Living Social Justice

A blog about responding to poverty and injustice, everyday and in all sorts of ways

Archive for the tag “Discernment”

Praying for Discernment

This month’s newsletter looks at how we can discern the will of God in our daily lives. Join us as we pray for greater discernment as we respond to those around us. By Lindsay Sherring

As Christ-followers, we are called to respond to the needs of those around us, but this requires great discernment in order to know what the best response is for that person or situation. We need discernment not just in dealing with vulnerable people, but in dealing with our own personal life decisions as well. Should I give this person money? Should I drive them to a shelter? Should I take this job? Or marry this person? The decisions we need to make are endless.

We all want to make the right choice, but how do we respond to people amidst the busyness of our daily life? Unfortunately, there’s no clear cut formula to helping those in need around us. But we do serve an all-powerful and all-knowing God so our first response should always be to seek Him. It all comes down to God desiring us to be closer to Him and His will. As we walk closely with God, His whispers and desires become evident and our decisions begin to fall in line with His will.

This month, please pray…

  • That God’s desires and wisdom would become clear to you

It may sound simple, but asking God to place His desires on your heart is a great starting point to understanding His will. If we are not constantly seeking Him, it becomes harder to discern just what He wants for our lives. Ask God to give you wisdom and discernment to make the right choices.

  • That the fear of making a wrong decision won’t hinder action

There are many ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ ways of helping others and sometimes the fear of ‘doing justice incorrectly’ can overcome our desire to help and we end up not doing anything. Remember, God can restore and redeem any situation even if you think you’ve done the wrong thing. This doesn’t give us permission to flippantly ‘do justice’, rather it is a comfort to know that God has the ability to correct our mistakes and use them for His glory.

  • That we would be open to hear God speak in different ways

God can speak through His word, the people around you, industry professionals, articles you read, etc. We must take all of these messages and use our best judgement when faced with a situation that requires our action. It is important to remember that although there are various sources of information and ways to help those in need, God will never ask you to do something out of line with His word. Ask God to give you discernment to hear his voice through all of it.

  • That you seek and find the third way

Discernment is about finding the third way in many situations. A person may be asking you for money, you may want to drive them to the shelter, but what they really need is prayer. Don’t become so wrapped up in your own dos and don’ts of reaching out that you forget to listen to God’s promptings. Ask God to reveal people’s true needs so that you can respond appropriately in a Christ-like way.

– Lindsay is a member of the Common Ground Bosch PM congregation and is the fundraising coordinator at Common Good.

One Size Doesn’t Fit All

What happens when God nudges us to break our own rules? Journalist Angelique Arde shares what happened when she did just this.

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Photo Credit: Ghostly Photography via Compfight cc

In their book “When Helping Hurts”, Brian Fikkert and Steve Corbett say that poverty is “rooted in broken relationships”. The solution, then, to poverty is rooted in the power of Jesus’ death and resurrection to put all things in right relationship again.

This sounds to me like beautiful truth, but what does a solution with the death and resurrection of Jesus at the centre look like? Considering the context and uniqueness of every individual, and that no two people’s brokenness is the same, can there be a one-size-fits-all Christian response to poverty?

I think not.

Many Christians are emphatically against giving money to people in material need, as it can be disempowering and entrench a culture of dependency. Others discourage giving food or clothing for similar reasons.  “Teach them how to fish,” say some, sounding sage, but the practical application – the when and how – is complex. For each and every person God sends our way, we need to discern how He wants us to love them. And to love is to honour.

It was late afternoon. I was ensconced in my home office when the doorbell rang. I considered ignoring it, but my visitor was persistent and rang again. And again. Annoyed, I got up from my desk, strode down the passage and flung open the front door. Standing on the pavement at the gate was a thin young man with a pronounced, apologetic stoop.

“Here we go,” I thought, and in that moment made a snap decision that no matter what his question, my answer would a firm “no”.

“I’m sorry to disturb you, madam, but I need R7…”

Cutting him off, I interjected: “NO SORRY,” I said, not a bit sorry, “I’m not giving you money.”

And before I could turn on my heels, he said, ever so gently: “It’s my birthday and I want to buy a Coke.”

Boom!

My heart just about cracked.

I was speechless for I don’t know how long – long enough for me to hear the still small voice. “Speak to him,” God said.

I unlocked the gate at the front door, and walked down to the pedestrian gate. “What’s your name?” I asked him, noticing the rosary around his neck. A conversation ensued and I learnt that he was a refugee from Zimbabwe. He had been in Cape Town for almost a year and hadn’t been able to find work. A woman in the neighbourhood had been helping him but life here was just too tough. With the help of this woman, he was heading home in the morning. Since it was his birthday, he decided to beg for money to buy a Coke, he said.

I have a rule not to give money, yet I had peace about breaking it. “I don’t think I have any money,” I said, humbled, “but I’ll have a look.” As I walked back inside, I remember asking God to give me wisdom. At the time I was living on the whiff of an oil rag, but I had been working through a teaching on the Abrahamic promise and God was challenging me to believe. I found a R20 note in my purse and felt happy about giving it to him.

