We dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory- 1st Thessalonians 2:11-12 NIV
There is some confusion over the “what” of Christianity.
The who is easy. The who is Jesus. Jesus is the beginning and end of all things (Revelation 1:4-8, Revelation 22:12). Jesus is the one who redeems us and saves us and empowers us to become a brand-new creation completely free from the bondage of our past sin (Ephesians 1:7, Colossians 1:12-14, 2nd Corinthians 5:22).
Without the “who” of Jesus there is no Christianity.
Most Christians are also pretty clued into “the why” of Christianity. People need Jesus because all people are hopeless sinners. We are such a hot-mess we routinely do wrong even when we really, really want to do right (Romans 7:21-25, Jeremiah 17:19).
All humans need the redemption, salvation and wholeness only Jesus can offer. Understanding the “why” of salvation is critical. We cannot even get saved until we understand our own sinfulness and the futility of attempting to save ourselves (Ephesians 2:8-9, Isaiah 64:6).
The “how” of Christianity becomes clear once we understand the “who” and the “why”. We become Christians by placing our faith and trust in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Once that’s done we living a life of repentance and worship (John 3:36, Acts 13:28-40, Ephesians 1:13-14)
It’s that easy.
It’s the “what” of Christianity many believers struggle with. A lot of Christians don’t really have a firm grasp on “what” God wants from them once they are a Christian. This is partially due to bad doctrine; most Christians have heard a lot of sermons and read a surplus of books instructing them to do “big things” for God. Anything less than “big” is small. Though it’s never said out loud we all get the message: big is good and small is a sad affront to God and a pointless waste of time.
I believe this whole philosophy of big is nothing more than a clever scheme of the enemy that keeps us from fulfilling our purpose as believers here on earth (2nd Corinthians 2:11, Ephesians 6:11). We have forgotten three critical truths:
Little things done in the name of Jesus on a regular basis are big things as far as Jesus is concerned (Matthew 10:42, Matthew 25:31-46).
Little things are big things to the people around us who need to experience the love of Jesus through us (Romans 12:10, Romans 12:16, Romans 15:7, Galatians 5:13, Hebrews 3:13, Philippians 2:5, Ephesians 4:32)
Nowhere in Scripture does it say bigger is better.
Until we understand the “what” of Christianity we tend to feel spiritually purposeless and irrelevant to God’s plan for this world. This causes many to search for their significance in the secular realm. Secular pursuits are not wrong (for the most part). However, if they are not coupled with the “what’s” of the faith they will have no lasting impact on others—or eternity (1st Corinthians 3:10-15). One of God’s favorite “what’s” we tend to overlook in the church is the simple the act of comforting one another. 2nd Corinthians 1:3-4 says this:
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
One of our chief responsibilities (what’s) as Christians is to be a comfort to the hurting people God places in our sphere of influence. Anyone can do this—and we are literally the most like Jesus when we are actively seeking to comfort the brokenhearted (John 4, Luke 7:11-13, Matthew 9:36, Matthew 14:14, Mark 6:34, John 11). Furthermore, comforting others is a powerful way to connect unbelievers with the heart of Jesus.
There are three things that get in the way of success in this area:
We don’t want to get involved in another person’s stuff-
Comforting people means choosing awkwardness. Entering into the suffering and pain of others means we have to get close to people, hear stories that might make us feel uncomfortable, make judgment calls about right and wrong and just generally get kind of messy (Hebrews 10:34, 1st Corinthians 12:26). We live in a culture that prefers to keep pain at a distance and relationships neat, tidy and chaos free. Going deep into the weeds of someone else’s pain is not easy. Nor is it fun, but it is a command (Philippians 1:1-3). It is perhaps the single most critical aspect of being Jesus to others. Comforting the hurting is something God never wants us to shy away from (Romans 12:15).
We have been conditioned to avoid strong emotion-
Hurting people are emotional by nature. Emotional people weep, rant endlessly about the unfairness of life and are just generally kind of irrational and illogical. Unfortunately, it has become trendy to classify even healthy displays of emotion as manifestations of mental illness. They’re not. Sometimes situations are so unjust and awful that it just makes perfect sense to “weep, mourn and wail” (Esther 4:3, Micah 1:8, Matthew 2:18). Anytime we feel uncomfortable with a strong show of human emotion we need to ask God to help us to adjust our thinking in a way that empowers us to help those struggling rather than avoid or shame people for expressing their pain.
We’re time hoarders-
Comforting others always requires a time commitment on our part and in our age of frenetic busyness we want to keep all our extra time for ourselves. But, here’s the thing: if we were all to cut out just a couple of hours of our television or scrolling the internet time we would have more than enough time for the people that need us to be Jesus to them.
Figuring out the “what’s” of our faith is critical to our spiritual health. When we know what we’re supposed to be all about we find personal fulfillment beyond our wildest dreams and we become the helpers our world needs.