Part 3 of 4
By Kevin Ross, President of Helping Hands Foreign Missions
In Parts 1 and 2 of this series, we see that God has a plan to redeem the world because of His great love for us and how God clearly revealed His plan. To read Part 1, click here. To read Part 2, click here.
One of the aspects of serving with the ministry of Helping Hands Foreign Missions that has been immensely fulfilling and motivating is the people we serve. Our mission statement reveals the heart of our founders and staff—Making disciples of Christ as we demonstrate His love in practical ways among those with the greatest physical and spiritual needs. Through careful observation of the life of Christ and first-century believers, this pattern of ministry is overwhelmingly apparent.
Do you realize today you are one person living in a global society of 7,600,000,000 people? That is over 7 BILLION people! Most people can’t grasp a number so enormously massive. Did you know it would take a person 200 years to count to seven billion? If you were to take seven billion steps, you would walk around the earth 133 times. Our population is growing at a tremendous rate every day. On average, more than four people are born, and two people die every second. If we looked back in history just 200 years ago in the year 1800, we would see the world’s population was only 1 billion. Now Imagine in our world today there are more than 7 billion people, speaking more than 7,000 languages, living in over 200 countries.
As believers in Christ, we face a big problem. So many people in our world are dying every second of every minute without the knowledge of Christ. If Jesus Christ did come to earth to become the sacrifice for us while we were in our sins, then we who have received the gift of salvation should feel compelled to join in taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth. We must live as people with an unrelenting purpose. That purpose is to live to glorify our Heavenly Father and to make His way known on the earth.
A common discussion among believers is about who we should take this Gospel message to in our world. The obvious answer is, “all peoples.” We learn this mandate through commonly quoted passages like John 3:16, Matthew 28:19-20, and 2 Peter 3:9. If we were to take a deeper dive to look specifically at the life of Jesus and the Apostles, what could we discover?
In Galatians chapter 2, some of the Apostles gathered together to endorse the ministry of Paul. The Apostles affirmed the calling of Paul and Barnabas in taking the Gospel to the Gentiles through the symbol of the “right hand of fellowship.” As this significant gesture took place, Galatians 2:10 reveals something that should not be overlooked, “Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.”
Why would James, Peter, and John - the pillars of the faith, emphasize such a request? A few important reasons for possible explanations could start with the fact that the Apostles saw this type of ministry modeled before their own eyes through the life and ministry of Jesus himself. Peter, James, and John traveled with Jesus, slept where He slept, ate what He ate, and they saw deep into his eyes, revealing His passion and compassion for the lost world. Another possible reason for this emphatic appeal could be related to the first threat to the unity of the early church. In Acts 6, the first recorded disagreement was due to poor widows of the church who were not being looked after properly.
Jesus speaks directly to His view of ministry to the poor through a parable in Luke 14. The Parable of the Great Banquet offers remarkable insight into the heart of the ministry of Jesus. This chapter opens with Jesus dining on the Sabbath with a ruler of Pharisees. He immediately physically heals a man with a severe health condition. While this act of compassion was challenged by lawyers and rulers, Jesus began to reveal the type of people we should be and the type of people His heart was drawn to redeem—the poor.
While Jesus is dining in this home, He seizes the opportunity to set the scene of His story by talking about a character who gave a great banquet. This character was someone they all could identify with as a person who they would invite to a dinner of their own. Every detail of the event had been attended to and the time had arrived for the feast to begin. The master sent his servant to announce the start of the banquet, only to be met with refusals. This was an unusual occurrence because the invitations had already been sent with an RSVP return. This was not an announcement of the feast, but rather the confirmation that the meal was ready. Three of the master’s friends were approached, only to reject the invitation to come and eat. Each rejection was worse than the one before, and each rejection was highly offensive.
When the servant returns with only rejections, we see that the anger of the master moves him to action. The master knows that everything is ready; nothing is incomplete. He sends the servant back out, but this time it is to a different group of people. This time, the servant is sent to bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame. Not only does he send out the servant, but he sends him out with a sense of urgency, “Go quickly.” Nothing is lacking at this feast except for people who would be willing to accept an invitation to a banquet.
