You Reap What You Sow Part 4: Help
On Sunday 24th September at our morning service, we completed our series You Reap What You Sow with the topic 'Help'. In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.
To listen to this, click here.
An essential message of our series “You reap what you sow” (inspired by Paul’s words in Galatians 6: 7-10 which you can read by clicking here) is – you can’t fool God; what you do has consequences. This links in with our “6Ps” – catalysts that help us to grow in our relationship with God. Previous talks covered personal disciplines, powerful experiences, pivotal circumstances, practical teaching and providential relationships: the last talk’s theme was “Help” and the final “P”, personal ministry.
Our Big Story was from Rev. W. Awdrey’s railway engine books. Gordon the big engine didn’t want to pull a goods train and ran off a turntable into a ditch. Later, after some time pulling trucks instead of express trains, Gordon helped James when he couldn’t climb a hill with slippery rails. Gordon was learning to become a “really useful engine”.
Have there been times in your life when you have not wanted to do something, or have been selfish, and that has come to no good? Perhaps you have helped somewhere and learnt and benefitted? If you are Christian, you may have found that God uses the experience to help you to grow in your faith.
Jesus used the principle to help his first followers (disciples) to learn and they found it worked in the early days of the Christian church. In his account of Jesus’ life, Matthew recounts the story of the feeding of the 5000. Read it in the Bible at Matthew 14, verses 15-21 by clicking here. The miracle of making a small picnic feed so many is amazing, but think about how events affected Jesus’ disciples.
Imagine spending a long day on a hillside listening to Jesus and seeing him healing people. I suspect the disciples were getting tired and hungry when they suggested Jesus should send the people away to buy food. They may also have been concerned about the people getting hungry, though possibly hadn’t thought about the impact on the villages that would have been invaded! But notice Jesus’s response. He said (v16): "They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat."
What would your reaction have been? We can’t possibly do that! Where are we going to get that much food out here on the hills? But, having found supplies - just five loves and two small fish – they surely wondered, “What now?”. Jesus said, “bring them to me…” and (verse 19) “…taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people.” The disciples had to distribute the food and pick up the leftovers. Their status changed – rather than being “important”, those who Jesus had chosen to be his close followers, they were now servants, handing out food. And doing the tidying-up. Taking part in this was beginning to change them, learning that Jesus expects a different attitude. Sometimes we must help others ourselves, not simply sit around waiting for God to do stuff for us. Interestingly, Matthew records another similar incident (Chapter 15 verses 29-39 which you can read by clicking here). Can I suggest that, for a real impact, helping needs repeating?
A year or two later, the disciples had become leaders of a growing community with a range of people who needed help. The distribution of resources needed organising so that different ethnic groups were not disadvantaged. They knew that their main role at the time was preaching and teaching so they appointed seven men to take over the practical stuff. They were chosen with the help of the people as being dedicated to God and “full of the holy Spirit” – in other words, with the right gifts for the task in front of them and support from those they were to serve. These guys now had to help the others and they grew in spirit and power as a result, as you can read in the book of Acts.
That God wants us to help others almost goes without saying. However, we need reminding and God can use the process to teach us and help us grow. Maybe this is your experience. Do you also encourage those you work with, to help them grow? Or perhaps when you see something or someone that would benefit from a bit more help it’s someone else’s problem”. When we appeal for volunteers to help at EBC, do you think about what you could do, or find reasons why you shouldn’t or can’t? Isn’t that like the disciples who wanted Jesus to send the crowds away – make it someone else’s problem? Remember His response – “you don’t have to send them away, give them something to eat”.
Over the years I have often been helped by helping. Simple, practical things, working alongside people, developed friendships and supported others. More challenging roles, inside and outside the church, have taught me about working with people in different ways, putting my Christian perspectives into practice without “preaching”. It is important for all of us – Jesus expects it of us – to serve so that we can grow in our experience and outlook and trust in Him. And yes, it might mean putting ourselves out a bit.
So don’t be like Gordon the big engine who didn’t want to do things that he thought were beneath him and ran into a ditch. Be like the Gordon who realised James needed help on the slippery rails and by working together got the train on its way, learning on the way to become a “really useful engine”, not just a powerful one.
Why not ask God what you could be doing to help and, like Jesus’ disciples, see what he does to and through you? You could join a team here at EBC. If you have some time during the working week, at our Refresh café, Premix Toddlers morning or reception desk for instance; our lettings and catering teams, Storehouse ministry or caretaker would probably welcome another pair of hands at busy times. If weekdays are not an option, you could help with setting up and serving refreshments on a Sunday morning; or maybe go on a rota to provide lifts for those who are less mobile to get to church. In the next few weeks we will be calling for volunteers to help with this Winter’s Night Shelter (where several churches in the town get together to provide a hot meal and overnight shelter for homeless people during the coldest time of the year). Could you help with that?
Although the many things that EBC does would always benefit from more help, what you do doesn’t have to be at church – it is the principle of helping others and working with others in some way that God can use as we sow something worth reaping.
And if you are already helping, or have spent a lifetime helping and now cannot do so much, reflect on what you have achieved, thank God for those you work with or once served alongside who helped you to grow, and use the experience to encourage others who are serving now.
Questions and Reflections (for you to think about on your own or to discuss in your Life Group)
1. Has there been a time in your life when you could have helped or served someone but chose not to? Why was that?
2. If you are not actively serving now, what prevents you? What would have to change so that you could?
3. Think about times when you have served alongside others. What effect did that have on your faith?
4. If you are serving in some way now, how is that helping you? How are you helping others to grow?
5. Perhaps God may be asking you to do something different to serve Him. What might that be?
6. Whether you would call yourself a Christian or not, there are many ways to get involved in personal ministry at EBC.
They don’t all need special gifts or abilities. What would help you and the church most now?