Nothing great ever took place without faith. When we have faith, we look beyond what is and imagine what can be. And that's what our world needs.

When we're faced with the injustices in our world, it can feel overwhelming. But let's see what happens when the tasks in front of us come face to face with faith.

Consider this: Jesus did not expect his disciples to seek a secluded life of faith apart from the world, but to be part of it. Jesus did not advocate for monkish spirituality, but a life of faith lived in the midst of culture. Jesus expected his disciples to be vehicles of change in the world. Jesus makes this point in his final prayer for his disciples:

“I do not ask that you take them [my disciples] out of the world, but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth—your word is truth. Just as you sent me into the world, I also have sent them into the world” (John 17:15–18 LEB).

From the beginning of our faith walk to the end of it in this life, our journey is about being in this world as actors of change.

Faith is not a journey of removing ourselves from this place, but one about bringing God’s kingdom to this place.

I firmly believe this: God wants to empower you to make change happen. He wants us to be empowered to change the course of history for the better.

When we go about alleviating poverty, we’re placing faith in what can be. We are looking at the current situation, calling it “not good enough,” and then acting to create a better situation. When Jesus calls us to help the poor (see Matthew 25:31–46), he expects a faith-based and faithful response. This response requires understanding our place in the world, which is to bring about change by the power of Jesus.

What we do with faith is as important as coming to faith, for what we do once we come to Jesus is what makes a difference in the lives of others. It’s where change for the betterment of our world occurs.

How is your faith connected to your actions? Is your faith changing the way you live each day, and the way you help others?*


Want to go deeper into this subject? Check out my new book, Jesus' Economy: A Biblical View of Poverty, the Currency of Love, and a Pattern for Lasting Change. With simple, everyday choices you can make the world a better place. Learn how to live Jesus' economy, the currency of love.


*This article is based on my earlier article, "The Unfathomable Power of Faith."

 

It’s now February so it’s time to ask: how are your New Year’s resolutions going? Maybe your resolution falls in the usual categories of exercising more, eating healthy, losing weight, quitting a habit, saving money, or getting organized. While all of those are admirable goals and ideas, the reality is that many of us don't stick to them. Sometimes the goals are too ambitious or too lofty. But in the midst of all this talk about resolutions, are we missing something major that could produce a lasting change on our lives?

To put it into a Sunday School answer, that's Jesus. But to give you a better idea of what that looks like, we've listed 10 ways you can live for Jesus in 2019.

1. Make time for God a priority

It shouldn't be a surprise or a secret that in order to live for Jesus, you need to make time with him a priority. Otherwise, you won't know how to live for him. It doesn't matter what time of day it is, morning, night, or in the middle of your work break; you just need to make time with God. It can look like carving out time to read a passage or two from your print Bible or Bible app. It could be finally setting aside time to sit down and read that devotional book you bought in the bookstore a few years ago.

No matter what it looks like, make sure it's intentional. If you're planning your time with God ahead of time and ensuring your relationship with God is number one, then your goal of living for Jesus is going to be that much more attainable.

Resource Recommendation: Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan coauthored by our founder, John  D. Barry.

2. Forgive easily

Jesus calls us to forgive other people as he has forgiven us and he calls us to outrageous levels of forgiveness (see Matthew 18:21–22). If God can forgive us for our sins and still love us unconditionally, we should be able to do the same for those around us. It's not easy, God didn't say it would be, but it's something we can do that will clearly set us on the path of living for Jesus.

Sometimes it'll be easy to forgive someone, especially if you have a close relationship and you know they're sincere. But sometimes, the person you forgive won't have even apologized. They won't seem "deserving" of your forgiveness. But then again, we aren't deserving of God's, but we have it anyway. Shouldn't we aim to do the same for others? Knowing how it makes us feel—redeemed, hopeful, and renewed—wouldn't we want others to experience those same feelings when we have the chance to forgive them? It won't be something you'll be able to do overnight, but if you seek God, you'll find the strength to forgive eventually and the both of you will be better for it.

Resource Recommendation: No Apology Needed: Learning to Forgive as God Does by Jesus’ Economy Board Member, Nathan Byrd.

