“Dear God, the Philippines need food and supplies and help. Can you please help them? Amen…”
In the midst of our world last week, Typhoon Haiyan wrecked havoc on the Philippines, reminding us that even for followers of Christ, the question of “Why does God allow bad things to happen to us” is still very real. And still very hard to explain.
Putting aside that philosophical question, consider the type of prayer so many expressed for that island country. “God, help them!” Some form of that was uttered by the many in the world when news broke of the disaster.
Indeed, they do need help. An estimated 582,000 people are now homeless. It’s feared that the death toll will approach 10,000. Many people lost everything.
“God, help them!”
I’m privileged to know Todd Littleton. He pastors Snow Hill Baptist Church in Tuttle, OK, and the church is doing life-impacting ministry in that part of the Sooner state. Transitions in my life have limited our conversations the last year or so, but my conversations with him are always enlightening and thought provoking.
I listen to his sermons on a regular basis and and I noticed a theme develop last week as I caught up on a few episodes that focused around some conversations he and I have had in the past. What is the responsibility of the Body of Christ in the world?
Something Todd notes, and that I’ve seen in my own life as well, is that our prayers tend to go something like this: “God, there’s some big stuff going on. You fix it, because there’s nothing I can do.” Here are some examples:
1. God, Mary’s got cancer. Please heal her.
2. God, that disaster in the Philippines. Help them.
3. God, there’s a whole group of people in our community that are hungry and homeless. Provide for them.
A high school student walks into a church and asks the body of Christ sitting in the building to adopt him. “I’ll take anyone. Old or young, dad or mom, black, white, purple. I don’t care. And I would be really appreciative. The best I could be,” said 15 year old Davion Navar Henry Only. Over 1500 calls from all across the country were made wanting to adopt him.
“God, there are orphans in our city. Help them!” “God, fix the big stuff. I can’t do anything. The little stuff, well, that’s something I can handle. But that big stuff, you take care of it if you don’t mind.”
What happens if you helped take Mary to the doctor for her chemo or radiation treatments? Or made dinners for her and her family on a regular basis, or helped her get out of the house and enjoy life for even a moment as she fights that deadly disease?
What happens if you packed your bags and took your computer or electrical or cooking or construction skills to the Philippines and helped bring healing to that country?
What happens if you took a few loaves of bread and some sandwich meat, a bag of clothes you’ve outgrown, and some blankets down to that hungry and homeless community?
What happens to the life of a high school boy when someone says, “Come with me, I’ll bring you into my house and my family,” instead of making excuses?
In scripture, God most often used people to meet needs in a community. Sure, there are examples of miracles: manna and quail come to mind. But what we see more often in scripture are moments where Jesus fed the 5,000. A boy took what he had to Jesus that day. It wasn’t much, just a little fish and bread. But he gave what he had. Jesus took what he offered and did amazing things with it.
The people of God are the presence of God in the community. To ask God to fix the big stuff ultimately means we are asking ourselves to find ways to partner with God to fix the big stuff, though too often what we really want is to have God just handle it and not involve us.
It’s a good try, but it just doesn’t work that way. Christians have to live life with dirty hands.
What are ways that you could give who you are and what you have that would relieve brokenness in your community?