Notice where the master first sends the servant, the “streets and lanes of the city,” Luke 14:21. This was a simple, yet a profound task. The servant knew the city; he knew the people of the city; he knew where these people lived. Every day that he went to the market, he saw the lame and the cripple begging for bread. When he attended the synagogue on Saturday’s he saw the blind begging for alms. As a servant, he knew who the poor were because some may have been his family or others that he had attended the same school and sat beside them in class. These were his people; he spoke their language and understood their background.
This particular group of people is mentioned twice in this same passage. The Gospels give us multiple examples of Jesus interacting with each of these groups of people: the poor, the cripple, the blind, and the lame.
Luke 4:18-19: The first recorded occasion of Jesus publicly reading scripture, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Mark 2:1-12: Four men carry their friend to Jesus, “And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men.” Jesus heals this man because of the faith of those who brought him.
John 9:1-41: Jesus, along with his Disciples, pass a man who had been blind from birth. The disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents. But Jesus responded, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, that the works of God might be displayed in him.” Jesus chooses to use us in our circumstances for the Glory of the Father.
John 5:1-9: Jesus passed by the pool of Bethesda, where there was “a multitude of invalids-blind, lame, and paralyzed.” One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years.” Jesus goes to this man and engages him in conversation that ultimately leads to his healing in verses 8-9, “Jesus said to him, ‘Get up, take up your bed, and walk.’ And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.”
As we look at these passages together, there is one key phrase that we should take note of, John 5:7 “The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me in the pool.” All 7 billion people in the world are in the same situation—we need someone to help get us to Jesus. Not because Jesus needs our help, but rather because this is His designed plan to include us in the greatest of banquets. Our Heavenly Father called us to carry His invitation to those in the world that fall into the category of “the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.” This group of people all have one thing in common; they cannot get to Jesus on their own. The poor are lowly, afflicted, and helpless. The crippled are those who have a special need or disability. The blind cannot see physically, but the one thing worse is if they are blinded spiritually. Finally, the lame. Those who have been injured or broken from circumstances of life beyond their control. Everyone needs the help of someone with a heart of compassion to get them to the healing power of Jesus. This is the heart of The Master, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
However, the story does not end there! As we read, we see a transformation of the heart of the servant. He goes out into his city with a sense of urgency and invites everyone to his master’s banquet. When he returns, he recognizes an opportunity. He serves a master who has an abundance of riches and wealth. The master does not just have enough for those the servant knew. As the servant proudly scans the room, he sees many empty seats. Luke 14:22, “And the servant said, “Sir, what you have commanded has been done, and still there is room.” At this point, we see the servant now has the heart of the master. The servant desires what the master desires, that every seat is filled and that everyone enjoys the abundance of the feast.
Luke 12:23 says, “And the master said to the servant, “Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled.” The master first sends the servant to his own city, but then we see the vision of the master. The vision goes beyond the city walls to those who have no hope; the people who are just passing by the city, people who do not even know the master’s name, or that he has prepared a great banquet. All they need is an invitation to join him.
We choose to follow the pattern of ministry that Jesus modeled for us. Jesus had compassion for those who were helpless, physically, and spiritually. The Gospels record countless lives that were forever changed because Jesus had the heart of our Heavenly Father. Whether it was the feeding of the 5,000, healing the sick, or giving eternal life to the woman at the well – we are a result of the impact He left. It has been said, “The greatest asset we can give the Lord is our availability.” The privilege of our call is to take this same Gospel message from our neighbors to the nations! Out of all the statics about the 7 Billion people in the world, there is one that should be the most alarming. According to JoshuaProject.net, there are 7.67 Billion alive today on earth; however, 3.19 Billion of those people are unreached having never received an invitation to the greatest of all banquets, Heaven. One half of the world's population is unreached with an invitation to God's great banquet. This should break our hearts and motivate us to action.
“For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. But how can they
call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe
without hearing about Him? And how can they hear without a preacher? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: How welcome are the feet of those who announce the Gospel of good things!”
- Romans 10:13-15
Read Part 1 - "God has a Plan"
Read Part 2 - "God Reveals His Plan"