Even as Christians, we all have our own problems. But what happens when we are in need of help and no one can help us? And what if, while we are weak, others come to us with their problems? Perhaps we would all be too tired or burdened to really care for one another. Or perhaps we would feel discouraged and helpless. Unfortunately, I see this happen quite often in church and it’s an issue that I struggle with.
For example, I had been concerned about a brother for a while and thought several times about checking on him. However, each time that willingness came up in me, I pushed it aside because I felt like I was in no position to counsel anyone. It wasn’t until this brother finally came to me for help that I found out his situation was far worse than what I initially thought.
I didn’t feel prepared to help him, but I did anyway. I spent many hours talking to him, praying for him, and following up with him. His problems aren’t resolved yet. My own problems aren’t resolved either. However, I know that he was grateful for my help and at the very least, he knows that someone cares. So I’m glad that I was able to help even just a bit, despite having my own weaknesses.
So this got me thinking: do we have to be free of weaknesses and transgressions in our own lives before we can help others? Or before we do any work for the Lord? After all, Jesus did ask, “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into the ditch?” and “How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the plank that is in your own eye?” (Lk 6:39, 42).
In the context of both questions, Jesus was teaching His disciples not to judge or condemn others, but to be merciful. So let’s say we are currently struggling with a weakness that we know is not according to the teachings of the Bible, but we are trying to overcome it. In this case, we wouldn’t be spiritually blind. And we would have seen the plank in our own eye. Therefore, we would still be able to lead others in the right direction, or at least away from the proverbial ditch. The point is to be aware of ourselves and not harm others by being ignorant of our own handicap. And our help should come from a place of understanding and mercy, instead of self-righteousness and condemnation.
But what about ourselves? Just because we may be good spiritual companions to others does not necessarily mean that we will receive help when we need it. But let us not be discouraged by this. The believers in Macedonia set a good example for us. In 2 Corinthians 8, Paul wrote about their spirit of giving in the midst of great afflictions. While in extreme poverty, they gave beyond their ability, and were joyful, willing, and generous. This teaches us that we don’t have to be rich in order to be generous. And this can apply to us today in that poverty does not have to only refer to the lack of material wealth, but it can also refer to being poor in spirit.
In order to selflessly minister to others while we face afflictions, we need to first give ourselves to the Lord; then we can give to others by the will of God (2 Cor 8:5). We also need to pray for love that is sincere and genuine (8:8). Finally, we must not only desire to do the work, we must also complete it according to what we have (8:10-12). Even if we don’t have much to offer, we can just do our best.
The amazing thing is that when we do this willingly and joyfully, we will suffer no lack. Instead, “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work” (2 Cor 9:8, ESV). Did you count how many times the word “all” was used in that verse? When God gives, He is very, very generous!
Furthermore, 2 Corinthians 9:10-13 tells us all the blessings we will reap when we sow bountifully to the needs of our brothers and sisters: God will increase the fruits of our righteousness, we will be enriched to be more generous, there will be an overflowing of thanksgiving to God, and people will glorify God. Therefore, God’s grace is not given for us to live a more comfortable life, but to do more good works and ultimately bring glory to Him.