3. Encourage often

A phrase we see repeated in the Bible is to lift each other up or exhort one another (e.g., 1 Thessalonians 5:11). When we encourage those around us, we make the world a more positive and uplifting place. Too often we let the world get the best of us, allowing ourselves to join in the criticism and negativity, which can even lead to a mindset of hate. Jesus has called us to exhort one another and spur each other toward Christ. If we can find ways to do that, the hearts of those in this world might be filled with love.

Consider how one simple note or word of encouragement boosts you or helps you get through your week. Now think about what you could do for others if you sent a text, email, or spoke encouragement into someone's life. It doesn't take longer than a few minutes, but it could change someone's whole day or week.

4. Join a small group

Community is important. When you're part of a small group of other Christians, it becomes like a second family. They lift you up, hold you accountable, celebrate with you, and pray with and for you. The New Testament teaches us to be part of Christian community and to make it a regular part of our lives (Hebrews 10:25). A small group will spur you toward Christ and bring you out of the dark places when you face them. And you'll be able to do the same for the others in the small group.

Most churches have small or community groups, so look into if your church has them. If they don't, start one! You can also start one among your friends, you don't have to go to the same church to be in the same small group.

Resource Recommendation: There are a host of Bible studies—designed for small group use—written by our founder, John D. Barry, and available right here on JesusEconomy.org.

5. Pray more

For some praying might come easily, but for others it can be an obstacle to overcome. Whether you aren't sure where to start or what to pray for or when, it can be a place where you're stalled out in your faith. The good news is that once you start praying more, the easier it gets and the more you do it.

Once again, you can start out small. Don't get caught up in the order of the prayer, leave that for later. Just talk to God, tell him about your day, your needs, your gratefulness; keep the communication line open. It doesn't have to always end in "Amen," in fact it can be a running conversation throughout your day. Your prayers do not have to be full of lofty words; just start talking to God. Lay your heart out to him; he wants to hear it. Eventually, it will become natural; you will start praying and won't even realize you started.

Resource Recommendation: Try using the Pray as You Go app or podcast. It offers 10 to 15 minutes per day of contemplative music, Scripture reading, and prayerful meditation.

6. Get into the Bible

When we're surrounded by so much great literature, it can be difficult to remember that nothing takes the place of actually digging into God's Word on a daily basis.

Starting out small will help you get into a daily routine. Read one verse a day, or set a timer to read the Bible for just 5 minutes. You can start with a familiar book or passage, or open your Bible to a random spot and start reading. If you start out small, it will be more attainable and you can work up to reading more and for longer. It may also help to consider adding a study Bible to your routine since that can clarify the difficult passages.

Resource Recommendation: Faithlife Study Bible is a great resource for digging into the Word. Our founder, John D. Barry, served as General Editor for this product. You can also set up Bible reading plans using the free Faithlife Study Bible app.

7. Be compassionate

Jesus is compassionate and showed it in the life he led on Earth. For example, when Jesus is being arrested and one of his disciples cuts off a servant's ear, what does Jesus do? He heals the man and instructs the disciple to stop. He knows he's about to be taken and what's about to happen, but that doesn't stop him from being compassionate toward one of the people persecuting him (compare Luke 6:26–36).

It's easy to let the little things get to you. Someone cutting in line, bad drivers, a rude coworker, the disobedient child, the list goes on of things that make us feel upset and want to lash out. But you have to stop and ask yourself, "is what's making me upset right now really going to matter in five years or even one year?" If the answer is “no,” then it’s probably best to let it go. Take a deep breath and offer compassion and kindness. The person on the receiving end might need it more than you realize. And try to remember, if Jesus could be compassionate toward those who wanted to see him crucified, I think we can be compassionate to the parent who cuts us off in the drop-off lane.

8. Reach out to someone in need in your community

More and more often we read about stories of someone taking their life; the victims of suicide seem to get younger and younger. Meanwhile, those who need help in other aspects of life such as finances, household chores, etc. sometimes won't reach out because they feel like a burden.

