I have no one else like Timothy who takes a genuine interest in your welfare, for everyone else looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. Philippians 2:21
I was in a prayer meeting this week. We are trying to bring an evangelistic event to a nearby Native American reservation. This is a big step of faith, but God is leading. The area is riddled with drugs, especially heroin and meth. There have been several overdose deaths in the last year of young people, a symptom of a much bigger epidemic in our area. One of the Native American Christians at the prayer meeting asked for prayer for her handful of fellow Natives who are Christians. She asked that they would have a burden for their people, not just for themselves.
It struck me that this is another level of our faith walk–caring about the welfare of others, not just ourselves. When a sports team does badly and the coach is interviewed at the end of the season about how to do better the next year, the answer usually includes this statement: “we’re going to take it to the next level.” Just what that means for them as a sports team and coaching staff probably involves analyzing their weak links and irradiating them, maybe changing their offense or defense or trying something new.
For us as Christians, taking it to the next level means something else. That’s what I’ve been thinking about this week. It is a deeper work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. How can we make this happen? What element was present in Timothy’s life that made him genuinely interested in the welfare of the Philippians, where no one else was? What element is missing, not just in the Native American believers’ lives, but in the church as a whole, that takes us away from being self absorbed and toward being ‘about our Father’s business’ as Jesus pronounced in Luke 2:49?
There are three things that I can think of that ‘takes us to the next level’:
1–Prayer for ourselves and others that God would take us there. Paul’s prayers at the beginning of Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians for the believers in those churches modeled prayers we ought to be praying for ourselves and for the people around us. He prayed for things like that ‘their spiritual eyes would be opened’ and ‘that they would please God in every way, bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God…’
Why not pray that the people around you would wake up to the spiritual needs of the people around them? Pray that God would open their eyes to what He wants to do in their jobs and their neighborhoods and communities for His kingdom, and that He would light a fire in their souls. And pray that they would become Timothy’s, people who are concerned about the welfare of others and the interests of Jesus Christ.
2. Teaching and discipling. In Matthew 28:18-20, the ‘Great Commission’ verses, Jesus told His disciples, and us, to go and make disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey everything He has commanded us. Being about the welfare of others’ spiritual interests is woven throughout the teachings of Paul. In 2 Corinthians 5 18-19 Paul says that Christ has given us the ministry of reconciliation and the message of reconciliation. That’s not a suggestion, it’s a command–it’s a passing of the baton on to us.
In order for people to know that they have to look out for others besides themselves, it has to be taught to them and modeled for them by us. If we aren’t doing it, then we might as well forget it. If we are, then we should bring them along in the process and make it very clear that this is what the Christian life is about–pouring our lives into other peoples’ lives.
3. Asking, seeking, and waiting for God to do that deeper work of the Holy Spirit that only He can do. Becoming a Christian that has a deeper working of the Holy Spirit in their lives is a work of God. When God has had those power surges in my life, I see that it has been at His hand, not mine. I am dependent on Him and the work of His grace to work when and how He pleases. I know He says, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you,” in James 4:8, but it is still a waiting game for when God chooses to do His work that takes us deeper into Him.
I will not stop pushing into God, asking Him to take me closer to Him, to use me in peoples’ lives, to show me more of Himself and to use Him for His kingdom’s sake. May He say of me: “I have no one else like Martha who takes a genuine interest in your welfare. She helps others look out for the interests of Jesus Christ.”