Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. (1 Cor. 7:17)
Joseph Stalin once said, “A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.” Stalin, who was responsible for ordering millions of deaths as the leader of the Soviet Union, understood a fundamental reality of human nature: there is a limit to our comprehension, empathy, and energy.
Imagine God’s perspective of the world and everyone in it. He knows our thoughts, motives, actions, and yes – our futures. Time is no factor to the Lord. He comprehends your pain as well as he comprehends the growth cycle of a blade of grass no human eye will ever see. And he is actively engaged in everything. So, in short, he sees all and governs all.
On the other hand, we are severely limited. We are shaped by our biases from our upbringing and cultural environment. We live within the constraints of time and the laws of nature. In short, we see little and govern little.
If God is sovereign and he cares about your life in particular, that means every interaction you have with another person is a divine appointment. When you meet your neighbor at the curb taking out the trash, the God of the universe cares about what happens. When you put your kids down at bedtime, he cares about your prayers over them.
We cannot be everywhere at once. We cannot serve the needy everywhere at once. But we can serve those whom God has called us to serve. For some, that means selling everything and moving to Burma. For others, that means staying put and spreading the love of Christ where God has planted you.
You have a people. Want to know who your people are? Look around you. They are your people. They are the ones who need truth, love, and friendship. You are planted among a people group with great intention by the Lord himself. God makes no mistakes.
You also have a place. You have a neighborhood, a city, a state, and a country. Your people live within the community of your place. God calls us to invest in our place, to pray for it, and to cultivate it. Our well-being is at stake, as well as the well-being of others.
Jeremiah 17:9 says:
But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.
You have been put in your place. I have been put in mine. Our communities are mission fields full of broken and needy people like us. As we bear one another’s burdens and seek good for our fellow man, we operate as instruments in God’s hand.
The sun will not catch your grass on fire – that is, unless you put a magnifying glass to it. If you magnify the energy of the sun and aim it at one particular area of your yard, it’ll start to smoke and eventually it’ll catch fire. In the same way, as we concentrate our efforts on serving the place to which we’re called (again, could be Burma or Birmingham), we will affect change which could ignite a movement.
Thus far I have been vague on purpose as to what I mean by “serving others” or “affecting change”. What do I mean by this?
The highest act of service addresses the greatest need with the best solution.
You and I – and all of our people that live in our place – are in desperate need. We are, all of us, broken and sinful people. We hurt others and we are all hurt by others. We have committed treason against God by creating countless faux objects of worship. We are sick with our sin and we need healing.
More than that, we are eternally sick. We are eternal beings. We will live forever. Our problem is not merely our behavior, it’s our identity. It’s stamped on our hearts in black ink. It’s a forever problem.
If I truly love you, I will seek to help you with your biggest problem. And your biggest problem is not that you’ve had a bad day (though that matters), but rather that your heart is sick and in need of salvation. Your greatest need is to be saved, renewed, and reborn. Me too. Jesus meets that need, and thus I must share him with you as best I know how.
God calls us to love our people and our place with his good news, his gospel. He does not call us to save people, but rather to share his love with those around us. He does the saving. We are broadcasters of his headlines, what he’s done and what he’s doing. We tell of his glory and strength and compassion. We imitate his kindness and care. We show up for people in need.
Consider your people and your place. Who could use an encouraging word? A hot meal? Who might need to hear about the love of Christ which surpasses all understanding? You cannot change the whole world, but, with God’s help, you can change yours.