It's easy to let our lives get so busy that we feel like we don't have time to think of anyone outside of our immediate family and work circles. But it's vital that we do. Jesus has called us to serve other people we should never ignore our neighbors in need (e.g., Luke 10:25–37). We're to love them and empower them. So when you read that social media post that seems like a cry for help or hear that someone is having car trouble, reach out. Talk to them and find out what you can do that would empower them to solve the problem.

Resource Recommendation: If you’re looking for long-term solutions to empowering people in your community, check out our founder’s new book, Jesus’ Economy: A Biblical View of Poverty, the Currency of Love, and a Pattern for Lasting Change.

9. Tell others about Jesus

Spreading the good news of the gospel is one of the commandments Jesus has given us (Matthew 28:18–20). His love and sacrifice saves and redeems us, bringing us into life eternal with him (John 3:16–18). So why wouldn't we want others to experience that too? How selfish of us to keep it to ourselves! It's a cliche, but we should be shouting it from the rooftops. We aren't afraid to exclaim our love for just about everything else in our lives, so why not Jesus and his gift of salvation?

This can be scary, especially when Christians can come across as intolerant, Bible-thumping know-it-alls. The key is to build a relationship with those around you, showing them the attributes of Jesus that live in you. Then when opportunities present themselves, tell them about Jesus and what he's done for you. Begin by serving other people and wait for conversations to emerge from there.

Resource Recommendation: Become part of the movement of people sponsoring church planting efforts in areas where people have never heard the name of Jesus. Plant churches in Bihar, India with Jesus’ Economy.

10. Love deeply and generously

God is love (1 John 4:7–21). We hear it all the time. We know it to be true. We read about how wide and deep the love of Jesus is. We witness it in our own lives when he continues to love us no matter how many times we mess up. And he calls us to do the same. Our greatest commandment? Love God, and the second greatest is like it: We are to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 26:36–40).

But what does that really look like? It's investing time and effort into your relationships. It's celebrating with those who celebrate and mourning with those who mourn (Romans 12:15). It's supporting other people and showing them you have their back. It's speaking the truth into someone's life when they're making bad choices. It's putting their needs before your own. And when you love deeply and generously, I believe you'll see a change. Love gets through, in some way or another, every time.

Resource Recommendation: Part of loving generously is using our finances for the betterment of other people. This can come in how we can give and how we shop. Consider shopping fair trade with Jesus’ Economy this year and give to a cause you’re passionate about.

Faith without action is not faith at all. Faith and actions are inseparable. And that thought can change our world.

Consider what the biblical book of James says about this:

“My brothers, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with partiality. For if someone enters into your assembly in fine clothing with a gold ring on his finger, and a poor person in filthy clothing also enters, and you look favorably on the one wearing the fine clothing and you say, ‘Be seated here in a good place,’ and to the poor person you say, ‘You stand or be seated there by my footstool,’ have you not made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?” (James 2:1–4 LEB).

It is usually easier to build a friendship with someone who is like you than someone who is not. And most people want to befriend the most well dressed person in the room. I know this is obvious, but think on it for a moment. What are the ramifications of this inclination? What does it say about the type of people we are?

The inclination to favor one person over another reveals something about our view of God, others, and faith. When we show partiality to the wealthy person over the impoverished person, we betray a part of our very faith—love for others (Matthew 22:37–40).

God has called us to love others without partiality. He has called us to look at other people and do for them as we would want them to do for us—aside from how they appear or what they have to offer in return.

I am sure you already know this to be true, but are you practicing it today? Really, take a moment and think about it: are you loving other people without partiality? And if not, how can you change your behavior? How can you change the judgmental thoughts you have? For your thoughts are the place from which your actions emerge.

Imagine how incredibly different, and better, the world would be if we loved others without partiality. Imagine a world where Christians everywhere practiced their faith. Let's be people of faith and action.*


Want to go deeper into this subject? Check out my new book, Jesus' Economy: A Biblical View of Poverty, the Currency of Love, and a Pattern for Lasting Change. With simple, everyday choices you can make the world a better place. Learn how to live Jesus' economy, the currency of love.


*This article is adapted from my earlier article, "The Inseparability of Faith and Actions."

