Monday, March 23, 2015

Givers And Takers

The Lord has arranged a couple of very interesting, and highly contrasting circumstances for me over the last couple of days. Both involved encounters with believing friends, and both revealed to me something about these individuals, about myself, and most importantly, about God.

The first was a coffee date with a friend who is going through a very difficult time. As she shared her struggles with me, it was very clear that she loves the Lord and wants to please Him with her response to the trial He has brought to her. As our conversation progressed, I noticed that she asked me questions about my own life, and was interested in the answers. I had invited her out so that I could encourage her in her trial, but I left feeling very encouraged in my own walk. I was amazed at her other-centeredness and her sensitivity, even in the midst of what must be one of the hardest things she’s ever been through.

The second encounter was at the library this morning. I was studying and doing some research when a lady I’d become acquainted with on other library visits showed up. I had gotten to know her a bit, and we had become friends after discovering that we are both believers. She struggles with sin, as we all do, and I have offered her counsel on several occasions. This relationship is quite one-sided. She usually does most of the talking, and it is usually about her problems. Our last couple of conversations had been completely centered on her and a particular problem she was having. I had not seen her for a while when she showed up at the library today.

My first thought was selfish. I did not want to stop my research and talk (or more likely listen) to this woman. As expected, she sat down at my table and immediately began to tell me the status of her current problem. I politely let her know that I was almost finished with my work, and would be happy to talk with her in a few minutes. She tried to cooperate, but it was just too hard, and after a minute or so, she began to talk, wanting to tell me “just one thing, real quick.” You can imagine how it went from there. Suffice it to say, my productivity ended at that point, and I learned more about the details of the last week or so of her life than I really wanted to know. Finally, it was time to go, and she was still talking as I gathered my belongings to leave.

Now, my point in sharing this with you is not to glorify the woman in the first story, nor to criticize the one in the second. My point is for you to see the difference between these two believing women: The first is focused on God, her responsibilities to Him, and the needs of others. The second is focused on herself, her own problems, and her needs.

These ladies sit at the two ends of the spectrum of fellowship in the Body of Christ: The givers and the takers. Friend, my question for you today is, where are you on this spectrum? Those of us who suffer with chronic pain and disability often find ourselves in the needy chair. If our physical problem is permanent, there is a danger of becoming attached to that chair. But we need to be careful that we are becoming more like my coffee friend, and less like my library friend. It is easy to become needy, self-centered, and forgetful of others when we are suffering. We must guard against this tendency, and check ourselves often. When was the last time you reached out to someone who was suffering? Can you recall the last conversation in which your physical issues did not come up, or you changed the subject from yourself to the other person?

Pray, and ask the Lord to reveal to you whether you are a giver or a taker, regardless of your physical problems. If you find yourself convicted of creeping toward the library of self-focus, ask the Lord to help you check out of there! If you examine yourself and find you are a giver and an encourager, invite a suffering sister (maybe from the library?), to taste and see the Lord’s goodness with you.

 I’m so glad the Lord provided both of these encounters for me. The sharp contrast revealed something about my own heart, and gave me inspiration to work hard at becoming more like Him in my relationships and thoughts of others. While I want to be more like the first friend and less like the second, I know that my true goal is to be more like Christ. As you think on my challenge, meditate on Philippians 2:1-11.

“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus...”