Here’s the outline from today’s message at The Donelson Fellowship on helping others, using the example of Jesus in Luke 5:12-15.
Introduction: I’ve had to turn my eyes away from the television during the news because it’s so upsetting to see the pelicans and the wild birds and wildlife in the Gulf of Mexico. They are covered with the oil from the terrible oil spill. Verse 12 says there was a man in one of the towns of Galilee who was “covered with leprosy.” That means he had an advanced case. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged Him, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” When we watch how Jesus responds, we can learn something about helping other people.
1. To Help Others We Must Be Willing (Verses 12-13)
Verse 13 says: Jesus reached out His hand and touched the man. It must have been the first human touch this man had felt in many years “I am willing,” Jesus said. “Be clean!” And immediately the leprosy left him. Our Lord spoke, and there was power in His words. As we become closer to Jesus, we want to become more like Him. We become more willing to help others, not just in times of crisis but as a way of life.
2. To Help Others, We Must Be Concerned about the Whole Person (Verse 14)
An vey interesting phenomenon occurred in the American church in the early years of the Twentieth Century. As some of the mainline denominations and missions agencies became theologically liberal, they lost their Gospel message and became more focused on social work and humanitarian ministries. It was to the neglect of the Gospel and the human soul. This became known as the Social Gospel. These liberal groups poured all their energy into alleviating poverty, bringing about racial harmony, abolishing child labor laws, and many other very good and godly pursuits. But because of their liberal theology, they abandoned their interest in the spiritual and eternal condition of those they were trying to help. Well, there was a reaction to that, which we call the Fundamentalist movement. Those who were theologically conservative were desperately concerned that this liberal theology would swallow up the entire American church. And they very courageously fought for the truth of Scripture and for the fundamental truths of the Christian faith. But in the process, some of these Fundamentalists became so focused on people’s spiritual condition that they sometimes fell short on providing humanitarian assistance. Today a lot of Christians, especially young people, are getting the right balance. We have to be concerned about humanitarian needs, but we minister to a person’s physical needs within the context of the whole person. According to verse 14, after Jesus healed the man, He ordered him: “Don’t tell anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.” Jesus told the newly-healed man to go to church, to go to his local synagogue, to see his pastor, his priest, his rabbi. He wanted this man to follow the Old Testament requirements as to this matter and to align his life in obedience with the Scripture; He wanted this man to bear a testimony to the local priest. It wasn’t just the man’s body, but his soul. Not just his sickness, but his sin. Not just his leprosy, but his whole life that concerned Jesus.
3. To Help Others, We Must Know When to Withdraw (Verses 15-16)
The next sentence says: Yet the news about Him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear Him and to be healed of their sickness. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places….” When you read through the Gospels it is remarkable how frequently Jesus was unavailable. Why did He frequently withdraw?
- He wanted to control the hysteria that was developing around Him. He didn’t want to advance His agenda too fast and provoke a crisis prematurely.
- He didn’t want the crowds becoming too dependent on His physical presence. He was only on earth for thirty-three years, only in ministry for thirty-six months, and only in some towns and cities for one passing visit. He had to depend on the Holy Spirit and on His followers to do the follow-up. It’s interesting to me that Jesus didn’t hover over this newly-healed leper to see if he did as commanded. There’s no indication that Jesus checked up on him or nagged him. Jesus did what He could and then moved on. Sometimes we try to help someone and then we have to withdraw and let the Holy Spirit work in their lives. We want to hover over people and make sure they stick with the program. But sometimes we have to do what we can and move on and not let ourselves be held hostage to their situation. Maybe it’s your child or your husband or a friend from work. We have to do what we can and then move on and let the Holy Spirit do the hovering.
- Jesus often withdrew because He needed to conserve His strength. In His human nature, Jesus was susceptible to exhaustion. He grew tired, and He knew that chronic fatigue was counterproductive. When the woman touched the hem of His garment, He He felt virtue go out of Him. When He arrived in the city of Samaria, He was so tired that He sat by the well and let His disciples put together a picnic lunch. Once when He sailed across the Sea of Galilee He was so exhausted, He fell asleep in the stern of the ship. He knew how to replenish Himself physically, and so He took frequent breaks.
- He knew that He needed time in prayer, time with His Heavenly Father. This passage says it very clearly: But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. His secret ministry in prayer was as powerful—or more so—than His public ministry of preaching and healing. Our good works and our public ministry will never rise higher than our secret times of prayer.
Conclusion: So that’s how we help people. We must be willing to do what we can do; we must be concerned about the whole person—body, mind, and soul; and we must know when to withdraw and when to back up our good works with private prayer. In this way, we can help as Jesus helped; love as Jesus loved; and continue His ministry in His name to someone who crosses our path this week.