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to walk a Stations of the Cross path for the first time at a local abbey. Stations of the Cross is a path made up of a series of images depicting the story of the day of Jesus’ crucifixion. Each station has an image and an accompanying prayer to read as you contemplate what Jesus experienced in his last moments before death. Many Christians walk through the stations during Lent because they focus on the suffering and sacrifice of the Lord leading to the celebration of the Resurrection.

When I visited the stations, I hadn’t known much about them and I didn’t know what to expect. Some of my reflections were surprising, others humbling, but the whole experience left my spirit quieted by Jesus and what he did for us. Here are a few of the reflections I made on my journey.

1. Jesus Became Weak for Us

Sometimes it’s difficult to picture how Jesus suffered. But as I stood at the fifth station and saw the picture of Simon helping Jesus carry the cross, I was reminded of the gruesome nature of Jesus’ death because of his humanity. Jesus was tired. He was exhausted. He was dirty. He had a human body, and that body was quitting on him. At some point, he nearly gave up—he needed help to carry his own cross.

Before his death, he was thirsty, and he had to drink wine from a sponge on a stick. We don’t always think about it, but Jesus got thirsty. And he got hungry, too. When Jesus came to earth he became like us—small and weak.

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2:5-7, ESV)

2. God Isn’t Surprised

Many of the images made my stomach clench because of the horror of how Jesus died. Then I thought about the prophecies from hundreds of years before. Jesus was not surprised by how he was betrayed or how he was mocked or how it was finally finished. The blood and dirt did not shock him. God the Father was not surprised, either, as he turned away.

Everything that happened those last days from Gethsemane to Golgotha was known by God. He knew that Jesus would suffer, and that the suffering would ultimately lead to salvation.

Knowing it was planned doesn’t make the scene any less brutal. But it does remind us that God’s hand is in everything—even the things that make us cringe.

“For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.” (Isaiah 46:9b-10, ESV)

3. Jesus’ Death Was Sad, but also Peaceful

At the last station, I was very emotional because I could imagine the feeling of loss among the disciples. Their friend had just died and they were left alone.

I bet they felt abandoned. I bet they knew it would all be worth it, but I bet they were filled with sorrow. Even knowing they would see him again would not be enough to fully ease the pain of loss. But after Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension to heaven, God sent the Spirit to guide us. We are not left alone, and that truth brings us peace.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27, ESV)

These are words of peace Jesus leaves with his disciples before his journey to the cross.

4. We Have a Place in the Resurrection Story

Each station’s image was covered in a glass case, and as I stood at each one, I often found my eyes wandering to the reflection of my own face in the glass. I tried to avert my focus, to turn my eyes away from myself and onto Jesus.

But as I stood there, my face reflected at the feet of Jesus as he hung on the cross, I was struck with the reminder that this story is for us, too. Just as Jesus died with the full weight of our sin on the cross, so we “[die] to sin” daily so that we can be “alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 6:11, ESV)

Jesus died because all of us are sinful and we can’t amend that on our own. Jesus died because he has such deep love for us and he truly wants to spend eternity with us.

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit.” (1 Peter 3:18, ESV)

Jesus’ death shocks us. It humbles us and baffles us. It changes us. It brings us to our knees and reminds us of the greatness of God. We can live because Jesus died.  What a wonderful paradox.

In the middle of Lenten season, I encourage you to reflect on the journey Jesus took so that we might have life because of death.

 

Get more free articles like this one and other updates: Subscribe now. This long-form article is part of our weekly series, “Living for Jesus.”

Continuing with our "Living for Jesus This Christmas" series, here is a story of the importance of gratitude and faith this holiday season. 

At this time of year, the stress levels for many are almost too much to bear. We struggle through the ups and downs of the season, as we navigate family, our budget, and our church life. It’s all too easy to become frustrated and angry, and then to lose sight of our priorities. The key to changing all this: thankfulness -- for Christ, salvation, and what we have been given.

During Christmas season, I often find myself up awake at night, wondering about all that is and all that could be. As I stare at the ceiling, I struggle with the thought that maybe I’m not living up to what God intends for me to be. And indeed, there are always areas I can improve, but much of this self-doubt is probably rooted in ungratefulness.

