DO GOOD 2-18-18


February 18th, 2018


             Today is the first Sunday of Lent, a time when we are traditionally called to repentance and self-denial.  So what does ‘doing good’ have to do with self-denial?  Isn’t self-denial normally thought of as fasting, reading the Bible instead of watching TV, giving up an hour of sleep to pray, and the like?   All of these things are good, and if you are being led by the Spirit to do them, then by all means I encourage you to do so.  But as you just heard in our Old Testament reading (Isaiah 58:1-11), true ‘fasting’, true repentance, and true self-denial is about putting the needs of others ahead of our own.  Too often we are prone to do some of the other things I mentioned in an effort to make ourselves somehow feel ‘holier’, and even worse, to impress others with our ‘holiness’.  None of us is holy!  None of us is righteous.  None of us can earn heaven by our fasting and self-denial, not even the most pious monk locked away in a monastery.  If we could, there would never have been a need for Jesus to die on the cross for our sins. 

          So this Lenten season I encourage you to first of all admit to God any sins that you are struggling with and ask Him to cleanse you of them; and then follow the advice attributed to John Wesley in the hymn we sang earlier, “Rule of Life”.  He encouraged Christians to ‘do all the good you can’, and we are going to take a look at his suggestions in that regards.

          ‘By all the means you can’.  What means do you have at your disposal?  Time, talent, and money is the standard answer to that question.  We all have some of each, but each of us has more of some than others.   If the Lord has blessed you with time, then ask the Lord to show you ways you can use your time to help people.  If you have been blessed with talent, whether musical, literary, teaching, or some other type, then use it to bring glory to the Lord and encouragement to others.  And if you have been blessed with money, remember it is a sacred trust, and the Lord expects you to use it wisely – which doesn’t meaning hoarding it or spending it on your own pleasures. 

          ‘In all the ways you can’.  There is no one that can say “I have no way that I can do good”.  The only Christians that have absolutely no way they can do good, are those who are already with the Lord.  Their time to do good on earth has ended.  Their rewards are now set in stone, and if there was someone who needed their help, but they didn’t help them, there is nothing they can do about it now.  But as long as your lungs are still breathing, and your heart is still beating, there are ways that you can do good.  There is something the Lord has for you to do, or you would have already been called home.

          ‘In all the places you can’.  What are some places you can do good?  A common phrase is that charity starts at home, and that is indeed a good place to start.  Be good to your spouse, if you have one.  Be good to your children, if you have any.  Be good to your parents, if they are still here.  Put their needs ahead of your own.  Go above and beyond what is expected of you.  Don’t just do the bare minimum in the relationship.  And that goes for your church home as well.  Doing good at church goes beyond occupying a seat in the pew.  Truly engage your mind and heart in worship, prayer, and hearing the Word.  Volunteer your time, use your talents in the service, on committees, and in special functions, and support the church financially.  And don’t forget the workplace.  If you work outside the home, your witness as a Christian means doing good, choosing your words carefully, and being diligent in your work (or as it says in Colossians 3:23, “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people”).  Remember, some of your fellow employees might never step foot in a church.  What they see in you will be how they see Christ.  And even during recreational activities you can do good.  There is always someone to encourage, someone who needs help, someone you can say a kind word to, no matter where you are.

          ‘At all the times you can’.   Some might claim, “Well, I am housebound”, or I am not able to do much due to my age, medical condition, injury, or whatever other reason there might be that you are limited in physical activity. I know something anyone can do, something that will make a world of difference, no matter how incapacitated you are.  You can pray.  Unless you are in a coma, you can pray.  It requires no physical movement whatsoever.  You don’t even have to speak the words out loud.  God hears your heart.  It is something you can do at all times, in all places.  Remember, the Bible says, “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results” (James 5:16).  So any time an opportunity to do good presents itself, and you are able, do so.  But even if you are unable, you can still pray for them.

          ‘To all the people you can’.  It is easy to do good to the people you love.  It is easy to help people who you know would do the same for you.  It gets more difficult when help is needed by people you don’t know, such as mission work.  But it even gets harder when the Lord  instructs us to do good to people we don’t especially like.  And without the having the Holy Spirit within us, we would never even consider doing good to those we call our enemies.  But as Christians, that is exactly what Jesus told us to do.  For He said in Luke chapter 6, “But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you.  If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them! And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much! And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return.  Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate”.  Yes, ‘to all the people you can’ even includes your enemies.

          ‘As long as you ever can’.   There are days all of us are tempted to say, “I’ve had it!  I just can’t do this any longer.”  No matter whether it is parenthood, a job, a bad relationship, or even a ministry, there are days when we are ready to throw our hands up and walk away.  But Jesus didn’t quit even when faced with the cross.   If He had, none of us would ever be able to enter heaven.  And He expects us to finish our work here on earth as well.  He promises to give us strength, patience, and anything else we need, if we only ask Him.  So the next time you think of giving up, remember everything Jesus went through for us, then go to Him in prayer, admitting your thoughts, and ask Him for guidance.  He will show you -the way through whatever it is you are dealing with, and help you achieve all it is He has put you here to do.  So when your time on earth is done, you can say like the apostle Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful” (2 Timothy 4:7). 

          So this Lenten season, and beyond, let us make it our goal to do all the good we can, by all the means we can, in all the way we can, in all the places we can, at all the times we can, to all the people we can, for as long as ever we can.  Amen.

                   CHILDREN'S MESSAGE:

                  When your mother hollers ‘be good’!     

                  It usually means you’ve been bad.

                  But when God asks us to ‘do good’,

                  It doesn’t mean that He’s mad.

                  God wants for us to love others,

                  To always be kind, and to share,

                  To help those who need our help,

                  And do things to show that we care.