And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance character, and character, hope.
I was talking to a friend, who had had some business with some Muslims, and he was explaining how friendly they were, and eager to help in any way they could. As I mentioned that perhaps we, as Christians, should learn from that kind of attitude, it was explained to me that the Islamic religion is based on the belief that salvation is achieved through good deeds. It occurred to me that we should be fulfilling good deeds, not because we believe we will be saved by them, but with an eager heart that likens that of our Father, Creator and Saviour.
Why do we find it so tiresome to do good? There always seems to be boundaries as to the degree to which we help others. So what difference does it make to have an attitude of using each and every opportunity to show our love in Christ to others? As part of a project at church, I have been door knocking with another church member, speaking to residents around church and finding out whether the church can be of any assistance to them in their every day life. We had a few doors slammed in our faces, one particular man couldn’t help comment that he doesn’t come shoving science down our throats, so why should we come round selling God? (I imagine his face if he knew that I have spent the last three years studying science, whilst worshiping a God who is perfectly alive and relevant today!?) The amount of promising conversations we have had, compared to the relatively large number of hostility we have experienced makes me question the purpose. If God truly wants these people to come to Him, surely He will speak to them in appropriate ways, without wasting time? Then again, we might be that appropriate way, and He may as well just be teaching us some lessons as well.
Two of the most inspiring people I know are my church’s pastor and his wife. They both seem to radiate a wave of calm and joy onto those around them; you cannot help but enjoy and seek their presence, and learn. What makes them incredibly like-able is the amount of time they have for those around them. They spend hours invested in helping people, providing them with emotional support and making sure that those in need receive whatever they require. Most people are incredibly grateful for their help, but I’m sure that some people show greed and contempt. People, as human as they are, go round in circles. As humans, we take, make promises, break promises, try to break old habits, go back to old habits. The easiest thing figured out – how to live a life pleasing to God – is the hardest one lived in real life.
Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.
But Jesus didn’t die for His people to live a fruitless life. Scientific studies have shown that people who are more likely to help others and are more compassionate towards those around them have more of the hormone oxytocin in their bodies; a hormone that is called the ‘happy hormone’ because it elicits positive feelings, resulting in a stronger immune system and thus better health (watch the video to hear all about it!)
Learning to do right isn’t just to benefit those around us, it is a carefully designed way of experiencing a shared love that will benefit ourselves as well. When we do what is right – loving God and loving our neighbours (Matthew 22:37-39), we are creating building blocks with which God can build His kingdom; we are showing others what that kingdom looks like by revealing our own characters. And these deeds are character forming – a character with which such deeds and actions become natural. So it’s a cycle of doing good to create a character which seeks to do good.
God’s plan for every concept on earth is so amazingly wonderful; it seems He loves full circles and symmetry. So then, the difference it makes is not just found in the person that our actions are directed towards. It’s found in the person who is doing the action. And that’s incredible because if people turn away and sneer at the good that Christians are trying to do; then it doesn’t matter, because that work has not gone to waste. God works in wonderful ways, and He is forever faithful in the promises He has made:
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.
Sometimes we may feel like we are in a wrong place to do things. When we know we have done wrong or have attitudes that are not glorifying to God, it seems more appropriate to shy away from trying to do things that, on the surface, appear to come from a humble and loving heart, when inside, that’s not the case. The willingness to change must surely be of great value in God’s eyes, and a starting point to work with. So if we set our sails and start becoming active in whatever God gives us to do (there’s always something to do!), then He has something which we are offering up to Him, with which He can work, slowly changing our hearts and renewing our minds (Romans 12:2). ‘God doesn’t call the equipped; He equips the called’ – that’s the difference it makes!