How to Make a Difference
By Maria Fontaine
A sad part of my day is when I listen to the news. Almost everything is about people facing terrible situations. Both Christians and non-Christians face very painful suffering in one form or another in many parts of the world.
Much of the news is about some tragic circumstance somewhere. It ranges from financial crises to terrorism and wars and conflicts to drug-related violence to homelessness to persecution of Christians to devastation due to climate change to leftover land mines to lack of water in various places to horrible repressive governments.
Thinking about all that’s wrong can leave us feeling depressed if we stop there and we don’t take these situations to God in prayer. But He also uses this in my personal life as I look to Him for hope in a broken world.
Being reminded of the terrible straits that so many people are in always helps to divert my attention from what I consider my own problems and difficulties. Repeatedly being made aware of the suffering and trauma that so many people experience on a daily basis helps me remember the relative insignificance of my own difficulties and struggles and to be acutely aware of how blessed I am to be largely untouched by so many extremely sad and difficult things.
I see how very rich in spirit and blessings I am, how abundantly supplied for. My feet walk in pleasant paths, my eyes behold peaceful meadows, my ears hear beautiful music. I don’t hear the bombs of war. I don’t drink polluted water. I don’t live in a cardboard shack. I don’t hear words of cruelty from harsh taskmasters. I’m not imprisoned in a filthy cell.
I live in peace. Most people I encounter smile and say kind words. I have the freedom to openly talk about my faith. I can enjoy my loved ones. I have fun and friendship and fellowship. I have a warm bed. I can go out without fear.
I’m truly rich in so many ways that are so easy to take for granted!
Listening to the news helps me to pray for those who are suffering around the world. It also helps me to be much more positive and thankful for the “lightness” of my burdens, which are nothing compared with those of so many others.
We who are Christians may still have to struggle and face deep sorrow and suffering. Sometimes we may not feel very wealthy. However, in terms of spiritual provision, freedom, and answers to many of the questions of life, we are richly blessed.
As a result, we have the responsibility to share what we have with those the Lord leads us to, and to pray for those who are suffering and have incurred great loss.
When faced with the suffering and desperate needs of so many in the world today, you may not feel you have much to offer. But in spite of difficulties, deficiencies, inferiorities, disabilities, afflictions, or impediments, we all can do our part. Like the boy who gave his lunch to Jesus because he thought it would help others. (See John 6:9–13) And it did—in a far greater way than he could have ever imagined! What Jesus accomplished through the boy’s offering that day probably affected his and others’ lives forever.
Don’t underestimate the small things you can do: the smile that can cheer someone’s heart, the little word that can be an encouragement, the tract that can convey Jesus’ love, the little offering to God’s work, or the contribution to the poor. He uses some of the smallest things and weakest people as tools to have great impact on the lives of others. (See 1 Corinthians 1:26–28)
God had great commendation for the widow who, though she gave so little, comparatively gave more than the rich men because she gave all she had. He said, “Everyone else gave what they didn’t need. But she is very poor and gave everything she had.” (Luke 21:4 CEV) He sees your heart and He knows what your sacrifices cost you, and it is great in His eyes.
Maria Fontaine and her husband, Peter Amsterdam, are directors of the Family International, a Christian community of faith.
Copyright © Activated Magazine. All rights reserved.
Overcoming Spiritual Apathy
Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the Lord: The time will surely come when everything in your palace, and all that your predecessors have stored up until this day, will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left, says the Lord. And some of your descendants, your own flesh and blood who will be born to you, will be taken away, and they will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.” “The word of the Lord you have spoken is good,” Hezekiah replied. For he thought, “Will there not be peace and security in my lifetime?”
—2 Kings 20:16–19 NIV
Webster defines indifference as: Want or lack of interest or concern. Apathy. Without significance. Spiritual indifference or spiritual apathy is the detrimental spiritual quality of knowing what to do, or what is necessary, but being unwilling to take the necessary steps in that direction. There are several incidences of this kind of indifference in scripture, but none is quite as blatant as these few verses in 2 Kings 20. Hezekiah has entertained the political leaders of Babylon, and in the process has openly, and with pride of heart, shown them all that he possesses and what he has accomplished. After they have gone, he is confronted by the prophet Isaiah with a scalding rebuke by the Lord for his pride and arrogance.
It is his reply to this rebuke and prophetic warning that shows his indifference and apathy to it all. 2 Kings 20:19: “The word of the LORD you have spoken is good,” Hezekiah replied. For he thought, “Will there not be peace and security in my lifetime?”
