In our home, we made use of a saying as the kids were growing up. Actually, we made use of a LOT of sayings but this one, in particular, was one of the most useful. It helped them evaluate any given situation and their part in it. If they were in the midst of a heated argument or trying to justify their course of action, this question could stop them in their tracks. It cut right to the heart of most any issue.
Are you helping or hurting the family?
Rarely, did they answer this question flippantly. They seem to instinctively know that this thought process should be respected. The question took their minds off the other people involved in a situation and placed it back on them. It showed them that they had a responsibility as a member of our family and we expected them to live up to it. Because they were living under our care and with our family name, they had an obligation as such.
This same mindset can be useful to us as Christians because we bear the name of Christ and likewise, are under His care. In a time when it is easy to get caught up with a distorted worldview, we can lose sight of how we are actually doing when it comes to fulfilling our purpose as believers.
This passage in Acts 9:32-43 helps define the privilege, and the weight, of this Holy responsibility.
32 Now as Peter went here and there among them all, he came down also to the saints who lived at Lydda. 33 There he found a man named Aeneas, bedridden for eight years, who was paralyzed. 34 And Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; rise and make your bed.” And immediately he rose. 35And all the residents of Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord.
36 Now there was in Joppa a disciple named Tabitha, which, translated, means Dorcas. She was full of good works and acts of charity. 37 In those days she became ill and died, and when they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room. 38 Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, hearing that Peter was there, sent two men to him, urging him, “Please come to us without delay.” 39 So Peter rose and went with them. And when he arrived, they took him to the upper room. All the widows stood beside him weeping and showing tunics and other garments that Dorcas made while she was with them.40 But Peter put them all outside, and knelt down and prayed; and turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. 41 And he gave her his hand and raised her up. Then, calling the saints and widows, he presented her alive. 42 And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. 43 And he stayed in Joppa for many days with one Simon, a tanner.
When I read through this passage recently, I couldn’t help but notice how the work of God in each of our lives can and should impact those around us. In a brief portion of Scripture, we see how whole communities are affected by one man and one woman. God not only changed THEIR lives but also those that knew them!
Therefore, this Holy responsibility we have is the opportunity to draw others to Christ based upon His work in our life. The eternal future of others can be influenced by our faith! That is a high calling!
The Weighty Question
So the question that should cause us to tremble is this-
Are we helping or hurting the kingdom of God?
There are only two choices because even if we think we are not affecting anyone for the kingdom, that in and of itself, is a negative. Are those around us being drawn to Christ because of our witness or are they driven from Him because of what they see in us?
Our actions and attitudes have a wonderful occasion to bless others as the woman did in the passage ab0ve. Her community knew full well how she benefitted those around her. That’s why they grieved over her death.
There are many believers who leave a hole in the lives of others as they pass away because of all their loving deeds. And yet, there are some “Christians” who are such in name only and can leave people relieved at their passing. This is because they are hurting the kingdom rather than helping it.
Our greatest honor will be to bring glory to the name of Christ and likewise, our greatest shame will be to defame the name of Christ.
How can we know if we are helping or hurting the cause of Christ?
Am I part of the problem or part of the solution? It can be hard to tell but there are some questions that can offer perspective. If we consider what Jesus told us in John 15:8, then we can evaluate our “fruit”.
Show that you are my followers by producing much fruit. This will bring honor to my Father.
Here are some questions to consider.
- How do I spend my time? Do I use my time all for myself or do I use my time to benefit others?
- What do I do just because I am a disciple of Christ? (Controlling temper, forgiving others, kindness, etc)
- What do I refrain from just because I follow Christ? (Talking negatively about others, harboring anger…)
- Do I actually obey what I learn from the Bible or is it merely head-knowledge?
- How is my emotional maturity? Do I inwardly rage against others? Am I for people or against them?
- Would others describe me using the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, kindness, gentleness, self-control, patience, goodness, faithfulness)?
- Are people drawn to me? Do others want to spend time with me?
- Do I enjoy serving or am I resentful of it?
- What occupies my mind? What I could do for others or what they should do for me?
- Am I making a difference in the lives of others or am I just serving my own interests?
The answers to these questions can help us identify the fruit from our lives. Jesus said we would know a tree by its fruit so the first “tree” we need to examine is our own! And before it is too late!