My wife Kalene's recent solution to some of these difficulties was to share with me a lovely song from the 1954 film, White Christmas:

“When I'm worried and I can't sleep / I count my blessings instead of sheep / And I fall asleep / Counting my blessings / When my bankroll is getting small / I think of when I had none at all / And I fall asleep / Counting my blessings / If you're worried and you can't sleep / Just count your blessings instead of sheep / And you'll fall asleep / Counting your blessings”

And isn’t this the truth? We all have the blessing of Jesus, who saves, as well as many other blessings. If only that were our focus instead!

Paul the Apostle understood this. Repeatedly, he opens his letters with words of thankfulness. For example, even when addressing the Corinthian church, who he is struggling to maintain a relationship with, he says:

“Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in all affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ overflow to us, thus through Christ our comfort overflows also” (2 Cor 1:3–5).

Here is Paul, in the midst of a struggle with the Corinthian church, and with some struggles of his own, showing a spirit of thankfulness. By counting his blessings, he finds a way to have joy even when things are hard.

When we really get down to it, there’s an obvious point that we all know, but that maybe we should take a second to remind ourselves of: This season is about Jesus, or at least it’s supposed to be. Breathe that in. Tell yourself that everyday. Remember what Jesus did for us, and be thankful for it. It will change everything.

And then, take a moment to remind yourself how the one who gave it all calls us to give it all for the betterment of our world.

When we give, our thought patterns change -- and our general attitude about life changes. We find ourselves realizing what God can do through our lives and then we find ourselves grateful for it.

Jesus can do so much through your life, and wants to do so much. Give over more of your life to him this year. Let him work through you in this season, to show love to others with a generous and grateful spirit. Work with Christ to transform lives and our world.

This article was previously published under the title, "Reclaim a Spirit of Gratitude this Christmas Season."

Right now it's highly likely that you're facing some problem or difficulty that seems impossible to overcome. I've been there. For that matter, I am there. But if there's anything I've learned about faith, it's that Jesus is in the business of hope. Here are four reflections on hope and why it's such a critical part of faith. Here's how hope can change your life, right now.

1. Faith is Hope

When the author of the biblical book Hebrews explained faith, he spoke of hope.

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1 ESV).

As Christians, we do not physically see Jesus. We also do not know when he will return to earth. But we believe (have faith) in him. We have a conviction about that which we cannot see.

Ask yourself: Has God called you to a purpose? Now ask yourself: Do you believe in Jesus' work in your life and the world? If your answer is "yes" to both of those things, then really it shouldn't be hard to take the next step: To hope in what Jesus will do in your life. Have hope that God will see through his purpose in your life.

You may not have faith in yourself, but you can have faith in Jesus working through you. Faith is hope. And it can have incredible power in our lives.

2. Hope is Magical: It's Miraculous

Hope is magical; or better put, it’s miraculous. It changes our perspective and it changes lives.

Consider for a moment one the great problems of our world: extreme poverty, the fact that there are millions of people around the world trying to survive on less than a $1.25 per day.

Now consider that the developing world is full of people with tenacity and strength who lack the resources to make their dreams reality. They need hope. They need opportunities. Those of us with resources can offer them hope. Something as simple as our purchasing and donating decisions can change lives.

When we give of our time, money, or resources, we have the opportunity to watch Jesus’ work in the world. That act of faith should give us hope.

Each of us have a chance to see God at work, to put our hope into action. And doing so can offer us hope in return.

3. Having Hope for Someone Else Can Personally Give You Hope

The incredible thing about offering someone hope is that doing so also offers you hope. It makes you believe in what the person you’re helping is yet to see. It changes the way you feel about the state of that person’s life, and in doing so, causes you to think about what hope God has in store for you.

Having hope for someone else gives you a small glimpse at God’s eternal perspective. You briefly see the connections God does: how he has used you to help someone else, and how he will likely use someone else to help you. And it doesn't take long to get from there to believing in what God can do in your life.

4. Hope is an Opportunity for This Generation

Jesus has great opportunities in store for this generation. He is the hope that Hebrews 11 speaks about. It is his work through the Spirit that we’re anticipating and desire to fully realize. It is Jesus’ second coming that we wait for. But it is his work now that we live for.

