If you see a need – do not go do it

Learning about Millennials (roughly those 18-34 years of age) is something I enjoy very much. They have a wonderful influence over me. Recently I listened to a radio program whose emphasis was to repeatedly applaud Millennials for being problem solvers, for starting “social innovation companies.” The speakers on the program stated things like, “(Millennials) see the problem, and are not just going to let it happen on their watch. They’re going to actually create a solution. They’re not going to wait on someone older to do it. They’ll do it.” They are defined by “social action… positively impacting culture.” The way of living they embrace is “if you see a need – go do it.” One guest went on to say, “God puts things in front of us all the time that we need to be the solution for. Just respond to whatever is in front of you.”

It was in the last few minutes of the program that the following statement came into the conversation from one of the guests, “(Millennials) people are looking at the needs around them, in the filter of their faith in Christ and then applying it to culture.” This statement was then supported with a comment from one of the other guests concerning a coworker, “She kept hearing needs from these small, local organizations. She started praying and asking the Lord, ‘Who’s going to solve this problem?’ He very clearly said to her, ‘Well, I put it on your heart for a reason.’ So she started where she was, with something God laid on her heart. And she has collected and donated… to organizations that need (it).”

The program concluded with the following instruction, “Let’s go impact the culture we’re in. Let’s do it in the name of Christ. Lo and behold, they (the lost world) are going to honor our Father in heaven because of what we’ve done, and I think that put’s a smile on the Lord’s face.” (All parenthesis mine.)

Free Food, John 6:25-59

The people were looking for Jesus because they had previously eaten well in His presence. They had totally missed the point of how the miracle of the feeding of thousands of people is a sign that Jesus is who He said He is, God’s Son, John 5:36. The miracle, the activity, had demonstrated that Jesus could be trusted.

Certainly, in context, the fact of these people seeking out Jesus for the joy of free food was not honoring to our Father in heaven. Their bellies had been filled the last time they were with Jesus. To obtain more free food was why they had followed Him to Capernaum. The seeking of Jesus was only a symptom of what they believed was their real need, “food that spoils,” John 6:27. It is safe to conclude that to seek and obtain food that spoils, rather than trusting God for Who He is, does not put a smile on the Father’s face just because Jesus gave them food.

If you apply the thinking from the radio program, you would say two things about Jesus. One is that He fed these people. Secondly, you would conclude that Jesus fed them because they had a need to be fed. Both ideas are wrong. Jesus did not feed these people, and He did not participate in the feeding because the people were hungry.

Jesus, being the leader and highest example of faith in God (Hebrews 12:2), did not see their hunger, and decide He was not going to let it happen on His watch. Jesus did not make sure these people were fed because He wasn’t going to wait on the disciples to do it. Jesus did not respond to something His Father had placed in front of Him, and assume that He needed to be the solution for. Jesus did not ask the Father “Whose going to solve this problem?”

How is it that I would write that Jesus did not feed these people? After all, isn’t it recorded in John 6:11 that, “Jesus took the loaves, and having given thanks, He distributed to those who were seated; likewise also of the fish as much as they wanted.” And, how could I write that Jesus did not participate in the feeding because these people were hungry? It is recorded in Matthew’s account of this event that Jesus, “When He went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them, and healed their sick,” Matthew 14:14. And then again in Matthew 14:15-16, when the disciples asked Jesus to send the crowd away to buy food for themselves, Jesus said to them, “They do not need to go away, you give them something to eat!” Clearly Jesus understood they had a need to eat, and they were in a place where that food could not be found among them.

To understand anything Jesus said or did you need the Scriptural context of how He lived each day and every moment of His life on earth. “…I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me. And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him,” John 8:28-29. Jesus freely followed His Father, Philippians 2:5-8. His motivation to do or say anything was a natural response to His Father’s love for Him. His Father gets the credit, because the only initiative ever taken by Jesus is in response to His Father’s loving initiative.

In the context of Jesus’ life it is a critical distinction, and accurate to believe and state, that He did not feed these people. And, Jesus did not see to it that these people were fed because they had a need. Such were not where He started when making a decision. Jesus yielded to the Father’s life in Him. His starting point was not even to assume these people should be fed, nor that He was to even participate in the feeding even if it happened on His watch. Jesus had intimacy with the Father such that He could recognize and responded to the Father’s initiative in any moment. It was not by the initiative of Jesus that He ever did anything for anyone. Jesus, rather, looked to the Father to direct Him to even wiggle His lips (speak), or not – to walk towards someone, or away, or to stand still.

The Scriptural perspective I offer applies to the life of each believer. It is that by asking God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) to rescue us from the penalty of sin that we also commit ourselves to intimacy with Him, to His way of thinking and living rather than to continue our friendship with the world and its way of ‘just do it,’ James 4:4-10. It takes more than time to cultivate the kind of intimacy towards His Father we read about in the life of Jesus. It takes time in relationship, and that involves intentionality, Philippians 3:1-21.

There is no doubt the pleading for the orphan and the defending of the poor are each wrapped up in God’s nature. To keep company with the Lord is to also look for the Spirit to instruct me how to relate to the orphan and the poor, Deuteronomy 14:29, Jeremiah 5:28, 22:16. The Spirit will give me a proper response to the orphan and the poor as part of what it means to have the Lord’s knowledge, to know what He is thinking, Psalm 10:16-18, Jeremiah 22:16, 1 Corinthians 12:8. I do want to know what the Lord is thinking at any given moment, which takes me to the last comment I will reference concerning the radio program. Early in the program one of the featured speakers spoke of Millennials as “called, passionate, hopeful, but just not ready yet (to lead),” parenthesis mine. That was likely the point the speakers should have lingered over, while secondarily applauding the willingness of Millennials to lead. How does a person become ready to lead? Yes, part of the preparation is in the doing (Hebrews 5:14), which was foremost emphasized in the radio program. But the doing is never the starting point; preparation starts and remains in the context of learning to recognize the Spirit’s direction in you, James 4:5.

The radio program assumed believers just need to respond to whatever is in front of them, and in doing so they are going to honor our Father in heaven because of what they’ve done. Sound Scriptural context tells us that is not true, because it is the wrong place to start. Jesus did not start by responding to what was in front of Him. He lived in intimacy with, and responded to, His Father first.

Dear believer, an activity demonstrates that God can be trusted if it happens by God’s initiative, and not from anywhere else. Start and stay with intimacy, and like Jesus you can give an answer to others such as these “We speak… we know… we testify… we have seen,” John 3:11. “I do nothing on My own initiative… I speak as the Father taught Me,” John 8:28. “…for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come of My own initiative, but He sent Me,” John 8:42. “…the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me… what to say and what to speak… I speak just as the Father has told Me,” John 12:49-50. “…the words that I say… I do not speak on My own initiative, John 14:10. “…the words that you hear are not Mine, but the Father who sent Me,” John 14:24.