Are you kidding me? What gall. What audacity. These people are going to come back, take the kingdom of Israel into captivity, your own sons will be made eunuchs, and all you have to say is, “It won’t happen during my lifetime—I’ll enjoy peace and security as long as I live.” The patterns of spiritual indifference and apathy that creep into our life may not seem as bad as this example of Hezekiah, but they can become just as costly, if left unchecked.
Spiritual apathy, coldness, or indifference can affect even the most sincere Christian at one time or another. Human emotions being as fickle as they are, feelings of apathy or disinterest can sometimes replace the fervor we once felt for the things of God. Overcoming such apathy is necessary for continuing our walk with God. Failure to deal with the indifference and apathy will ultimately rob us of the destiny God has planned for our life. You and I will find out very quickly that we will get out of our walk and relationship with God what we are willing to invest into it. “Give and it shall be given back to you” is a universal principle of God’s kingdom. So, what must we do to address this critical problem in our spiritual life?
Revelation 2:5: Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.
This was the command of Christ to the Ephesians Church, and it is still the answer for you and me when we find indifference and apathy controlling our life…
Passion is born in our hearts as we … begin to do what is necessary to move back to where we need to be in Christ. Remember what you once had in Christ. Repent of where you have allowed that to go in your life, and renew what God has destined for you.
—Peninsula Florida District, AOG (http://www.penflorida.org)
Responding to the “whatever” worldview
Apathy. That often smug assurance that “it” just doesn’t matter. That vague sense of superiority that comes from a “whatever” worldview. Nothing really matters. No one can ever know for sure. So why bother?
Every believer who has tried to make the case for Christianity has encountered this response. It’s not that the skeptic is considering our truth claims and rejecting them, or countering them with evidence that they are false, or that his worldview is true. Instead, most skeptics I’ve dealt with have developed a comfort level regarding the “unknowability” of ultimate things. They often argue that the fact that people disagree about such things—that they have differing views—is itself evidence that no one can ever know whether God is, what He is about, or most importantly, what He may want of us. And so, they often don’t bother to try to investigate these things for themselves.
But if the Christian worldview is correct, such apathy may itself be hazardous to one’s spiritual health. Not long ago, I tried to make this case in a conversation with a skeptic. It went something like this:
“Let’s say this was 50 years ago, and when I saw you, you were chain-smoking cigarettes with your kids always nearby. I know where medical science is headed, so I tell you that you are hurting yourself, and your kids. You respond that no one can really know such things; after all, you can point to doctors who advertise cigarettes and smoke them themselves, and you feel fine when you smoke.”…
My friend’s response was not unexpected. It went like this: “Have you ever noticed how so many things are bad/wrong only at certain points in a cycle? Eat eggs, don’t eat eggs; give your kids soy, soy is bad; babies should sleep on their backs, no their stomachs, no their sides, no their backs, etc., etc. … What I am saying is that I do what feels right to me, and that is the best I can do. … I think the ‘answer’ to many of these things is unknowable.”
Fair enough. Some things are unknowable, and for some things, it doesn’t really matter. But that of course is the point of being thoughtful: deciding which is which. So, I conceded that for some things, the right answer might be “it doesn’t matter.” … But for other things—like smoking—it will never “come back around.” Science will never say that smoking is good…
“So,” I concluded, “the trick is, which is this? Are questions of eternal life like laying a child on her side, or like smoking with my kids in the room? I hope you see the answer matters. If you were smoking 10 hours a day with your kids present, you would be harming them. Getting the right answer on that would matter. Getting the right answer on your relationship with God also matters, both to you and to the people you influence.”
—Al Serrato (http://pleaseconvinceme.com)
Copyright © 2017 The Family International.
The Holy Spirit and the Messiah
By Peter Amsterdam
In the Old Testament, the Spirit of the Lord generally came upon or interacted only with specific individuals and only on a temporary basis. It was prophesied, however, that a time would come when God would pour out His Spirit in abundance upon all His people. (Joel 2:28–29)
The Old Testament also includes prophecies about the Messiah who was to come, who would be powerfully filled with the Spirit of God and would do great things in God’s name. While the Jewish people did not think that this Messiah would be the Son of God, as they had no concept that God was a Trinity, they understood that the Messiah, an anointed king, would be greatly empowered by God’s Spirit.
