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February-March 2021

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INTERSECT: Faith in Action

George Mueller saw God answer prayer over and over again in his life. Perhaps you recall this faithful man started an orphanage for children, relying upon the financial and physical needs of the orphanage to be met through prayer. God met those needs in many incredible ways. One morning, the housemother informed Mueller the children were ready for school but there was no food to eat. He instructed her to seat the 300 children at the dining hall tables. He thanked God for the food, and they simply waited. Within minutes, a baker knocked on the door and said, “Mr. Mueller, last night I could not sleep. Somehow, I knew you would need bread this morning, so I got up and baked three batches for you. I will bring it in.”

A few minutes later, a milkman knocked. His cart had broken down in front of the orphanage. Knowing the milk would spoil by the time the wheel was fixed, he asked George if he could use the milk. George smiled as the milkman brought in ten large cans. It was just enough for the 300 thirsty children.

I don’t know whether the baker and milkman were Christians or not, but I do know God delights to supply the needs of His people. And I also know He typically chooses to meet those needs through ordinary people like you and me. Understand your help may be the answer to someone’s prayers.
Romans 12:13 calls Christianity into action. You would probably agree there’s often too much talk in the church about doing good but not enough action. In this verse, we are confronted with two simple and straightforward actions to impact people around us:

Provide for the needs of the saints. This word saints should not be confusing. It is simply one of the ways Scripture refers to Christians. It doesn’t describe a special class of Christians, some elite group. No, it is a designation for anyone who is in Christ. You are declared to be holy or set apart for God because of your faith in Jesus. And, through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, He is producing holiness in your life. The word saint literally means holy one.

Paul made it clear we need to focus on meeting the needs of those in the church, the family of God. This doesn’t mean we do not care about the unbelieving world—quite the contrary. We are called to love everyone. But you take care of your family first, the principle and practice laid out in Scripture for your spiritual family as well as your physical family.

Acts 2 tells us the believers in the early church “had all things in common.” That is, they sold their possessions and belongings, brought the wealth together, and distributed the proceeds to all, as needed. This wasn’t an early version of socialism, a mandated pooling of resources. Instead, these actions were motivated by the love these believers had for one another. The primary takeaway for us? Share your material wealth and possessions to help those in need within the church family.

This principle can be expanded to include other needs—emotional needs, spiritual needs, and relational needs. Quite frankly, we are needy people. Where do we go to have the needs met? It is an easy answer: the church. And by church, I don’t just mean the building and services, although needs are met when believers come together. But the church is the family of God, brothers and sisters God uses to meet needs.

Pursue love for strangers. Most translations use the word hospitality here. This is a compound word—the first part means love and second part is the word for stranger, so love of or for strangers. Hebrews 13:1-2 reminds us to let brotherly love continue, and to show hospitality to strangers.

No Tom Bodet and Motel 6 “left the light on” for people in the days of the early church. In those days, having a safe and welcoming place to stay in someone’s home was a tremendous blessing, especially true for a traveling Apostle and missionary like Paul. Today, this passage should encourage us to welcome strangers into our church. We all remember what it was like to be new to a place or group. Whether you were the new student at school or moved to a new town, it is refreshing and encouraging to have someone make you feel at home, to feel welcome.

Strangers to the local church are no different. A couple of years ago, Dr. Thom Rainer suggested churches could improve their “welcome” by inviting mystery guests to visit and then asking them to share their experience. How would your church do if no one knew when the visitors were coming? When someone comes as a guest in your house, you have the opportunity to straighten up, but when it comes to church, we don’t always have time to “clean up” our welcome.

Based on this verse, I encourage you to do two simple things: 1) be friendly; and 2) take the first step to welcome visitors to your church. Obviously, COVID has made things different and difficult in every sphere of life, including this area. It is hard to welcome people from a distance. You aren’t always sure how comfortable another person is with someone getting close. Make the effort anyway. Even a small measure of friendliness goes a long way.

When we provide for the needs of the saints and welcome strangers, we are being Christ-like. He met each of us at our point of need and He continues to provide for us, as we provide for the needs of others. We would do well to remember what Jesus told His disciples in Matthew 25:

Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

About the Columnist: Dr. Barry Raper pastors Bethel FWB Church near Ashland City, Tennessee. He also serves as program coordinator for ministry studies at Welch College. Barry and his wife Amanda have five children.


©2021 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists