On Sunday, February 3, Noah Joyner preached to us on 1 Peter 2:11-12:
Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
Noah pointed out that to follow this passage, each one of us must (a) have good deeds, and (b) they must be visible.
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Those good deeds will occur in honest labor in our jobs (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12), and in our homes (1 Timothy 3:5, Titus 2:5) and with our families (Ephesians 6:4, 1 Timothy 5:8). But many of those will be close to invisible.
For some of us, God will open opportunities to do good in more public ways. These places give opportunities to serve other our neighbors, and meet our neighbors. The work and relationships can create strain that requires us to depend on God, and allows us to explain why we approach life with hope.
You need solid reasons — a purpose — to get involved beyond your comfort zone. Some do it for credit here, but please do it for a greater purpose. Only a greater purpose and meaning will be enough to help you through the difficulties of serving others. Here are four purposes that have served me.
Rely on God, Not Yourself
Sometimes you’ll see a need, but not feel capable yourself. That’s the right feeling — because God is the one who works in us. Doing work beyond our comfort zone also calls us to depend on God. Paul describes his difficult experiences, and sees the purpose: to make him depend on God, and not himself.
2 Corinthians 1:9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.
Few of us have any tasks that are as difficult as Paul’s, but we can learn the same lesson because we have the same God. Since God is able to raise the dead, he can support us in difficult work that he enables us to do.
Look to the Interests of Others
When you join an effort to help and serve your neighbors, you get to live out the God-enabled commands to love your neighbor and to look to the interests of others.
Mark 12:30-31 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Philippians 2:4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
God gives wisdom and enables his people to walk in his ways. Another reason we look for public opportunities is to bring the wisdom God gives each Christian to the solve the problems we encounter.
James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
The “Proverbs 31 husband” was known in the city gates (Proverbs 31:23) — the public place where locals and visitors came to transact business and settle disputes. He offered time and the strength of his family to the difficult matters of life.
Love Practically, Visibly
It can be tempting to love the world theoretically; but public involvement often gives us ways to do good practically. In Galatians 6:9-10, Paul makes it clear that our good is to be done for everybody — including those in Christ, and those not.
Galatians 6:9-10 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
James shows us that trusting God will always spur us to actions; and the example action is relieving suffering of cold and hunger. Here he says it’s foolish hypocrisy to merely wish someone well without doing what is possible to fix the misery.
James 2:15-18 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
Missio Dei Chicago, a multi-congregational church seeking to bring the gospel to bear upon each of its unique neighborhoods, encourages its pastors to build relationships with local city leaders, serve on community boards, or join the PTA. The church’s Gospel Communities—missional small groups gathered by neighborhood—take part in their communities by caring for refugee families, joining in city farming, and getting active in local events.
Lead pastor Josh Taylor says, “We’re not trying to build a mega-church across ZIP codes. We’re going for the presence of Christ in a specific neighborhood. With no strings attached, we’re seeking to live out of the question, ‘How can we be a blessing to this community?'” — CT Pastors
The Town of Wake Forest has many volunteer opportunities. For example, volunteer advisory boards are organized to assist in planning the future development of the town, to provide safe and productive places to live.
Schools have Parent-Teacher Associations (PTAs) that do work to support the teachers and the students; you can read more about the Wake Forest Elementary PTA on Facebook. If you have kids in school, you can speak to their teachers or school administrators to find out about the volunteering needs.
Sports and Scouting
Wake Forest Parks and Recreation organizes volunteer coaching for baseball, softball, t-ball, volleyball, and basketball. You can volunteer to help on their site.
Many neighborhoods have Homeowners’ Associations (HOAs). These are normally nonprofit that help in invisible ways to care for your neighbors’ by protecting their property and properly caring for the earth God gave us to care for (Genesis 1:26-28).
Know WHY You’re Doing It
I hope you are optimistic at the prospect of doing good and meeting people; of helping your spouse and brother’s and sister’s in Christ in this effort. But the going will get tough. It’s crucial you know why you are doing what you are doing. Look for the purposes of God for you before you endeavor to be a public light, and while you are in the midst of the challenge.
As John Piper preached, “There is power and strength in seeing significance and purpose in your hardships. If you see the good design of God in the manifold stresses of your life, you gain strength to endure, and the stresses themselves are often transformed into energy-giving challenges.”