Friday, April 25, 2008

Pay It Forward

by Stephanie Neibarger

This Week’s Verse: Philippians 2:3-5, "Don't be selfish; don't live to make a good impression on others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourself. Don't think only about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and what they are doing. Your attitude should be the same that Christ Jesus had." (NLT)

I started reading Joel Osteen’s book Your Best Life Now book about four years ago. I got about two-thirds of the way through it and then stored it neatly on my bookshelf along with my other innumerable collection of “How to be a Better Christian” type books!! (Gee – if I would only read them!!) It wasn’t until this past week that I decided to pick it up again. This is the part where I had left off: [I paraphrased some of it to condense the writing.]
In Jesus life, you may recall that He always took time for people. He was never too busy with His own plans. He wasn’t caught up in Himself that He was unwilling to stop and help a person in need. He could have easily been distracted by His own situations and made excuses that He was too busy, but He didn’t. He had compassion on people. He was concerned about what others were going through. He willingly took the time to stop and listen and help others with their problems, no matter what else He may have had going on.
Most of the time I stayed focus on my own struggles and more or less ‘kept my nose in my own backyard’. I wasn’t very compassionate towards others or what they were going through. Jesus did not focus on his own struggles. Even when he was rejected, persecuted and shamed, He still showed compassion for others. The late Keith Green’s song ‘Make My Life a Prayer’ has a line it in that speaks volumes: “It’s so hard to see when my eyes are on me.”

In the story of Ruth from the Old Testament, her eyes were not on herself. She had compassion on her mother-in-law, Naomi. Both were widows and Ruth was determined to stay with Naomi and care for her. By this devotion and unselfishness, God blessed Ruth. (For more details, go to the book of Ruth in the Old Testament.)

In today’s world we seem to do for others just so we can get something in return, whether it’s the notoriety of our actions or something more tangible. Ruth knew Naomi could not offer her anything in return. She did it out of mere love and unselfishness.

There was a movie made a few years ago that focused on meeting the needs of others. It was called Pay It Forward--hence the title of this devotion. It was about a boy who had a school project to do and he decided his project would be to do good for others and all they had to do in return was to do good for someone else. I love the old adage that states: “What goes around comes around”. In good or bad cases, I firmly believe that to be true. If you want good to come back around to you, go do good for someone else.

Don’t you think it’s time we start being more like Jesus? We need to stop focusing on our own problems and start having more compassion for others. When we care for others and their problems we demonstrate the love Jesus showed to others.

Father, thank You for the many gifts You have blessed us with. Help us to use these gifts to be a blessing to others. May we always think of others as better than ourselves. May we earnestly seek to help others who are in need, whether it be tangible gifts or just our love and support. May we continue to be an example for You. In Jesus name, Amen.

You may be thinking that your problems are so big there’s no way I can help someone else. How do you know what others are going through? Or that your problems are bigger than theirs? Or you may be thinking I am so busy I can barely do the things I need to get done. If you will focus on meeting the needs of others, God will make sure your needs are met.

James 2:14-17 says, “Dear brothers and sisters, what's the use of saying you have faith if you don't prove it by your actions? That kind of faith can't save anyone. Suppose you see a brother or sister who needs food or clothing, and you say, "Well, good-bye and God bless you; stay warm and eat well"—but then you don't give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, it isn't enough just to have faith. Faith that doesn't show itself by good deeds is no faith at all—it is dead and useless.” (NLT)

To that end, identify one person whose needs you can meet. Step out in faith to meet it.

Power Verses:
Matthew 25:40, “Then the King will say, 'I'm telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.'” (MSG)
2 Cor. 9:8, "God can bless you with everything you need, and you will always have more than enough to do all kinds of good things for others." (CEV)
Proverbs 11:24-25, "It is possible to give freely and become more wealthy, but those who are stingy will lose everything. The generous prosper and are satisfied; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed." (NLT)
Luke 6:38, “If you give to others, you will be given a full amount in return. It will be packed down, shaken together, and spilling over into your lap. The way you treat others is the way you will be treated.” (CEV)
Eccles. 11:1, "Be generous, and someday you will be rewarded." (CEV)

I wrote this devotion last week but was told it would be posted this week instead since last week's devotion was already written and ready to go. Then as I was listening to John’s sermon on Sunday, I thought how ‘crafty’ God is because his sermon was related to what this one's about. If you would like to listen to John’s sermon you can go


Kathy said...

What a great reminder that we are commanded to be the hands and feet of Jesus. And I heartily "Amen" your footnote too, Steph, because it has been amazing to see you God reiterates John's sermons through what he lays on the hearts of the contributors to this blog. Case in point, Marsha's "Game" devotion from awhile back. Then a few weeks later we had a month-long sermon series on the very same theme! Very, very cool how God shows himself unified in the church body even though the right and left hands may not know what each other are working on! ;-)

Kathy said...

Oops... I meant "...HOW God reiterates John's sermons..." not "you!"

Marsha said...

Great devo! I am so spoiled. When I see others doing so much with so little I am taken aback and reminded that He always provides for our needs--not my "wants". He is so gracious, though that I often get those too! I need to pay more attention to what I have and what I give out. Thanks for the inspiration!

Anonymous said...

Way to go, Stephanie!!! Good job! Keep writing! KK