An Extraordinary Skill for Ordinary Christians

This post originally appeared on February 16, 2015 on challies.com

Have you ever dreamed of being rich? Have you ever wondered what it would be like to know that money poses no barrier between you and your dreams? I think we all have at one time or another, haven’t we? And most of us are convinced that we would use our wealth for good, to serve others rather than ourselves. We imagine handing over the keys to a new home, or donating the full-ride scholarship to that person who could never afford it. We dream of using extravagant wealth to do extravagant good.

We attach great significance to great deeds, don’t we? And we attach little significance to little deeds. And yet so few of us ever have the chance to do those exceptional things. But what if we are measuring it all wrong? John Stott says it so well as he comments on Galatians 6:2: “To love one another as Christ loved us may lead us not to some heroic, spectacular deed of self-sacrifice, but to the much more mundane and unspectacular ministry of burden-bearing.”

Instead of handing over the keys to a brand new car, we hand over a slightly over-cooked casserole.

I think the reason we dream of helping others through extravagant wealth is that it feels like those extravagant deeds count for more. So many of our good deeds are so small. They seem paltry. Instead of handing over the keys to a brand new car, we hand over a slightly over-cooked casserole. Instead of funding an extreme makeover for that person’s home, we show up on Saturday morning to help apply a new coat of paint. Instead of giving them a check to pay off their mortgage, we give them a few hours of our time to listen and counsel. Instead of funding a wonderful vacation, we take their children for a couple of hours so they can escape for a date. It is hardly the stuff dreams are made of.But I love what John Piper says: “Here is a vocation that will bring you more satisfaction than if you became a millionaire ten times over: Develop the extraordinary skill for detecting the burdens of others and devote yourself daily to making them lighter.” This is the extraordinary ministry for every ordinary Christian—bearing the burdens of others. What seems so mundane and so unspectacular, is actually bringing great glory and honor to God.

You know the passage in Matthew 25 that describes the sheep being separated from the goats at the final judgment (verses 31-46). You have read it a hundred times, but have you ever paused to considered the criteria? The believers are not separated from the unbelievers on the basis of extravagant and spectacular deeds that were seen and fêted by others. Far from it. At the final accounting, when we stand before the Lord, we will be shocked to realize that the most significant things are the smallest things—things so small we have forgotten all about them: “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?” But these small things stand as proof of our salvation, proof of our commitment to the good of others and the glory of God.

This is the ministry of burden-bearing. It is a vocation that will earn you very few accolades. It will gain you very few awards. The majority of what you do will be unnoticed by others and forgotten even by those who benefit most. You yourself will forget most of it. But every bit of it will matter. Every bit of it will do good to others and bring glory to God.

So look for those who are burdened. Develop the habit and the skill of spotting those burdens, and determine that you will meet them, one casserole or one hug or one visit or one prayer at a time.

I will give the final word to Stott: “To be a burden-bearer is a great ministry. It is something that every Christian should and can do. It is a natural consequence of walking by the Spirit. It fulfils the law of Christ. ‘Therefore’, wrote Martin Luther, ‘Christians must have strong shoulders and mighty bones’—sturdy enough, that is, to carry heavy burdens.”

tim-challies

Proper introductions begin with names, so let me tell you how to pronounce mine. It’s pronounced CHALL-eez and rhymes with “valleys” and “rallies.” It’s quite simple, really, but is almost always the first question most people ask me.

I am a Christian, a husband to Aileen and a father to three children aged 7 to 13. I worship and serve as a pastor at Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto, Ontario, where I primarily give attention to mentoring and discipleship. I am a book reviewer for WORLD magazine, co-founder of Cruciform Press, and I have written three books:

  • The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment (Crossway, 2007)
  • Sexual Detox: A Guide For Guys Who Are Sick of Porn (Cruciform Press, 2010)
  • The Next Story: Life and Faith After the Digital Explosion (Zondervan, 2011)

To learn more, follow him @challies

1 thought on “An Extraordinary Skill for Ordinary Christians

  1. So I went to your site to uplift you by telling you that we prayed for you, Margaret and your ministry at our little home church here in Ft Worth on Sunday. We often pull SBC cards and pray individually for the pastors and missionaries on them. HOWEVER, as I read your Blog above on giving its abundantly clear that its you who are blessing me! I needed to hear this for many reasons, so Thank You! So very grateful. Contact me if your ministry or travels ever bring you to the DFW area. Blessings…

    Dave Fennessy

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