Referring to the Messiah, the book of Isaiah says: “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.” (Isaiah 11:1–2)
This prophecy tells us that the Messiah would descend from the lineage of David, the son of Jesse, and that God’s Spirit would rest upon Him, meaning that the Spirit would remain on Him. He would be endowed with wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge, and the fear of God. Isaiah prophesied further about the Messiah, declaring again that God’s Spirit would be upon Him. (Isaiah 42:1)
Later it was again prophesied in the book of Isaiah that God’s Spirit would be mightily upon the Messiah and that He would be anointed and do His work with the power of the Spirit of the Lord:
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor; He has sent Me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion—to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:1–3)
These prophecies were fulfilled in the life of Jesus, the promised Messiah. All four of the Gospels speak of Jesus being filled with the Spirit at the beginning of His ministry, when He was baptized by John the Baptist. (See Matthew 3:13–17; Mark 1:9–11; Luke 3:21–22; John 1:32–34)
Later, when asked about Jesus, John the Baptist said: “He whom God has sent utters the words of God, for He gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand.” (John 3:34–35)
On the advent of Jesus’ ministry, the Holy Spirit descended upon Him without measure and remained on Him permanently. Immediately after this, the Spirit led Him into the wilderness, where the Devil tried to defeat Him, to no avail. (Luke 4:1–2) After overcoming the temptations, Jesus began ministering to others in the power of the Spirit. (Luke 4:14–15)
When Jesus returned to Nazareth, the village where He grew up, He was chosen to read from the Scriptures in the synagogue. The passage He read was from Isaiah, about the ministry of the Messiah, and at the end of the reading, Jesus made it clear that it was speaking about Him—that He was the Messiah upon whom the Spirit of the Lord had fallen:
“And He rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’” (Luke 4:20–21)
Jesus was stating that His ministry had begun, that He would proclaim the good news, bringing liberty to the captives, healing and freeing those who were oppressed, with God’s Spirit upon Him. The Holy Spirit, who descended upon Jesus, played a major role in His ministry—leading, guiding, and empowering Him.
Right before Jesus ascended into heaven, He told His disciples that He would send the “promise of the Father,” which was the Holy Spirit, the power of God, and that they were to wait in Jerusalem until they received this power from on high. (Luke 24:49)
The Holy Spirit which led, guided, and empowered Jesus was going to do the same things for His disciples. Jesus prepared His disciples for His departure, saying that in order for the Holy Spirit to come upon them, He had to leave, but that once He was gone, the Spirit would come to them. He said, “It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you.” (John 16:7)
Jesus said it was necessary that He ascend to heaven, to return to the Father and be glorified, before the Holy Spirit—the Comforter, the Helper—could come.
Jesus had been with His disciples for about three and a half years. They had traveled with Him, lived with Him, learned from Him, heard Him preach to and teach the crowds. They had seen Him heal the sick, raise the dead, and cast out demons. They had private instruction from Him and watched how He interacted with others—the rich, the poor, the outcasts, the religious. They saw Him get arrested and crucified. They knew He was dead, yet He stood before them in the upper room alive again. Then came the time for Him to go. He had been many things to them, and now He was going to depart. He had told them He would ask the Father to send them another Comforter or Helper. “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, to be with you forever.” (John 14:16)
The word Helper or Comforter used in this verse is translated from the Greek word paraklētos, which is defined as called to one’s side, to one’s aid, a helper, aider, assistant; as well as one who pleads another’s cause before a judge, counsel for defense, an advocate.
Jesus is saying the Father will give the disciples another Comforter, which infers they presently have one. Jesus, the Helper, Comforter, Counselor, and Advocate they presently have is going to depart, and in His place the Father is sending the Holy Spirit. What Jesus had been to the disciples, and what the Holy Spirit was going to be to them, was very similar.
While Jesus was Helper and Comforter to the disciples, as well as teacher and truth-teller, and a witness, He said that after He departed He and the Father would send another Comforter who would do these things as well. This Comforter would mightily anoint the disciples in their mission. That is exactly what happened.
Copyright © 2017 The Family International.
“Do Small Things with Great Love”
You are doing something great with your life when you’re doing all the small things with His great love. Love defies logic and keeps on loving when it makes no sense because that is what love does. What matters is that in the act of loving we become more like the givenness of Love Himself. What matters most is not if our love makes other people change, but that in loving, we change. What matters is that in the sacrificing to love someone, we become more like Someone. Regardless of anything or anyone else changing, the success of loving is in how we change because we kept on loving.