As Christians, we are convicted that Jesus was resurrected from death and is working even now. We believe in what he is yet to do, and we should do everything we can to be a part of it.

In hope, there is something magical that ignites our spirits—and it’s something we can bring to others in the name of the Jesus.

 

Get more free articles like this one, our daily devotional, and updates: Subscribe now. This article is part of our weekly series, “Living for Jesus.” 

This article is adapted in part from my earlier article, "Hope is Magical."

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Not Your Average Bible Study Series

This series of studies works through books of the Bible verse by verse, even phrase by phrase, with practical prayer suggestions and guided reflection questions for individual or group study. For this series, John has authored studies on the books of Malachi, Colossians, Hebrews, James, 1 Peter, and 2 Peter and Jude.

Connect the Testaments: A 365-Day Devotional with Bible Reading Plan

This 365-day devotional, which John co-authored with Rebecca Van Noord, covers the full span of the Bible in one year. The included reading plan curates readings each day from the Old Testament, New Testament, and poetic literature. John and Rebecca’s devotionals will help you grasp how the entire Bible is connected to reveal and exalt Jesus Christ. Practical questions at the end of each section help you reflect on what it looks like to live out the love of Jesus in everyday life.

Cutting Ties with Darkness: How to Have Healthy Relationships

In this study of 2 Corinthians, John uses Paul’s relationship with the church he established in Corinth to explore how Christians should deal with broken relationships. This study will equip you with godly wisdom to help you discern when to reconcile in relationships and when to walk away, by cutting ties with darkness.


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ABOUT OUR FOUNDER, JOHN D. BARRY


John D. Barry is the CEO and founder of Jesus' Economy. As such, he has dedicated his life to creating jobs and churches in the developing world. He also serves as a missionary with Resurrect Church Movement, the domestic division of Jesus' Economy dedicated to equipping U.S. churches to alleviate poverty and plant churches. John is the General Editor of Faithlife Study Bible and Lexham Bible Dictionary. He has authored or edited over 30 books, including Resurrected Servant in Isaiah, Cutting Ties with Darkness, and the daily devotional Connect the Testaments. John formerly served as founding Publisher of Lexham Press for Faithlife Corporation (the makers of Logos Bible Software) and is the former Editor-in-Chief of Bible Study Magazine, a product he launched. John speaks internationally on engaging the Bible, poverty, and spreading the gospel.

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Millions of people around the world do not have resources to meet their basic needs. These people are living in poverty. Many of them do not have access to clean water, or the ability to buy or grow food. Many of them live in villages or cities with suffering economies, and there are simply no jobs. When people have limited food and water, education gets pushed back. In places like this, families are held captive to cycles of poverty.

Today is the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, and we are reminded of our brothers and sisters suffering in poverty around the world. It is discouraging to think of how many people poverty impacts, and of how the pain carries on to future generations.

The good news is this: we are doing something about it, and you can, too.

What You Can Do to Alleviate Poverty

Taking action against poverty is one of the ways we as Christians are called to love. In 1 John, John reminded the church of the importance of putting faith in action.

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:16-18 ESV).

There are many ways you can bring hope to impoverished people. You can give your time and prayers, donate money to a program you’re passionate about, or even start your own. Poverty is all over the world—in other continents, and in your own city.

If you’re looking for a place to start, Jesus’ Economy has some great programs you can get involved in as we work to renew Bihar, India.

Provide Clean Water in Bihar, India; Meet Basic Needs

Bihar, India is a state with more than a million people living in extreme poverty. A large cause of the problem is a lack of clean water. Some women and children spend many hours each day walking miles to collect drinking water. This takes up so much time that women cannot work and children cannot go school. Our clean water program raises funds to drill wells in Bihar. Each well can provide safe water for 2,000 people, and so far we have completed four wells.

Create Jobs in Bihar, India; Empower Women

When families have access to safe water, women have more time to work and provide for their families. Our empowering women program is going to train 40 women to run successful tailoring businesses and sell their products on the western market. These women already have skills in tailoring, but need an opportunity to learn business skills. This program is currently 47 percent funded.

