To Our Stretcher Bearers

on , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

1 comment

Carol Kent's book dedication struck me between the eyes. She says:

This book is dedicated to our

"Stretcher Bearers"

and to all of you who take the time
to respond to the needs of others
by answering the question,
"How can I help with tangible encouragement?"

Our "Stretcher Bearers" became the
hands and feet of Jesus to us
when we ran out of resources.

You have modeled a lifestyle of giving
that has forever changed our lives.

Please hold Gene and me accountable
for "finishing well."

Then at the end of chapter 1 Carol Kent poses questions for the reader on issues like "unthinkable circumstances," prayer, and so on. The next question she asks is incredible:
Are you asking for help from other people? If not, what keeps you from asking? (Embarrassment and self-reliance are possibilities.) Carefully consider what might benefit you most right now (and at each stage of your journey through unthinkable circumstances): Professional advice? A shoulder to cry on (literally)? Help running errands or keeping your household or business in order? A weekend away? Financial support? Whom can you ask to help you get what you need?

I find these questions so stunning because of how strongly they go against the grain in some Christian circles. Asking for advice or a cup of sugar is one thing. Asking for someone's time, energy, or significant resources are quite another, especially if the situation makes them feel uncomfortable. Discomfort--that reason alone was enough for my parents' church leaders to defend the members' absence from our lives when we needed support and compassion the most.

In a capitalist and individualistic culture that prizes privacy and self-fulfillment, asking for these things may cost you dearly. You might even lose relationships along the way, even in your family or in your church. And if you ask more than once, you'll receive a stern warning about "depending on God for your needs, not on people." They'll try to give you the idea that asking people for help is shameful--sinful even--because it shows how little you trust God to provide for your needs.

Well, don't believe them.

There are countless examples through the Old and New Testaments showing God's desire for us to take action to help people in need. Here's one story from Scripture that gets little airtime from the pulpit:
Acts 6:1-7
In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”
This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.
So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.

The Greek-speaking Jews complained to church leaders because native Jewish widows in their group were getting food, and Greek-speaking widows were not.
Notice what the church leaders did NOT do in response:
  • They didn't say, "Well, if the Greek-speaking widows aren't getting food, then it must be God's will."
  • They didn't tell the Greek-speaking widows to put their "trust in God, not in man."
  • They didn't make the Greek-speaking Jews feel less spiritual for making their complaint.
  • They didn't say, "Well, you just have to understand that native Jews are uncomfortable around Greek-speaking Jews."

Notice what the church leaders DID do in response:
  • They immediately met with each other to solve the problem.
  • They recognized that the teachers among them already had a heavy work load.
  • They chose believers from their congregation to fill this specific need.
  • In short, they lived out the gospel!

Asking for help is not a sin. Be on your guard in case the spiritual leaders you trust try to tell you otherwise.

Christians ARE the hands and feet of Jesus in each others' lives, if God has given us a resource or skill to give, and IF we're willing to put others ahead of ourselves.

Stretcher Bearers... what a great concept. :)

1 comment