Today, after helping distribute free food in low income areas of Conroe, I asked several people a simple question, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Together, our team led 5 people to the correct answer, and they were saved. Our tiny church has seen over 20 people make similar decisions to follow Jesus in the last two weeks. Why is God using our church to further his kingdom? What kind of people does God use?
When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.Matthew 9:36
First, the people used by God love like Jesus. When Jesus saw hungry people, he showed them compassion by feeding 5000 of them (Matthew 14:14-26). Caring for the hungry and poor is so close to God’s heart that He specifically says that it is one of the marks that distinguishes true believers from those who think they are saved but instead are going to hell (Matthew 25:35, 41). If this is so central, what prevents followers of Christ from loving like Jesus? There can be a blindness to the needs that results from societal barriers. How many homeless people do you know? How many multi-millionaires? Chances are, the majority of people you know are in the same socioeconomic group as you. Others are aware of the needs but simply lack the faith to help meet the needs. They have not learned that God provides abundantly and miraculously. Our tiny church received 8,000 lbs of food today! And more is coming tomorrow. Our church can’t feed a city by ourselves, but when you start, God provides way more than you can imagine. Others, sadly, are indifferent to the suffering so long as it does not touch them. Whatever the reason, God cannot further his kingdom through a loveless people.
Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”John 6:28-29
Second, the people used by God know and share the gospel. Handing out free food is compassionate, but without the gospel, it is not the work of God. The question I posed after giving away food was borrowed from John 6. The day after Jesus fed the 5,000, the crowd followed him around a lake because they wanted more food, and they asked him how to do the work of God. The answers I got to this question were things like ‘give out food’, ‘help those in need’. Even professing christians gave this wrong answer. If a person or a church approaches love as a good work, they will bear no fruit. The work of God is the gospel. That is our focus as followers of Jesus. Jesus answers them plainly that believing in Him is all the work they needed to do (John 6:29). His love for them in feeding them was a picture of his love for them in saving them, and his goal was that by giving them food, they might trust in him. If you don’t do the work of an evangelist while loving people, God cannot use you to further his kingdom. In the end, the person you helped will still die and go to hell without a knowledge of the gospel.
The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.John 3:8
Third, the people used by God are led by God. And God leads like the wind blows, which is always shifting direction and changing in intensity. During a recent trip to Mexico, we served in a border town at a refuge for immigrants. It was a church that saw a need and decided to meet the need. Their fellowship hall was converted to storage, the sanctuary filled with cots. And the church was alive and seeing many immigrants come to know the Lord! Today, one of our church’s offices was converted to an expansion food pantry to supplement our other two. We are flexible. When we deliver food, we pray about which neighborhood to go to and there are people in the neighborhoods waiting to hear about God. One woman today was standing outside when we pulled up and could care less about the food, she just saw us and asked me to pray for her. It is all led by God. The opposite of this it a refusal to change how you minister, which is really a refusal to follow God, who has described his leading as similar to how the wind moves. If you are unwilling to change or do things different, God will find someone else to use who will follow him.
Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much.Matthew 25:21
Finally, the people used by God are first tested and found faithful with a little. Our tiny church has been feeding the community in small ways for around 9 years. We have slowly developed relationships with churches, organizations, grocery stores, etc. We have a goal to get rid of everything in our pantry, everything in our bank account, to use every square foot of the donated buildings for as many hours of the day as there are, to use every vehicle that is given, etc. And we never run out. The lights stay on and the food is always there. And little by little, God has set us over more and more. We were donated a city bus last week. It is overflowing with food now. The constant temptation is to not trust God and to instead hoard. This looks like building buffers in bank accounts, filling freezers for our own use rather than trusting that God will refill them if we give everything away, etc. But the teaching of our Lord about hiding your talent in the ground from Matthew 25:24-25 haunts us. If you won’t use what God has given you, God can’t do anything with you.
So to summarize, Love like Jesus, share the good news, follow Him even when it means changing, and start small.
Hike the Good Hike!