Plant Churches in Bihar, India; Spread the Gospel

We are working to bring hope through the alleviation of physical and spiritual poverty. Our church planting program funds church planters in various villages in Bihar to set up home churches, and also to go into the villages and share the gospel. At this point, we are funding four church planters, all of whom are additionally starting Bible studies and literacy training as they go. Thousands of people in Bihar are hearing the gospel for the first time, and each church planter brings the gospel to thousands more.

Advik was first sponsored in September 2016, and has started five Bible studies and one house church. Another church planter, Santhosh, recently held a spiritual awakening seminar with 250 people from 16 different villages in attendance. We are so excited about how God is moving in Bihar, India.

God wants us to Fight Against Poverty

Eradicating poverty is not only important, it is the gospel. We love because God loves us. And one way we can show that love is through working to alleviate poverty.

Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God” (Hebrews 13:16 ESV).

We are called to use what we have to bless others. And it’s not always about money. If you have a little time to give, consider volunteering for an organization that works to alleviate poverty. If you have an extra coat, consider donating it. One small action can be a huge blessing to someone else. Don’t be afraid to do small things and big things to fight poverty. Just remember this: nothing will change if you do nothing at all.

You can alleviate poverty and bring hope to people in so many ways, and we encourage you to be praying about where you can start.

“Where do you want to be in five years?” a professor asked me in the middle of the crowded dining hall.

It was March of my freshman year at a Christian university.

“Oh, I don’t know,” I answered. “Maybe Uganda? Somewhere doing missions work, though.”

While there is nothing wrong with wanting to go into full-time missions, there was a problem with my answer. The problem was that I wasn’t being honest with myself. I didn’t truly see myself in Uganda, or even want to go there. But I wanted to want it, because I thought that was what faithful Christians were supposed to do.

I thought full-time overseas missionary work was the best work any Christian could be called to. That was my first mistake. The second was that I didn’t have a clear understanding of what being a missionary really was.

Being a Missionary is to Respond Faithfully to God’s Call

Like many Christians, I had a misconception about the nature of missions work. I was 19 and convinced that full-time missions work in an impoverished nation was the best way to serve God. And I was worried that it meant I wasn’t a good enough Christian if God wasn’t calling me away to do big and scary things.

I disregarded the fact that I am an introvert who is easily exhausted by groups of people. I disregarded the fact that God hadn’t given me gifts of public speaking, teaching, or leading. I knew I could learn all those things if the mission field required it of me. God would give me what I needed to succeed in his plans.

And that’s true. But I was disregarding the gifts that God did give me; and I knew that going into full-time overseas missions wouldn’t be the best way for me to use those gifts. I knew that I didn’t really feel called to Uganda. I had for a long time felt like God was calling me to worship and serve him through writing. Of course, I could’ve written in Uganda, but I knew God was asking me to not go that far—he was asking me to stay close by and work on creating art that could make people feel and remind them what’s important in life. He wanted me to spread the gospel right here.

Every believer receives spiritual gifts to use as a member of the body of Christ. These gifts empower us to do God’s work. Not everyone is going to be gifted and called to lead. Nor will everyone be called to missions work in another country. We’re all different, and that’s a great thing about the body of Christ:

“Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?” (1 Corinthians 12:27–30 ESV).

It is important that believers work together as different parts of the same body. If a finger suddenly decided it didn’t want to be a finger anymore, and started to act like an ear instead, everything would fall apart. As a body, we will be most successful at spreading the gospel if we each use the gifts God has given us and not attempt to be someone other than who God created us to be. 

“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:4–7 ESV).

Using our Gifts is Enough

The professor saw through my lie and called me out on it.

“What really gets you going? What do you love?”

“I love writing. I’ve always wanted to write.”

“Why do you see yourself in Uganda and not in, say, Paris, writing every day at a café?”

“I-I don’t know.”

“Why full-time missions and not full-time writing?”

“It just doesn’t seem like enough,” I finally confessed.

There it was. Sometimes, doing the things we’re good at doesn’t feel like enough. Even when God gives us gifts, we disregard them in favor of pursuing what we consider to be a more noble or spiritual occupation.

