« October 2017 « Feature
Love Never Fails
Pushing Your Boundaries for the Good of Others
Jesus called His followers to get out of their comfort zones when He said, “If anyone wishes to follow Me [as My disciple], he must deny himself [set aside selfish interests], and take up his cross [expressing a willingness to endure whatever may come] and follow Me [believing in Me, conforming to My example in living and, if need be, suffering or perhaps dying because of faith in Me]” (Matthew 16:24, AMP). The disciples who were called directly by Christ were called upon to do something drastic—to leave behind everything they had and knew in order to follow Him.
Is God calling you to step outside of your comfort zone? Perhaps He hasn’t called you to be a missionary in a foreign land or to give away all of your possessions, but does He call you to reach out to the stranger within your sphere of influence or to use the blessings you have been given in order to bless another? We shouldn’t be afraid to reach out because we may feel unequipped; Hebrews 13:20-21 tells us that God will equip you with the good things you need to do His will. In other words, if He calls you, He will equip you.
A fundamental belief of the Seventh-day Adventist faith is that “God bestows upon all members of His church in every age spiritual gifts that each member is to employ in loving ministry for the common good of the church and of humanity. Given by the agency of the Holy Spirit, who apportions to each member as He wills, the gifts provide all abilities and ministries needed by the church to fulfill its divinely ordained functions. According to the Scriptures, these gifts include such ministries as faith, healing, prophecy, proclamation, teaching, administration, reconciliation, compassion, and self-sacrificing service and charity for the help and encouragement of people. Some members are called of God and endowed by the Spirit for functions recognized by the church in pastoral, evangelistic, and teaching ministries particularly needed to equip the members for service, to build up the church to spiritual maturity, and to foster unity of the faith and knowledge of God. When members employ these spiritual gifts as faithful stewards of God’s varied grace, the church is protected from the destructive influence of false doctrine, grows with a growth that is from God, and is built up in faith and love” (28 Fundamental Beliefs, 2015).
The words of the apostle Paul to the Corinthians cautions us to be aware of an essential ingredient in the work of sharing the truth of God’s plan of salvation: love. “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a ringing gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have absolute faith so as to move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and exult in the surrender of my body, but have not love, I gain nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).
God has called us to love others and be an example of His love, but He has also made each of us with unique abilities and differing capacities for expressing that love. Everyone you come into contact with can be a recipient of your love by your attitude, your concern, and your behavior. God has outfitted you with a very specific set of talents and traits so that the impact you have in the lives of others is uniquely yours. As you contemplate God’s personal call to move beyond your comfort zone and live a life of love, here are a few things to consider:
Discover the Edges:
When you are called to push past the boundaries of your comfort zone, you’ll need to discover just where the edges of your comfort zone are. Reflect on your natural abilities and strengths and consider how they might best be used in service to others. When do you normally back away from an opportunity? What makes it uncomfortable? Is it the nuance of the situation or the fear you may not be good enough? Challenge those doubts and plan to say yes to the next opportunity that comes your way. Make a promise to yourself and when you get the chance, commit! You will find that pushing past your comfort zone causes you to grow and learn things you never imagined.
Go Where the People Are:
Christ mingled with people. He didn’t just spend the day in the temple. He walked with people, visited them in their homes, shared meals, and took part in their daily lives. Consider your current social circle. Do you mostly socialize with people who believe what you believe and are interested in the same things as you? While it is true that we tend to gravitate towards those who are similar to us, we can run the risk of creating small islands of isolation where we actually put ourselves out of reach of others. If you have ever found that you don’t have anyone to pray for or to share Jesus with, you may be on isolation island. One way to go where the people are is to join an activities group in your community. This could be a reading club, an art class, a language course, a parenting group, a gardening club, cycling team, martial arts group, or classic car group. Find something you are interested in or something new to try and go with a friendly attitude. At the right time, God will put someone in your path for you to bless.
Desire Their Good:
As you meet with people and get to know and care about them, think about what you can provide for them that will affect their lives in positive ways. Can you provide a listening ear, a space to share their burdens, and words of comfort as you intentionally intercede for them? Sometimes meeting small, tangible needs makes all the difference. Provide a home-cooked meal, offer to carpool, volunteer to babysit, help with yardwork. Many times people are uncomfortable asking for help, but when it is offered, it will be hard not to take you up on it. Remember to do these things with an altruistic heart. If you are ever confronted with ingratitude, turn the other cheek and continue to love as Jesus loves.
For some, empathy is as simple as imagining yourself in another person’s situation and and showing them grace. For others, empathy can be more elusive and seem intangible. When you try to see from someone else’s perspective, accept their pain, commensurate with their struggles, and understand their feelings, you acknowledge that individual in a way that many do not. You dignify them and show them respect. Is that not what God does with us? Empathy is a wonderfully powerful tool. It can build bridges and foster healing. Find opportunities to develop your empathy quotient and share it with others.
All Fall Short:
Remember that everyone, including you, falls short of God’s glory. You are saved by His grace and, in the same way, so is any other person. In our attempt to make good choices we may become condescending of those who make poor ones. This helps no one. Be humble as you show others kind and respectful love. Where there are errors, discuss them gently and ask God to guide you through these moments. Remember that you are no less a sinner than the person next to you and that it is through Christ’s redeeming love and sacrifice that we are made whole.