I handed him the money, and suddenly felt prompted to pray for him. “Would you mind if I prayed for you?” I asked. “You can pray for me,” he said bowing his head and closing his eyes.

Reaching out to him through the bars of the gate, I thanked God for this precious man; for the beautiful image of God I saw in him, for the life God had given him, for the plans God has to prosper him and not to harm him, to give him a hope and a future. I asked God to shower him in blessing on his birthday and forever more, to go before him and to deliver him safely home. I can’t remember exactly everything I prayed, because the prayer welled up from inside of me. Christ in me. And I felt the Holy Spirit so tangibly, his love so thick and pure and sweet. Hot tears streamed from my eyes and my friend’s. It was a beautiful moment, like heaven had for a moment embraced earth.

After a while, it was time to say goodbye, but my friend didn’t seem to want to leave and was struggling to look me in the eye. Then he blurted it out: “I lied to you. The money is to buy beer. My friends are waiting for me in the park.”

“Oh?” I said, with even more peace than before. “That’s okay!” I laughed. “I like beer, too. Enjoy it! It’s your birthday.”

Maybe it wasn’t. Maybe the whole story was a lie. And maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe all that matters is that he heard the truth and felt the gracious embrace of a loving father. I felt it.  And it was wonderful.

How profoundly marvellous it is to be loved by God, our Father, who draws us with loving kindness; whose kindness brings us to repentance.

I think to have discernment is to discern the heart of God in a situation. It’s not to judge or discriminate whether a person deserves help or mercy or love. As if any of us deserves it! Yet he pours it out on us every day so that we may share it.

How Can We Discern God’s Will?

A letter from Paul Maughan, leader of the Common Ground Bosch PM leadership team, to introduce our April newsletter.

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I am sitting in my office at UCT.  It is the last day of lectures for the students but as a lecturer I have test papers to set before they return from the Easter break.  An email arrives.  I am asked to introduce the April newsletter for Common Good and my first instinct is to reply with a brief, “I would be very keen to be involved in this but do not have the time at the moment to meet the deadline.”  Thankfully, before pressing “send” on the email, the irony dawns on me.  The April newsletter is asking this simple question: “How can we discern the will of God in the midst of the busyness of daily life?”

My first reaction when that email arrived was not to hear from God; my diary was really what was driving my decision-making.  Rather than ask for discernment, I was prepared to be defeated by the urgent rather than the important. The first step in discernment is making the time to listen to God speak.

Just this last weekend, at the BoschPM weekend away, I had watched Gary Haugen from the International Justice Mission on video.  He spoke from Matthew 14, about Jesus feeding the 5000. The disciples had seen the practicalities of the situation and wanted Jesus to tell everyone to go home.  Jesus on the other hand asked them to trust Him and give Him what they had.

The call is the same to me today.  I am not called to be so overwhelmed by the need around me that I ignore what is going on and neither am I called to respond to every situation.  I am called to trust Jesus to speak and guide me.

Trusting Jesus doesn’t mean that we can get away with a lazy one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to responding to those around us.  The situations we come into contact with are not all going to be the same and so we need to discern what God is asking us to do in that particular situation to help that person best. It may mean giving them something to eat, or it may mean not giving them anything but rather spending a few moments learning more about their life.

One helpful way to discern how to respond to a situation is to ask the advice of people you trust and respect, who are able to offer a sound biblical perspective and an understanding of the social implications of the situation. But this isn’t always possible and there will be times when we will have to trust something God has revealed to us through our past experience or the gentle prompting of the Holy Spirit in that moment. As you will see from the stories in this newsletter, God guides us in many different ways, and as long as we are open to listening to him he can use us to respond.

May God use this newsletter to also cause you to pause and reflect on the discernment we all need to act in a way that is in line with God’s will, even when life gets busy.

– Paul is married to Leanne and has a small son, Patrick. He is a full-time lecturer at the University of Cape Town in the Accounting department. 

How God Guides…

Every day we’re called upon to love our neighbour but how do we do this best when every person and situation is so different? Thankfully, God hasn’t left us to figure this out on our own. Here are some examples of how we can discern his will. 

… Through Relationship

“My friendship with Lawrence started when he came into my office one day to ask me why I never got irritated or angry at people. He’d worked for me for 13 years but it took this simple question to open up a door through which I could talk to him about my faith and find out more about his life. I learnt that he lived with eight members of his family in a small shack in Khayelitsha and that he was the only breadwinner. Through getting to know him, I’ve been able to help him in a number of small ways. When he was having financial difficulties I helped him put together a budget. And, recently, when his younger brother was kicked out of school for violence I offered to help him find a rehabilitation centre. I feel comfortable helping Lawrence in this way because I have a relationship with him. There are times where I feel God nudging me to do something for someone that is a once-off act, like buying them a meal, but these are the exceptions as they don’t often lead to long-term fruitfulness. I feel God uses relationship to help me discern wisely.” – Roger Warr is a business owner and a member of the Common Ground Bosch PM congregation.

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