For When We are Much in Need {Part II}

Nothing will tempt us toward self-focus like a much-in-need moment. 

I know this because I know my own tendencies. Hardship comes and I go into full-throttle action. Objective Number One: Take care of me. When it comes right down to it, much-in-need moments can easily make a Darwinian out of any of  us.

The Apostle Paul in I Thessalonians 5:14-15 offers an alternative to the Survival of the Fittest mentality. In addition to yesterday’s list, here are some things that we can–{and should}–do in our much-in-need moments:

1. Admonish the unruly–help the undisciplined get back on track. When Paul originally penned this, there was a tendency toward escapism. Life was hard and many had quit their jobs believing Jesus would be back tomorrow. Paul instructs them, “This is not what you learned from us.” There are many ways we escape the reality of responsibility today–leave our bills for someone else to pay, spend our time on the internet, make bad food choices, live to be entertained, blame others, make excuses, etc. We need each other to remind us that we were created for a purpose and that purpose ought to be shaping the reality of our calendar.

2. Encourage the fainthearted–another way to say this might be, ‘Give courage to those who have become feebleminded.’ You know the ones, those whose thoughts led them so deeply down a rabbit hole that their hearts can’t get back up . These friends need to borrow your belief–lend it generously!

3. Help the weak–resist the urge to celebrate unbiblical strength. Our American ideals easily suffocate the weakness that is strength–that is, being weak that Christ might be strong. When others around us are frail and falling, do we scold them? Tell them to stand tall? Quit embarrassing themselves? Get some dignity? Or do we help them lean forward into and upon Christ?

4. Be patient with everyone–yes, everyone, because people aren’t things and God’s work in them takes time. Sometimes, lots of time. Love is patient, it can wait.

5. Make sure nobody repays another evil for evil. Note: This verse does not only say, “Do not repay evil for evil.” It actually tells us to not allow evil to be done. Yes, meddle. Get involved. Have an opinion. Stand up and say, “No more.” I know, I know, I know. You don’t want to make a judgment. Take sides. Confrontation is so uncomfortable. Here’s the thing: Friends don’t let friends do evil. Remind them they are bigger and better than that. Assure them that God sees and God will set things straight.

6. Always seek after that which is good for all people–don’t wait for it to “just happen.” Seek it! This isn’t a good we seek for ourselves {although it will be good for us}, but it is a good for others…and not just for the moment. Are you seeking good for the generations that will come after you? {Might be a thought to take with you into the voter’s booth come November.}

Wait! What about me? Whose looking after me in this list? Am I not entitled to have a much-in-need moment? I humbly confess here that I recently thought exactly this. I was discouraged and tired and the needs around me seemed endless and enduring. It was a self-endulgant moment revealing my own spiritual independence.

Here’s what I learned through this: Much-in-need moments are calls to more closely follow after Christ. He lets me have deep needs so that I will learn to trust Him deeply. Trust and intimacy are two sides of the same coin. It is abiding. Christ doesn’t just call us close to Him so we can be buddies, hang out together, and discover “You too!” moments. He calls us close to Him so that we can become like Him. Intimacy with Jesus results in bearing His image.

So what does this have to do with Paul’s list in I Thessalonians 5? Everything! What I really think Paul is getting at is this insistence that the Christian community trade in its culturally conditioned individualism and independence. “You’ve got needs?” he says, “Look around, so do your family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. Stop making it all about you.”

In the second chapter of this letter to the Thessalonians, Paul describes his own ministry as   a “gentle mother tenderly caring” (I Thess. 2:7) and an “exhorting, encouraging and imploring father” (I Thess. 2:11). I think this is important. As a mother, I am least aware of my own needs. My goal is set on the lives of my children flourishing as the people God created them to be. I will work tirelessly for them. I will go without so they can have. As spiritual mothers and fathers, will we do the same for others in our communities of faith?

This weekend I sat at the beach with my hubby observing families. I saw countless times that parents, wet and cold themselves, gave their towels to their children to warm shriveled bodies and quiet chattering chins. They admonished unruly play with firm eyes, they lent bravery to little ones scared by tall waves, they nursed wounds from hurtful words and jellyfish stings, they filled up buckets of sand and poured out countless streams of patience, often just to begin again. Not once did I hear a parent say, “Notice me! Take care of me!” Instead, every motion, every face, every posture said, “I notice you…and I will not lose you to the waves.” I thought to myself, this is what Church should look like.

Much-in-need moments are calls to go be with Jesus and then go be Jesus to another. Imagine what might happen if we all did?

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