One of the things I love about the human heart is that it’s wired to help others when they’re in need. I see this repeated over and over: when a natural disaster strikes a town, or when a terrible wrong is committed against someone who’s done right, or when a beloved friend passes away. When people see a need, they often respond with caring hearts.
But even though our hearts are wired to help others in need, sometimes we need a little prompting. Sometimes we need to remind our minds of the blessings we’ve received from others, and then our minds can nudge our hearts to respond as we should.
The Apostle Paul gives two such reminders in his letter to the Romans. The first comes when he tells them that he’s planning to visit them in the future when he passes through Rome on his way to Spain. Paul says:
“But now that there is no more place for me to work in these regions, and since I have been longing for many years to see you, I plan to do so when I go to Spain. I hope to visit you while passing through and to have you assist me on my journey there, after I have enjoyed your company for a while” (Romans 15:23-24).
While mentioning that he is looking forward to enjoying their company for a while, Paul also mentions that he hopes to have them assist him on his journey to Spain. I don’t think Paul was trying to “guilt” them into helping him on the next leg of his missionary journey. From what I’ve read about Paul in his other writings, I believe he simply knew that their hearts would want to help on his journey. After all, his own heart was wired in the same way.
In the very next paragraph, Paul mentions that he’s on his way to deliver a gift to the Jewish brothers and sisters who were in need in Jerusalem, gifts which he had collected from the churches in Macedonia and Achaia. Paul says:
“Now, however, I am on my way to Jerusalem in the service of the saints there. For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings. So after I have completed this task and have made sure that they have received this fruit, I will go to Spain and visit you on the way. I know that when I come to you, I will come in the full measure of the blessing of Christ” (Romans 15:25-29).
Paul understood this blessing of giving and receiving, that when someone blesses you in your life, it is good and right and appropriate to share your blessings with them at some point in return, freely and voluntarily.
On a personal level, I know that my heart is often moved to help others on their journey, especially those who have been a blessing to me.
When I first became a Christian, I remember hearing about “tithes and offerings,” giving ten percent and more of your income to the work of God in the world. I hadn’t tithed before, not because I was against it, but because I simply didn’t have this principle in my mind yet. But once I understood this principle in my mind, my heart was glad to respond–thrilled to respond, in fact.
I remember some of the first “big” checks I wrote to support the work of God in the lives of missionary friends I knew (at least they were big to me, as I had never done this before). I was thrilled to be able to help my friends in a significant way each month. I didn’t feel obligated or guilted into it in any way. I just knew the blessing of hearing about Christ in my own life, and I was glad to help my friends share about Christ with others. It’s all part of this idea of giving and receiving–sharing with others the blessings that God has given to us.
Now that I’m in full-time ministry myself, I sometimes have to remind myself that when I share a need, God is often prompting others to respond at the same time. I have to remember that it’s not an obligation or a burden to others to hear about and respond to needs. It’s the way God has wired our hearts. Knowing this has helped me to be more open about my own needs in life, and I’ve been thankful to see how people have responded to those needs.
In the past few months, I’ve been amazed again at the generosity of others, including many of you, who have stepped in and helped my wife and I as we walk through my wife’s journey with cancer.
I have been humbled and reminded frequently just how good and kind and caring the human heart really is. Sometimes we miss this truth, especially when we are bombarded with such bad news about the wicked things that people have done in the world.
Of course there’s bad in the world. Of course, there’s wickedness, greed, evil, and depravity. But all of this stems from good hearts that have been corrupted by sin–usually related to some kind of selfishness. But when our hearts are right with God, something else takes over–something called selflessness; doing to others what you would have them do to you, and giving your life for the sake of others, just as Jesus gave His life for us.
Assisting others on their journey is not foreign to the human heart. But sometimes it takes a little prompting from our minds and the Holy Spirit to get our hearts in gear.
This week, I heard about some friends who have been praying about buying a van and a mammogram machine so they can go back to their home villages in Kenya and do cancer screenings for the women their. Perhaps because of my wife’s recent diagnosis, but my ears were especially attentive to their request, and my heart wanted to respond. I didn’t know what I could do or how I could help, but I was willing to find out.
I called my friends and listened as they talked about their hopes and dreams and prayers for this project. I’m still not sure what I can do yet, but now my heart and mind are both engaged and attuned to the need. As my friends move forward with their plans, perhaps we can find a way to take part along the way.
At the same time, I was surprised this week by a note from one of our readers overseas who asked if there was anything special Lana and I needed at this time. He had been blessed by our ministry and wanted to do something in return. Although I hesitated to share our personal needs with him, in the end I did share a few things that we had been praying about. Within a few hours, he had responded by saying he wanted to send a gift that would not only cover those needs that I had shared, but that would double the amount of what I had shared!
To me, this was a living example of what Paul was talking about in his letter to the Romans, when those who had received spiritual blessings responded by sending a gift of material blessings.
The human heart really is wired to respond to the needs of others, and often the only thing holding us back is making our minds aware of the needs around us so our hearts can respond.
With this in mind, I’d like to encourage you to be on the lookout for ways that God might want to use you to bless others, especially those who have been a blessing to you. Perhaps you have a friend or relative who has gone out of their way to spend some time with you. Perhaps you have a spiritual leader or mentor or ministry than has spoken into your life in a special way. Perhaps you have a project or a school or an organization which has been a blessing to you, and now you can be a blessing to them.
I know your heart is good and eager to assist others on their journey, but sometimes it takes a little reminder like this to jog your memory and bring it to the forefront of your mind.
I pray that as God renews your mind in this way, that the natural response of your heart will follow. Don’t ignore the promptings that God puts there. Don’t put them off until the feelings “go away.” Lean into those promptings and see what God may have in mind for you–and for those He wants to bless through you.
Will you pray with me?
Father, thank You for blessing us in various ways by the people around us. Help us to be attentive to their needs as well, so that we can be a blessing to them. Refresh our minds again today about practical ways that we can help them, then nudge our hearts to follow through on those thoughts. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Questions for Reflection
1. Read Romans 15:23-29. In what ways could the Christians in Rome have possibly assisted Paul on his journey to Spain?
2. Read Acts 28:7-10. In what ways did the people of Malta respond to the blessings they received from Paul?
3. Who are some people in your life who have been a blessing to you? In what ways might you be able to bless them in return?
4. In what ways could you open your mind still further to the needs around you in order to meet those needs yourself? Consider praying that God would renew your mind in this area, so He can work His blessings through you.
To read more from this series, Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind,please visit:
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