“We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28
I think I’ve mentioned that verse above being one of my favorites based on the fact that I experienced it over and over again in my life. I know that it is sometimes misquoted or interpreted in a way it is not intended. I’ve heard some people suggest that some very bad things that have happened to them was brought to them by God, that His hand causes everything. What the text is saying is that God can work good for those who love Him, in all things. Even if it is evil at work, God can bring good out of that evil. That is what He has done with the gift of His Son who was betrayed, beaten, murdered after being rejected by those for whom He came. Salvation for all people came as a result of the evil acts of sinners.
So I don’t think God wanted my family to struggle with such limited finances as we had in Brooklyn. But I do believe He brought great good out of those limits. Let me mention a few ways I sensed He brought good from those challenges.
I can remember our family vacations. Because of the limited funds we had, especially in our 6 ½ years at Trinity in Brooklyn, we went every summer into the woods of Maine and Canada. We could afford the $8 per night cost of camping but, in reality, not much more than that. Whether we ate at home or in the pop-up camper (or mini-micro camper or 30’ honey that my dad traded up to and loaned us), the costs for eating were about the same. So, for the 3 or 4 weeks we spent on vacation in the summer, we could (pretty much only) afford camping.
But God worked for good with us in that situation. Our family had absolutely great vacations in those beautiful woods, in the beauty of God’s creation. Our kids enjoyed hiking and biking and early morning sunrises and campfires at night and the list went on. They never questioned why we were in the woods but asked when we were going next. I’ll admit my wife was not a fan of washing dishes in cold water, but she too speaks about those days for the gift it was to our family.
The limited funds also had an impact on our actions and expenditures at home and church. Neither the church’s budget nor our home budget had much in the way of “fat” or extra funds to be used without thoughtful consideration. The rule of thumb was that we never spent money for something we didn’t need or or paying someone to do what we could do ourselves. So, repairs (both at church and at home) were most often done by members (*including me) of the church with talents and time that God had given them.
And that practice was not just for my days in Brooklyn but continue to this day. As I’ve sometimes said, “You can take the guy out of Brooklyn but not Brooklyn out of the guy.” More directly, what I learned and practiced there, I sensed was a gift to be used for a lifetime. So, for example, though I can actually afford to pay another to do it, I still change the oil in my car and do the brakes as well. At church, we continue the practice of doing all we can with volunteers before we pay someone else to do it. This is good stewardship, saving funds to be used for those things that we cannot do.
But that also leads to some other benefits, beyond the financial savings. For years we have participated in building ramps for those unable to enter or exit their homes after surgery or injuries. We worked with a group called “Hartfelt” ministries (the last name of the leader of that program was, appropriately enough, “Hartfelt”. The project usually took one or two days and participants included both members of and visitors to our church. It’s hard to over-value these projects and their impact, developing relationships while accomplishing the work of the Lord (caring for others in need). We have the joy of making a difference for a person unable to get in and out of their house. We have the joy of working with brothers and sisters in Christ.
So how has God been providing for you in your life, bringing good out of challenges? Have you read or heard an invitation at your church to participate in the work of God in serving others? How many people do you know in your church because you worked on a ministry cause with them? I’d encourage you to increase the number of people you know, not only in fellowship activities but in ministry activities as well. You may well know people who drifted away from church and don’t feel drawn to church and its worship. But they may be drawn to the other church, the people who make up the disciples of Christ, wo serve in the name of Christ. They may reject your invitation that they join you in church in worship, but they may also agree to come with you and they can meet the Church in service and ministry. Our ministries become a witness and invitation for others to meet the body of Christ in action.
When you experience that offering of yourself for the cause of Christ (caring for those in need with brothers and sisters in Christ), your days will begin to be a celebration of your faith. You might be the “possessor” of one of our “service-T shirts” with the wording, “Ministry is faith in action.” It’s one of my favorite shirts and I can’t tell you the number of people who, upon seeing it say, “Man, I love your shirt.” It is a great witness to what we do in ministry to serve the Lord.
All of this is done by disciples in a way that makes a difference in the lives of those ministered to as well as impacting those who do the ministering. And there it is again. We need servants who are gifted and blessed by God to be a blessing to others. The church bulletin is filled with invitations to join in God’s care for others.. For those who respond, blessings will abound. Those who bring a blessing will be blessed. God will work for good to those who love Him and work according to His purpose.
May God bless your service in His name.
Peace in His service,