The more we venture out of our comfort zone and look around in this great big world, the more we will run into people that are hurting. Yes, many of us are blessed and some of us have led sheltered lives, but if we desire to become more sensitive to those around us, we will notice there are individuals that have not had it so easy.
There are so many places to serve and so much desperate need that sometimes it seems overwhelming. As a community chaplain, I am surrounded by disturbing situations, and within my personal writing and music ministry, I am constantly being approached by those in this country and around the world who are crying out for financial assistance.
Like you, I have concern and want to help everyone, but there is only so much we can do. It's our responsibility to pray for everyone, but also critical that we listen to God's response and react according to his directions. When we turn away from considering the burden of human suffering, this coldness turns our prayers into a private "bless me" confession and reduces the big picture of the world's needs into a tiny peephole that is easier to ignore.
I realize it's more comfortable to live in denial and only focus on our desires, but is this truly following Christ? We read about selfless individuals like Mother Teresa that abandoned her life so that she could help others, and we recognize she not only had a compassionate heart but was actually willing to sacrifice her plans in obedience to God's voice.
With God's perspective, it's not how many good deeds, how much money we give or how much a person accomplishes, but it's all about us knowing what he is saying and then being obedient to his instructions. In Mark 12:43-44, we read the account of the poor widow who contributed 2 cents into the church offering while some of the wealthy members were donating large amounts of money.
Jesus was watching and made a very interesting comment, "And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast more in than all they which have cast into the treasury: for all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living."
The old saying, "things are not always as they seem" comes around on a regular basis, and when we are sensitive to recognize what is happening, we can begin to understand the deeper meanings of life. The widow realized that her 2 cents were not a significant amount, but instead of being discouraged or embarrassed, she stepped forward in faith because she heard God's voice and was expressing her love and worship to him as an act of obedience. This is an example of why we are encouraged to develop our spiritual awareness so that we can be equipped to comprehend God's divine reality.
In Isaiah 55:8-9, the Lord is gracious to explain, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."
When it comes to our ideas about giving, it's important to realize that God is not always impressed with what we think. Our old nature has a strong and stubborn desire to be in total control, and this even includes our labors and contributions associated with his work. We must guard against the temptation to decide what we should do without first consulting the One for whom we are doing it. To him, it's simply about us listening for him speak and being willing to do what he says.
In this lifestyle, we can appreciate his grace and wisdom and know that he will receive all the glory. We can also be assured that if God is leading us, there is no such thing as a prayer that is not important or a compassionate gesture that is insignificant.
Learning and accepting that God desires to be in control of everything in our life is a difficult lesson. His way is for us to surrender our ideas, opinions and justifications so that we can humbly submit to his perfect instructions and walk in his Spirit.
Dr. William F. Holland Jr. is a minister and chaplain based in Nicholasville, Kentucky. Read more at billyhollandministries.com.