Summary: Jesus' care for you led Him to die so you could receive salvation and forgiveness of sin.
If we were to go out on the streets and ask people at random, “What is your greatest need?” we would probably get a number of different responses. We wouldn’t be surprised in this economy if we got several answers of people needing a job so they could provide for their home and family. If people were honest many would say they were lonely. Their greatest need is a friend or spouse. Some might say, “Peace in my home. My husband is abusive or negligent. The kids are defiant and disrespectful. The in-laws are impossible.”
Suppose we conducted those street interviews in another country like India or Haiti. The answers would center more on raw survival. It’d be more common to hear, “I’m starving. I need food.” “I’m dying. I need a doctor and medicine.” Over and over we’d hear young and old say, “I live on the streets. I need a place of shelter.”
But it is Christmas that gives the answer to our greatest need. Don’t think I’m being uncaring or uninformed of the great needs of people in this world, but our greatest need is to receive God’s salvation and forgiveness of sin. One reason this is our greatest need is we will live far longer in eternity than the brief dash of time we experience in this world.
I know it is easy to dismiss statements like this from a well-fed, comfortable American. So I point you to K.P. Yohannan. He grew up in India and didn’t wear shoes before he was 17. In his book Revolution in World Missions, he tells about his experience of preaching the gospel all across India. He is not oblivious to India’s oppressive poverty. Yet he strongly contends against getting distracted with meeting physical needs, while ignoring the spiritual needs. He says that India has seen 150 years of schools and hospitals brought to them by British missionaries, but it has not had any noticeable effect on either their churches or society.
Yohannan says that it is one of Satan’s lies that people will not listen to the gospel unless we offer them something else first. He has sat on the streets of Bombay with beggars who are about to die. He has told them that he does not have material goods to give them, but he has come to offer them eternal life, and he has seen many respond. He says:
There is nothing wrong with charitable acts—but they are not to be confused with preaching the Gospel. Feeding programs can save a man dying from hunger. Medical aid can prolong life and fight disease. Housing projects can make this temporary life more comfortable—but only the Gospel of Jesus Christ can save a soul from a life of sin and an eternity in hell!
He makes the point that social concern is a result of the gospel. We’re tempted to put the cart before the horse. So this Christmas by all means contribute to the Salvation Army bell ringers or any other charitable organization that ministers to the needs of people. But let it be a reminder that Christmas reveals that our greatest need is to receive God’s salvation and forgiveness of sin. (Idea: Steve Cole sermon, Heb. 2:16-18)
It’s Christmas and Easter that give us hope that our greatest need has been provided. We use the word “hope” very differently than the Bible. For us “hope” can be defined as a fanciful wish or desire. We think of it as optimism. “I hope tomorrow is a better day.” “I hope the Cowboys beat the Sooners.” What is hoped for may or may not come to pass. In contrast, hope in the Bible is not a wish or desire or a positive attitude. Biblical hope is an unshakeable confidence. This confidence is based on the faithful character and promises of God—even when circumstances give us every reason to doubt.
In Psalms we are told to “hope in the Lord” 23 times. The Bible teaches that hope in the Lord will give us strength. Our culture promotes self-confidence. The Bible promotes confidence in God. It’s our confidence in Him that gives us the strength to face any challenge that comes our way.
Hope in the Lord teaches us patience. Society teaches us to solve our own problems. But when a Christian faces a hopeless situation, he looks to God to give him the strength to endure and/or the wisdom to choose the best action.
Hope in the Lord brings encouragement. Do you remember the last time you were anticipating a long weekend of recreation or vacation and it lifted your spirit? That’s what hope does for a Christian in this life as he looks forward to what God has prepared for him in eternity. Hope gives us joy and encouragement for living.