I believed the myth that becoming a missionary in a far-away country was the best thing anyone could do for the Kingdom of God. I know I’m not the only Christian who has made this mistake, and this has led Christians to mission fields they do not belong in. When this happens, the kingdom is missing out on the work we are actually called to do.

Missions Work is for Everybody, Everywhere

Being a missionary doesn’t always mean traveling across the world. Being a missionary means taking on the mission of spreading the gospel—which is something we are all called to do:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19–20 ESV).

Being a missionary isn’t always about leaving. Sometimes it means staying right where you are and using the gifts God has given you. And no calling is higher or lower than another. The whole world needs the gospel, including the community you live in now.

After pursuing a writing career, God might still call me to Uganda. I’m keeping my ears open. But no matter where I go or where he calls me next, I’m going to listen and be honest with what I’m hearing.

I encourage you to do the same. Respond to the call God has placed on your life. Be a missionary in whatever you do.

  

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One of the biggest challenges we’ll ever face as a Christian comes when God says, “Stay.”

We’ve all been there. And I don’t know about you, but that command only gets harder to hear the older I get.

It can be one of the most difficult things we have to do, especially when we see people all around us actively doing amazing things for the Kingdom. You probably know many people changing jobs, starting movements, and uprooting their lives across states, or even countries, to follow where God is leading them. Maybe that’s you right now. Whether you are in a season of action or not, you will undoubtedly come to a time in life when God says, “Stay.”

It makes you feel small. It makes you feel weak. It makes you feel unneeded. We get uncomfortable because we know that in order for big things to happen, people have to actually be doing things. And sitting on the sidelines feels wrong.

However, just because it feels wrong, doesn’t mean we are being punished for being bad servants or that it is wrong at all. Everyone needs rest sometimes.

Our job in these moments is to listen to what God is telling us. Why is he asking us to stay still? What are we supposed to do in the quiet? The answer is going to be different for everyone, so if you want to know what God is asking of you, you have to grapple with it yourself.

The biblical King David dealt with many moments of waiting on God. In his darkest turmoil and loneliness, he came to a deep understanding of stillness and quiet, and what God wanted him to learn from it.

Throughout the Psalms, he cried out to God continually because he felt alone, forsaken, and scared. One psalm (while not ascribed to David) is a reminder that it is alright for God's people to not constantly be taking action.

“Be still and know that I am God. / I will be exalted among the nations, / I will be exalted in the earth!” (Psalm 46:10 ESV).

The silence does not mean God is telling us to be lazy or apathetic to his plans. Sometimes it means that he is doing something big and we just need to wait. David encouraged God’s people to find peace in the waiting. He says,

“Be strong, and let your heart take courage, / all you who wait for the Lord!” (Psalm 31:24 ESV).

But it’s not always easy for us to be at peace with the silence. And it wasn’t easy for David, either. At a time when he was facing intense depression and exhaustion, he says,

“I am weary with my crying out; / my throat is parched. / My eyes grow dim / with waiting for my God” (Psalm 69:3 ESV).

Yet in all his suffering, he learned that God’s timing would always be better than his own. In the same Psalm, when his throat is aching and his eyes are puffy with tears, he declares,

“But as for me, my prayer is to you, / O Lord. / At an acceptable time, O God, / in the abundance of your steadfast love / answer me in your saving faithfulness” (Psalm 69:13 ESV).

David, a man after God’s own heart, had to learn how to rest in God’s silence and find peace in his timing. And it wasn’t easy for him. While he valiantly waited about 15 years until his time to become king, at other times he made big mistakes.

David often despaired, as we all do. He cried out hundreds—probably thousands—of times for God to listen to him. The silence tore him up. But he waited on God, and he grew in faith because of it.

“But I am like a green olive tree / in the house of God. / I trust in the steadfast love of God / forever and ever. / I will thank you forever, / because you have done it. / I will wait for your name, for it is good, / in the presence of the godly” (Psalm 52:8-9 ESV).

Being grounded often seems like a punishment to us. It creates a crisis within us and we begin to question who we are and who God is. And that’s OK. Cry out. Struggle with it. Fall on your knees and really listen to God. Listen to the silence.

 

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