You will know these people because of what they do. Good things don’t come from people who are bad, just as grapes don’t come from thornbushes, and figs don’t come from thorny weeds. 17 In the same way, every good tree produces good fruit, and bad trees produce bad fruit.18 A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot produce good fruit.19 Every tree that does not produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.20 You will know these false people by what they do.
21 “Not everyone who calls me Lord will enter God’s kingdom. The only people who will enter are those who do what my Father in heaven wants. 22 On that last Day many will call me Lord. They will say, ‘Lord, Lord, by the power of your name we spoke for God. And by your name we forced out demons and did many miracles.’ 23 Then I will tell those people clearly, ‘Get away from me, you people who do wrong. I never knew you.’ Matt. 7:16-23 ERV
The Privilege at Risk
If we are helping the family of God, we will be given a precious moment in time. The Bible speaks of the “crown” in store for us.
And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. 1 Peter 5:4
We are also told to guard it well.
I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. Rev.3:11
This leads up to a powerful scene in heaven one day where we see what some will do with their crowns.
9 And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying,
11 “Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they existed and were created.” Rev. 4:9-11
When I think of what that “crown” represents, it is the culmination of a reputation over a lifetime. What a glorious chance to lay down all of our hard work and suffering, every act of love and sacrifice spanning a lifetime, and the reward we will receive from that, in worship to the Savior who made it all possible in the first place!
The thought of such a moment in heaven where the whole of our lives culminates into a crescendo of praise to the Lord Jesus Christ is overwhelming. But to think of missing out on that wonderful, eternal reward would be the most tragic of losses.
Our reputation is either building His kingdom or hindering it. What God is doing in our lives matters! Let’s make the most of it!!
I’m so condemned after reading your blog.
I’m going through really rough times and nothing has made a bit of sense for 8 years. More ( less sense) since the last 3 1/2 years. I’ve prayed every prayer, repeating most, not getting answers. Im now in a backslidden state, hating my life wishing I could die! I’ve misrepresented God so badly that my hope is dying and I’m tired. Is there anything more I can add to this mess I made? I know you are right Gretchen, but sad to say is that I’ve not represented God correctly. I want to be there to throw my crown down, but right now it’s not looking like anything but a dream. I’m so lost in a host of problems and walking through a valley, idk what to do.
Gretchen Fleming says
Oh Maria, God never wants us to feel condemned because Jesus has already paid our price for that. He may want us to feel conviction but that is to spark our confession and repentance. I am so sorry for your trials over these last 8 years. Though I do not know your circumstances, the way I would approach it would be to repent where I had misrepresented God. I would cry out as David did in Psalm 51 when he felt convicted. Then after knowing God is always faithful to forgive us of our sin when we repent, I would then move forward by walking in obedience to Him. I would make sure I was attending and plugged into a Bible believing and preaching church, not a church where they just give stories from the pulpit but sermons explaining God’s Word. I would serve somehow and begin helping those around me in simple ways like encouraging them or helping meet a need they have. I would also make time with God daily a priority, reading His Word, prayer and worship music.
Whenever we repent we are blessed with a fresh start. Through Jesus, we have a clean slate with God each time we run to Him when we have done wrong. He wipes away our shame and our tears.
Your church community is vital for support Maria. If you don’t have one that is such for you, I would search and drive until I found one. God does not want you to hate your life but to enjoy life with Him as the loving Father He is. I would stop reading other books besides the Bible and just let God’s Word be a balm unto your soul. Let Him pour Himself into you through the ministry of His Spirit using His Word. For me, it gives me the perspective and strength I need.
Let me know how you are doing Maria. I am praying right now.
Dear Lord, I commit Maria to you and her heartache. I ask you to work mightily in her heart and life. I know you are faithful and just to forgive her when she repents and I thank you for that. Draw her to a church community for support and the preaching of Your Word. Edify her in order to glorify Your Name. Guard her from the enemy and surround her with a loving church community. Grant her peace and guidance through Your Holy Spirit. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
I really love the self reflection questions you pose here…..great questions! I think I may write those down to come back to again. Thanks so much!
This really gave me pause and made me spend some time asking these questions. Thanks for the reminder that our choices, good and bad, truly do affect others!