Summary: 4th in 5-Part series of casting the vision and clarity for the purpose of our church.

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Max Lucado, in his book, Applause From Heaven, tells the story of the time when his 3 year old daughter, Jenna, awoke him in the middle of the night. He said that he tried to stay asleep but her insistent, "Daddy" wouldn’t allow him to stay in slumber. He writes, "I opened one eye. Andrea was at the edge of my bed only a few inches from my face. `Daddy, I’m scared.’ I opened the other eye and saw the clock, 1 am in the morning. `What’s wrong, Andrea?’ `I need a fwashwight in my woom.’ `You need what?’ `I need a fwashwight in my woom.’ I was awake now, `Why do you need a fwash- uh, flashlight in your room?’ `Cause it’s dark.’ I told her the night light was on, the hall light was on. `But Daddy,’ she objected, ’what if I open my eyes and can’t see anything?" `Say that again?’ `What if I open my eyes and can’t see anything?’ Just as I was about to tell her that this was not the best time to have a discussion on why people are blind, my wife interrupted. She explained that there had been a power failure around midnight and Andrea must have awakened in the dark. No night light, no hall light. She had opened her eyes and had been unable to see anything. Just darkness. She had apparently stayed in her room, frightened, until the lights had come back on in order to make it to her Daddy." Even the hardest of hearts and the sleepiest of parents would be touched by the thought of a child waking up in a darkness so black that they couldn’t find their way out of their room. So, Lucado did what any good father would do. He climbed out of bed, picked Andrea up, got a flashlight out of the utility room, and carried her to her bed. All the while, telling her that Mom and Dad were there to help her if she got scared again.

I want to talk to you today about the Church’s responsibility to encourage the needy. The 4th section listed in our practice statements, says: M.C.C. seeks to accomplish it’s purpose by: Encouraging those in need.. By ministering to the needy, first as Scripture dictates, to the household of faith, and then to others as we have ability, so that Christ’s love might be displayed. Our world is filled with people who, like Andrea, are unable to see any light in their lives. Some feel the oppression of physical needs, like hunger and disease, some live in the darkness of being unloved, where loneliness is like an empty pit they keep falling down, some can’t see where their next dollar will come from. And just as parents do their best to supply their child’s necessities when known, so too our Church must minister, as best we can, to those who are in need.

Now, before we get into the main thrust of the message I want to point out 2 preliminary principles. (1) Ministering to the needy is not just the task of the corporate Church but also of every individual Christian. Sometimes we excuse our

own lack of involvement with people, by blaming the Church. Why doesn’t the Church do something about feeding the hungry? Why don’t the Church leaders organize an effective program for the homeless? I thought we hired minister’s to care of us? Now, the Church and it’s leaders do need to coordinate ministries to help the needy. But much of what the Church does is done through individual response. When you look at all the “one-anothering” passages in the N.T. it is clear that they are just that.. “one-anothering,” help that each one of us is to give to one another. Now, you may say.. “Yes, but Tim, last week you read the list of spiritual gifts in Rom.8 and there was the gifts of “encouragement” and “mercy giving,” what if I don’t have either of those gifts? Well, remember there is also the also the gift of “evangelism..”some who are especially gifted in sharing the gospel with others, many times to an absolute stranger. Just because we don’t have that gift doesn’t release us from the Commission of Jesus in Matt. 28 of sharing what Jesus has done for us does it? Same thing here. Just because you may not have one of the specific “caring” gifts doesn’t release you from the responsibility of helping others when you have the opportunity. Sometimes we just need to climb out of our beds of comfort and respond to the need first hand.

(2) Ministering to human or temporal needs must always come 2nd to ministering to spiritual needs. Throughout the N.T. the #1priority for people was the salvation of their souls! That’s why our first priority is reaching the lost. Jesus is our primary example of this proper balance. He was certainly concerned about the physical needs of people, He healed the sick, fed the hungry, befriended the lonely, comforted the fallen. But His primary task was to “seek and save the lost.” In fact, Jn 20:30 tells us the reason the Bible records Jesus’ care for the needy, is so we’ll believe He is the Son of God. You see, the reason the “spiritual” must come before the “temporal” is because the only thing that is going to last is our soul! That makes our chief responsibility to share the good news of Christ to those lost in sin. But we also must understand that ministering to needs many times opens the door to sharing the message of salvation. The proper Biblical priority is making our primary focus reaching the lost, but while we are doing that, as Ambassadors of Jesus, we minister to those who have need.

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