No matter what the outcome looks like, if your love has poured out, your life will be success-full.
We in this vulnerable communion of brokenness and givenness will simply keep surrendering again to love because God is love and this is all that wins.
Bottom line today? You aren’t ever missing your best life, when you aren’t missing opportunities to love like Christ.
Do you want to be successful for the Lord and with others? Love, and you can’t lose, for love never fails! Do you want the key to every heart? Try love! It never fails, because God is love, and it’s impossible for Him to fail!
Always remember, no matter how busy you are‚ how important the work is, or how great your calling may be, love is the most important thing! Without love, all your good works are worth nothing to the Lord. Without love, all your accomplishments are empty ashes. Love is the only thing that’s going to endure beyond this life. Love is the only thing that lasts. Love is what you’re on earth to learn above all. So love!
—David Brandt Berg
Whatever we become here in mortality is meaningless unless it is done for the benefit of others. Our gifts and talents are given to us to help us serve. And in serving others we grow spiritually.
We are here to help each other, to care for each other, to understand, forgive, and serve one another. We are here to have love for every person born on earth.
Anything we do to show love is worthwhile; a smile, a word of encouragement, a small act of sacrifice. We grow by these actions.
—Betty J. Eadie
What is success in My eyes? What do you receive eternal rewards for? What is considered “success” in My kingdom? What is true accomplishment for Me? How do I measure it? What is most important to Me? It’s very simple: love and faithfulness.
I gave a pretty clear answer in the Bible when I said, through Paul, “One thing is required of a servant, and that is to be found faithful.” That pretty much sums it up. Faithfulness to Me, and faithfulness to love—that’s the true measure of success in My eyes.
—Jesus, speaking in prophecy
If you want your life to count, you have to focus it. You don’t have time for everything, and not everything is of equal value.
Matthew 22:37–39 says, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. The second most important is similar: ‘Love your neighbor as much as you love yourself.’”
Jesus said there are two things that are more valuable in life than anything else: loving God and loving each other.
Have you ever wondered why God didn’t just take you to Heaven when he created you? Why did he put you on Earth? You’re only here for 100 years at the most, and you’re going to live for eternity in Heaven or Hell. Why didn’t God just take everybody to Heaven?
The Bible is very clear that God put you here on Earth to do two things: to learn to love God and to learn to love other people. Life is not about acquisition, accomplishment, or achievement. It’s not about all the things the world tells you it’s about. You’re not taking your career to Heaven. You’re not taking your car to Heaven. You’re not taking your house to Heaven. But you are taking your character. You’re taking you.
God put you on Earth for 80 to 100 years so you can learn to love him with all your heart and learn to love others. Life is one giant lesson in love.
“Do small things with great love.” What do these words mean for you? I’d like to share with you what it means to me and how it’s changed my life.
Do you have a list of role models, mentors, or heroes that have had an impact on who you are or who you want to be? Perhaps this list for you is long or short, but either way, the names on that list are those who have had a profound impact on how you view the world and what role you want to fulfill in this world.
For me, my list consists mostly of women who I have known in real life and deeply admire, mostly for their commitment to mothering and leading their families. I also have a short list of female heroines that I haven’t met, but I’ve had the privilege of reading about and studying. …
I’d like to share with you how Mother Teresa inspires me each day in the simplest way. As a wife and mother, working and living in my home each day, I often feel that perhaps my reach, or my impact in this world is tiny … maybe a little insignificant. Don’t get me wrong, I take care of my family as if my life depends on it and I work hard, every single day. Then I see these great saints, heroines and such who went out into the world and changed lives. Occasionally I can’t help but wonder what more can I do to change this very broken world?
Then there’s Mother Teresa, who has said the most beautiful, simplest things that speak to me. She often said that we don’t need to do big things, or have great power in this world to make a change. That we can actually promote change in this world by starting at home and loving our family. She’s so right. She also said to do small things with great love. For me personally, these two, simple, profound quotes speak on a level that I so need to hear, every day. My work at home is making an impact. It’s the small things that I do with great love that are going to leave a mark on this world and be the change.
When we choose to “do small things with great love” when we are at work, at school, in the grocery store, at the beach, on vacation, or wherever your life journey takes you … you can make a big impact in the smallest way.
Copyright © 2017 The Family International.
