Week 3- Care
Pastor Terry Inman
I’m sure you have heard this before. “People don’t care what you know they just want to know you care”. This really captures the core of the Prayer-Care-Share lifestyle.
When Jesus sent out his recruits on their first mission his instructions were simple but strategic. Doctor Luke author of the third gospel tells the story. Thirty-six teams of two traveled ahead of Jesus to the villages he expected to tour.
First he told them to pray then he sent them on their way.
“The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.” (Luke 10.2-4 NIV)
We are praying for a spiritual harvest. We are asking God to help us gather our family, friends, coworkers and neighbors into the Kingdom of His Son. We want our lives to be fruitful. We hope to influence people.
Jesus says, ask for a workforce--then join in! Pray then get right into “His” harvest. In the 90’s I was praying weekly with a group of leaders in Vallejo where I served as Pastor of Church on the Hill. After about a year of praying for our city, a Filipino Pastor wrote something on the blackboard.
“Put legs to our prayers”. So we asked the Lord to show us how to tangibly care for the people and the needs in our city. The first thing we did together was to organize a beatification project on a Saturday.
Volunteers went house to house in a sixteen-block area known for drugs and gangs. We offered groceries and helped clean up the neighborhood. We mowed lawns, picked weeds and did some house repair work.
There are a lot of stories that came out of that demonstration of care. The neighborhood slowly changed. A bible study was started. Prostitutes were saved. A drug kingpin was busted. A kid’s choir was started in the hood. It was no picnic. It was dangerous. A former prostitute was killed. Jesus said pray and then Go; there are wolves out there. Let’s be honest there’s a fear factor we have to overcome to get activated into caring.
Matthew’s version of this is even more descriptive. “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Matthew 9.34- 36
Jesus envisioned reaping a great crop of harassed, helpless and shepherdess sheep. The wolves had already done a lot of damage. There were no shepherds to protect these sheep. So he says pray for labors to shepherd these wounded sheep. I call this the Harvest of the Hurting!
People without Christ are so vulnerable. They have been harassed and left helpless by the evil one. They don’t come to us, because they are beaten down and can’t get up. We must lift them up. We must carry them with the love and light of Jesus. It requires compassionate and engaging care.
Rescuing broken sheep can be a little messy. They may not be very receptive. They bite. You know we weren’t always that nice ourselves.
“At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.” (Titus 3.3-5 NIV)
People really matter to God! God’s love and His acts of kindness save us! He sent Jesus to make a radical statement about His incredible mercy.
Rom. 2.4 says, “God’s kindness leads us toward repentance"
Expressions of care in Jesus' name move people to His love and His light! A cup of cold water given in Jesus name will be rewarded. Matt. 10.42
In Luke 10 Jesus gave his recruits some very specific instructions. First find a person of peace; someone responsive and receptive. Pray blessings over the household and stay put long enough to develop relationships.
Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house. (Luke 10.7 NIV)
Some people call this friendship evangelism. It just makes sense that if we really care about people we will want to invest some time in them. Food and fellowship go together. Jesus was frequently at someone’s table.
People of ancient mid-eastern culture didn’t do fast food. Meals could go on for several hours. The conversation at the meal was more important than the menu. Hospitality was a virtue especially when shown to visitors.
You can’t really hurry genuine care. It takes time to build relationships. Jesus’ antagonists accused him of spending too much time eating with all the wrong people. Tax agents like Matthew were considered scoundrels.
He writes from first hand experience. When Jesus was eating supper at Matthew’s house with his close followers, a lot of disreputable characters came and joined them. When the Pharisees saw him keeping this kind of company, they had a fit, and lit into Jesus’ followers. “What kind of example is this from your Teacher, acting cozy with crooks and riff-raff?”
Jesus responded with a quote from an Old Testament prophet, Go figure out what this Scripture means: ‘I’m after mercy, not religion.’ I’m here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders.” (Matt. 9.10-13 MSG)
Let’s face it--it’s more comfortable for us to hang out with our Christian friends than reach out to unbelievers. Unfortunately, the longer we are Christians the fewer non-believing friends we have.
Jesus had something to say about this: “The next time you put on a dinner, don’t just invite your friends and family and rich neighbors, the kind of people who will return the favor. Invite some people who never get invited out, the misfits from the wrong side of the tracks.
You’ll be—and experience—a blessing. They won’t be able to return the favor, but the favor will be returned—oh, how it will be returned!—at the resurrection of God’s people.” (Luke 14.12-14 MSG)
Jesus makes it clear we will be rewarded for care shown to lost people.
In Matthew 25 he paints a picture of the judgment. The King gathers the nations and separates sheep from goats. The sheep inherit His kingdom.
“The King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:
I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was naked and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.
“Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.” (Matt. 25.34 MSG)
A few years ago we did a six-week series on these six acts of compassion. Each one has a physical, emotional and spiritual application.
We feed thousands of hungry children daily but people also have soul hunger. Like the woman at the well, many people have emotional thirsts they are trying to satisfy. The homeless are everywhere but so are the lonely alienated people across the street. We live in a nation of strangers!
People feel uncovered and shamed by sexual abuse and brokenness. Their defenses make them challenging to care for. The sick are not always healed but genuine care heals the soul. Many are locked up in prisons of fear, bitterness, rejection, or addiction. They can’t get out on their own.
Sometimes it’s easier to reach out to people down and out. It’s easier to go on a mission of compassion in a third world country than care for a neighbor or a friend at work. We have to take some risks. Our care may be misunderstood or refused. It will cost us time, energy, and personal resources but the rewards are worth the investment!
A couple weeks ago we shared an acrostic BLESS as a way to pray for our family, friends, neighbors and associates. Today I want to leave you with one for care. It all begins with compassion. Jesus cared before he cured.
Compassion is feeling someone’s pain and doing something about it. Many of the miracles of Jesus were done out of compassion.
“Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched a leper and he was cleansed.” (Mark 1.41 NIV) Leprosy was a social disease. Lepers were untouchables. Compassion moves us to the unconventional.
Attention is being present to people in kind, and helpful ways. Jesus was always very aware of the real needs of the people he reached out to. He relied on the same Holy Spirit that will lead us in how to care.
In His instructions to his mission teams in Luke 10 Jesus says, Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God is near you.’
(Luke 10.9 NIV) We may pay attention with just a kind word, a helpful deed or a healing prayer. The important thing is to be fully attentive to the person and the Holy Spirit.
Relationship is developing a warm friendship based on trust. That takes time. That’s why Jesus told his disciples to stay for a while. Random acts of kindness are great. They sow some good seeds but to secure someone’s confidence and lead them to Christ is a much longer process.
Empathy is sincere identification with people and there problems. It is different than sympathy. Sympathy is our emotional response to people’s pain. We hurt because their pain brings up ours. This is normal but it can also be a bit self-centered.
Empathy requires us to focus on other people and not ourselves. It requires a lot of supportive listening and tangible caring. We may not always get it right. We have to risk feeling helpless and awkward.
Worthwhile adventures have doubt and discomfort. Showing love means accepting that it might not be returned or even accepted. We choose to give our live away everyday. When we do we find it. Jesus said, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
(Matthew 10:39 NIV)
Lets give our life away! Let’s volunteer everyday in the Lord’s harvest with His Love and Light! Let’s make prayer-care-share our lifestyle!