Bible Studies for Life, Jan. 19
How can God use me when others suffer?
Pastor en Iglesia Bautista Latinoamericana of Savannah
Hispanic representative, South Regions, Georgia Baptist Hispanic Ministries
God calls us to stand up for those who suffer from injustice
We live in a world that has been damaged by sin. People have many physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. The Lord has us here for His purposes. One of them is to reach out with the mercy of God to all those who are suffering from injustice. Many times however we do not follow God’s will. We become religious, but not obedient servants. This does not permit us to see the extent of devastation caused by suffering. It is necessary that we be silent in order to hear from God where to begin and the specific plan that He has for us to help those in need.
What impedes you from helping those who suffer injustices?
Growing up in the context of the Roman Catholicism, I saw many religious people fulfill their responsibilities to the church. “I went to mass!” they would proclaim, as though they had completed their obligation to God. A merely external ritual without a personal relationship with the Lord is not what God desires. The Israelites fell into the same error. The religious people at the time of Jesus also did to the point of being called “whitewashed tombs” by our Lord Jesus (Matt. 23:27).
Sadly, many Christians today fall into purely ritualistic habit without having a personal experience with God during the course of the day, the week, or even during their whole lives. God has called us for ministry to others: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice” (Matt. 9:13). An egotistical life becomes a life without the capacity to feel compassion for those who are living under injustice. One begins to lose feeling. So many people descended down to the temple at the hour of prayer as they were accustomed, but only Peter and John had mercy on that lame man. Compassion led them to action. They helped him get up (Acts 3).
What are the most devastating injustices around you?
In Isa. 58:6-7, there are at least seven needs listed. There are also injustices in each of our communities. I remember once as a church we were serving the community. We arrived at a trailer park and knocked on a door. An old man, completely naked, came to tell me what he needed. My heart sunk. I saw the degree of need in his life: old, alone, a dirty house, sick, and abandoned by his family.
In our city of Savannah, young girls from Central America were rescued from human sex trafficking. Other Hispanic children who entered the country with their parents to find a better life now live under the shadow of divided homes. Babies are assassinated through abortion. The list of injustices continues. The Lord’s Church must help combat these pressing needs of our society.
Influence in the lives of those around us goes hand-in-hand with our faith. Christ is our model. James 2:26 says, “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” Isaiah exhorts us to be merciful before practicing our religion. Through eyes of mercy, we see the needs our community and obey to the command of our Lord.
At times, we act the same as the disciples. While Jesus had compassion for the people, they acted with indifference: “Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food” (Matthew 14:15). The disciples would not have to get involved in the needs of the people. “Religious” believers who are not intimate with Christ are indifferent as well. They do not share the compassion for others that is the heart of God.
Where do we begin the fight to free and help those who suffer?
The starting point for obtaining the compassionate heart of Christ is to repent and ask for forgiveness for being religious and self-centered, then to listen to the voice of God. We will begin to know God’s direction for ministry to others. When we begin to serve the needy, God works in miraculous ways, just as when He multiplied the fish and the bread. He will work miracles in the lives of those who suffer, and in the lives of those hungry to serve Him.
I remember when I met a man who could hardly walk due to the arthritis in his body. I would take him to medical appointments, spending hours translating, etc. One day he asked me if he could come to church. I was overjoyed! He later accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior and Lord and was baptized. Now he is an usher in the church and my walking partner at the park.
Service demands compassion, but yields the fruit of joy in our lives.
The Lord always guides us to understand His plan for us. He has placed us in communities to bring honor to His name through serving those in need. Whether spiritual, emotional or physical, God will use His children when others suffer to reach them with His love.
Ovidio Cabrera serves as pastor of Iglesia Bautista Latinoamericana of Savannah and the Hispanic representative, South Regions for the Georgia Baptist Hispanic Ministries.