Throughout Scripture Christians are commanded to love and serve other people (See John 13:34-35; Gal 5:14; Phil. 2:1-11) . Other believers are to receive first priority when it comes to our efforts (Gal. 6:10, but that does not negate our responsibility to extend this commitment to anyone God places in our path. Our commitment to Christ is reflected in how we treat others (John 13:35) and therefore how we treat others should regularly reflect our growing sanctification.
The challenge is that a lot of times this commitment to love and serve others can be inconvenient, to say the least. We have our own priorities and obligations and we wonder how we are going to achieve all that we want to if we are constantly focusing on those around us. However, as I was reminded recently, one of the reasons that the Christian is able to keep their eye out for how they can serve others is because they are confident that God is keeping His eyes on them. We don’t need to worry about who is taking care of us because the Creator and Sustainer of all things has us firmly in His hands (John 10:28).
It’s easy to spout these truths; many Christians have heard them since they were children in Sunday School. However, our degree of trust in them is displayed based on how we conduct our lives. If we are constantly focused on making sure our needs are met and our goals are achieved than its unlikely that we will have time to focus on others. If instead we trust that God is focusing His attention on us and there is no one who can provide for us better than Him, than we are free to walk as Jesus did – seeking out those who are in need and extending ourselves in order to serve and love them.
Just as God ensures that the sun is going to rise (Mt. 5:45) and that the flowers are going to bloom (Lk. 12:27), He has promised that He will provide for the needs of His children (Lk. 12:22-31). Instead of worrying about these things, He wants us to be focused on how we can be His ambassadors of love to those lives which He causes to intersect with our own. As we do so He gives us the double blessing of being used by Him to accomplish His purposes. And what better thing is there to focus on than that?
Anytime you are involved in ministry, it is worth revisiting what Paul writes about in I Corinthians. In the opening chapters he reminds us, and the Corinthians, that doing ministry is not about personal acclaim (See I Cor. 1:10-17). After all, we can be diligent in ministry and yet never experience the fruit of our labors. To use his parlance, we may faithfully plant seeds, and another may water, and it is only on the other side of glory that they see the impact that our labor had (See I Cor. 3:6). As I often remind myself, it is not my job to ensure the results of the work I do for the Lord; He has that task completely under control. Instead, I must faithfully serve, and leave the outcome up to Him.
Not only does Paul clearly articulate this concern in I Corinthians, he gives us another motivation for being faithful in how we minister to those God puts in our path. He reminds us in I Corinthians 3:10 that the work that God is doing in someone’s life may not end or begin with our ministry to them. In other words, God may call a fellow believer to build upon what He accomplished through our service. If our service was half-hearted or lack intentionality, then the next person’s work will be more of a challenge. Our ministry impacts the ability of another believer to faithfully minister to the same person. We don’t serve God in a vacuum. The extent to which we represent Him well either enhances or inhibits other believers who may also be “building into” that person’s life.
This can be especially important to remember as we interact with the more challenging people God places in our lives. It can be easy to write them off because we don’t see the impact that our labor is having, but we should be cautious in doing so. After all, it may not be God’s plan for us to experience the change that He is bringing about in that individual. In loving concern for those who may minister after us, however, we should carefully and faithfully work to build a foundation that will make their ministry easier. We are all aware of how difficult it can be to present the Gospel to someone who has had a bad experience with people claiming to be Christians. We don’t want to be the reason that another believer has a difficult time ministering to someone who previously crossed our path.
If we recognize the importance of this lesson, how will it practically impact our lives? One such way is that it will result in more intentionality in our interactions. Whenever we encounter someone who is not a believer, we should be mindful that our interaction with them may be part of a foundation that God is building. Additionally, as a result we should be more purposeful in our prayers or those that God brings across our path. We should be praying not only that God would do a work in their lives, but that those who will minister in their lives after us will be faithful to the call God puts on their lives. We should be praying not only for how God call us to serve that person; we pray for those who will minister to them long after our lives cease to intersect.
We can be quick to remind ourselves that we are not aware of how God is using each circumstance in our own life to bring about His plan. We should be equally quick to remind ourselves that we are often unaware of how He is using us in other people’s lives to fulfill His purposes. Let us be careful builders, therefore, as we don’t know what other bricks may need to be laid after us and whether our ministry just may be one step in bringing someone to Christ.