By Maria Fontaine
The topic of living and experiencing faith is such a big and sometimes nebulous concept. It can be challenging to answer the question, “What is it that can give me faith or strengthen the faith I already have and make it useful for me today?”
One thing that encourages me that things will work out is knowing that God’s love for me is so great. I know that He will always make it as easy as possible for me. Everything won’t always be smooth, but in His love, He always gives grace and brings me through in His time. He doesn’t allow things to be hard for no reason. He won’t allow anything to come my way that He knows isn’t going to be helpful to me in some way.
South African pastor Andrew Murray (1828–1917) once faced a terrible crisis. Going into his studio, he sat a long while, quietly, prayerfully, thoughtfully. At last, picking up his pen, he wrote these words in his journal: “First, He brought me here; it is by His will that I am in this place of distress and trouble: in that fact I will rest. Next, He will keep me here in His love, and give me grace to behave as His child. Next, He will make the trial a blessing, teaching me the lessons He intends me to learn, and working in me the grace He means to bestow. Last, in His good time He can bring me out again—when and how He knows best. Let me say, I am here [in this difficult place], 1) by God’s appointment, 2) in His keeping, 3) under His training, 4) for His time.”
Another thing I do is to take little minutes with Jesus whenever I feel distracted by battles and burdened by problems, pouring out my heart to Him about my troubles, often hearing a few words from Him that help me to understand, or to hang on, to not take it so hard, or whatever He knows I need to hear to bring peace to my heart.
He promised in His Word that He would always provide the comfort we need: “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” (John 14:18 KJV)
Additionally, the praise lessons that I’ve learned and have been able to practice through the years keep me on an even keel. Praise truly does have power, and God rewards praise because it’s a sign of my faith in Him—faith that He will help me in the situation as long as is necessary, and faith that He will bring me out eventually. Praise is powerful, and it’s one of my invincible weapons. There is so much in the Bible on praise. Reading King David’s praises in the midst of the terrible problems he faced motivates me to have faith, too.
Closely related to praise is positiveness. When I’m trying to build up my faith, I can’t be focusing on anything negative.
I found this account of someone who was spending the night in a rickety hotel in a large city in Brazil. He said, “A friend and I ascended to our room, high in the building, in a tiny, creaking elevator. From our window I saw slums spreading out far beneath me, and I felt uneasy. That evening I prayed, ‘Lord, please save us from any danger of fire. You can see that we’re at the top of a dilapidated hotel, which is nothing but a firetrap. There isn’t a fire station anywhere near, and I can’t see any fire escapes outside the building. Lord, You know that this building would go up in flames in a second, and at this very moment it’s probably full of people falling asleep with cigarettes in their mouths…’
“By the time I finished praying, I was a nervous wreck, and I hardly slept a wink all night. Next morning, as I evaluated the evening, I realized that my bedtime prayer had focused on my negative feelings rather than on God’s assurances and promises, and I learned an important lesson: unless we pray in faith, our prayers can do more harm than good.” (From an account by Robert J. Morgan)
This story is a good reminder to me to make sure my focus is on His promises—which strengthen my faith—rather than only on what is bothering me. I know He does want to hear about what is troubling me, and I need to tell Him everything that’s on my heart, but at the same time, the strengthening of my faith comes from making His promises my central focus. As the quote says, “True faith goes into operation when there are no answers.” (Elisabeth Elliot) As difficult as it may be, faith often means focusing on the promises even if there are no visible solutions.
Next, comparing—positively! When I’m going through something big, or when a whole lot of worrisome thoughts are trying to inhabit my mind, or when my eyes are in a very painful state and are hindering or delaying my work, the Lord always reminds me to think about people who are much worse off than I am, having many more struggles, afflictions, and difficult circumstances. Usually this does it for me, because I become thankful for my little afflictions and that I don’t have to deal with the tremendous struggles that so many others have.
Something else that helps me is to think about the fact that the Lord considers the trial of our faith a beautiful, valuable thing. The Bible says, “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:7 KJV.) If the Lord looks on the trial of our faith as having such importance and value, then it makes me feel like that’s the way I should be looking at it, too.
It certainly makes me want to not disappoint Him. Jesus expects me to believe Him, and I can’t fail Him. I know He’s looking to me to fulfill the commitment I made to Him to love Him and others, to cherish His Word, to keep His Spirit in first place in my life, to honor and respect Him for the great God that He is, and to prove it by my words and actions. I’m so indebted to Him for all He has done for me.
Copyright © 2017 The Family International.