facing many problems we never thought we would see in our lifetime. However, that is a time for the light of the Lord Jesus to shine very brightly! He, after all, is the light of the world. The Apostle John reminds us, “In Him was life; and the life was the life of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not” (Jn. 1:4-5).
The world is a very dark place for many reasons, primarily because it has rejected the light of the Lord Jesus. It is true that God reveals Himself to the world in various ways, such as through creation. Still, the truth of salvation is revealed primarily through the witness of believers to those about them. This includes the teaching and preaching of the Word of God by those so called, but also by the lives of believers as they live out the truth of Jesus Christ in their lives and witness to their own faith. The writer of Hebrews when speaking of hope said, “Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast...” (Heb. 6:19).
Consider, all unbelievers are without hope in the world, though many will deny it. To be without the Lord Jesus as one’s Savior is to be without hope. For those without Christ, the world about them is their hope, but it is a false hope as far as eternity is concerned. The world without Christ needs the Gospel preached to them. It is thus that, after His resurrection, Jesus said to the disciples, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matt. 28:19). The idea of teaching carries the idea of making disciples, of seeing people coming to faith in Jesus Christ, after which they were to be baptized to publicly proclaim their faith.
The question is, ‘Can believers lose their hope?’ To the extent that they fail to read their Bibles, pray, and faithfully attend a Bible preaching local church, they may. Such believers also find it easier to drift into the sinful habits of the world. We all need the encouragement and correction provided by the preaching of the Word of God and by the testimony of other believers. “But exhort one another daily, while it is called today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb. 3:13).
Believers who are walking faithfully with the Lord can be a very helpful testimony of hope to others. Every believer should pray to, “...be a vessel unto honor, sanctified, and meet for the Master’s use, and prepared unto every good work” (II Tim. 2:21).
Even in these trying times, the believer in Jesus Christ is never without hope because his hope is not of this world, but of Jesus Christ Himself. His hope is an eternal, glorified hope. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (Jn. 14:27). Peace and hope go together. You really can’t have one without the other.
But please note; it is not enough to know the verses of peace and hope. There must be a personal coming to Jesus Christ in prayer seeking for ourselves His promise of hope and peace. This is the difficult part for many people. We can agree with the truth presented, but until we personally come to Him, the promises remain just that, words without reality.
Help needed because of a lack of material resources to maintain physical well-being. Perhaps many who read this article have never had such lack, but then, maybe many have. As I grew up, we did not have a super abundance of this world’s goods, but I don’t remember that we ever lacked for such things as food and clothing. I don’t remember a state of distress because we didn’t know where our next meal would come from. It is one thing to be hungry, but another thing to have no apparent way to satisfy that hunger.
Today, there are many who actually suffer from the lack of legitimate daily needs. If we tend to be self-centered, we will not see the needs of others unless they are a relative or perhaps a close friend. As believers, we need to have the eyes of Jesus to see the needs and sufferings of others. Of Jesus and the multitude who followed Him, we read, “Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, ‘Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat’” (Jn. 6:5). Jesus was concerned for the people’s spiritual needs and their physical needs as well.
It is well to remember that all we claim as our own really belongs to Jesus. It is also important that we acknowledge His ownership of all things and that we be ready and willing to disperse our goods as He directs.
Help needed because of growing older. Growing old is the natural, normal result of being born unless other factors intervene. As believers, we can rest in the fact that our lives are in the hands of God. We need not fear being separated from the body because we are identified in the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Death has no more dominion over Him and, consequently, has no more dominion over the believer. Of course, the body will die unless the Lord returns first. It is the matter of living in our aging bodies that is sometimes a great challenge!
As we age, we sometimes are less mobile. Driving a car, even walking, may become a challenge. Sometimes our thinking is askew and we need help doing the normal things of life. Certainly as believers we should be conscious of the needs of the elderly, especially in our own family. But there usually are many elderly all about us who need some assistance. Sometimes it is for transportation, purchasing food, or just a friendly visit. Knowing that people care for one another is a very major comfort to the elderly. A visit, phone call, or running an errand can be a major help in the lives of the elderly.
This article had been about helping to bear the burdens of those about us for whatever reason. May God open our eyes to see the needs and a heart to respond as the Lord would have us to.
What most of us will remember well of this February is the very cold range of days with temperatures in the minus 20 to 30 degrees below zero! Add the wind chill to that and it was certainly a time to stay inside if possible. Still, we have suffered nothing like they have in some of the southern states.
BJ, Tim, and I helped Daniel celebrate his recent birthday. It’s always a blessing to have the boys join us for whatever reason. Family is so important and we certainly need one another in these days. We need to love, encourage, and support each other the best we can. As believers, we need to especially pray for all of our family members. Our desire for each one is that they would know Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and be faithful in living for Him. Life has no real and eternal value apart from our relationship to God. Even in the midst of hardship and controversy, we can know something of the special blessing and joy of God. Jesus said, “These things have I spoken unto you, that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full” (Jn. 15:11).
Perhaps like many others, we are working at downsizing some. It is amazing at how many things we have that we seldom if ever use any more. However, they all take up space needed for other things. Isn’t it interesting how, in many ways, our needs change as we get older! We can be glad that the Lord knows what we really need. One of my favorite verses has been the following, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33). Indeed, “…for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things” (Matt. 6:32).
If you would like to add anyone to our mailing list for The Sonshine, please give me their names and addresses. There is no charge. I can be contacted at 155 Willow Circle, Baldwin, WI 54002. Also, firstname.lastname@example.org.