As I visited with my friend who complained about everything going on in her life and all she felt compelled to do, I could sense she expected me to volunteer to help. My heart went out to her but I’d really been seeking God’s will rather than responding to every need of others. It took every fiber of my trust in God to not offer to take some of the load from her, but in my heart, I knew God wasn’t calling me to this particular need.
Although I still succumb at times to the pressure of other’s needs, I’ve come a long way in learning to seek God first. A major help was seeing Jesus’ response to needy people. Of course, He healed the needy people clamoring for His help, but I also remind myself of a curious passage of only two verses that we could easily overlook. It’s Luke 5:15-16: “But the news about Him [Jesus] was spreading even farther, and great multitudes were gathering to hear Him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But He Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.”
If Jesus had wanted to set an example of selflessness by doing everything everyone wanted, He wouldn’t have left that needy group behind. They wanted Him to stay with them and meet all their needs. Instead, He needed to spend time with the Father–and He did. I can just imagine their disgruntled comments as He walked away. “Oh, He says He’s the Messiah, huh? Well, if He is, why isn’t He healing me? Why isn’t He showing His power to me? He must not be any kind of God at all.” But Jesus was not swayed by their needs, opinions, or demands. He risked his reputation before others–and His Heavenly Father’s. Instead, Jesus never responded to human need; He responded to what He saw His Father doing and prompting Him to do. Although He obviously felt compassion for all people, He didn’t respond automatically; He responded out of obedience to God.
That is why I remind myself–and sometimes others: An opportunity is not necessarily God’s open door. Just because we hear of a need, though it may seem that we need to be selfless, it doesn’t necessarily mean God wants us to respond. Just as Jesus listened intently to the voice of His Father and obeyed what His Father wanted Him to do, we must seek God’s direction and only do what He wants us to do, regardless of what others think of us.
Yes, to do that, we face a great challenge when we try to hear and know what service God wants us to do. Our own mixed motives and wrong ideas can make it difficult to be sure. We must recognize our tendency to justify our selfishness, as well as our habits of feeling responsible for the choices and decisions of others. We are not at the mercy of everyone who desires our time, efforts, or money. Jesus wasn’t because He trusted the Father’s plan–even if it meant leaving needy people behind. We can have the same confidence, even when we are misunderstood. God may not use us but He promises He’ll meet the real needs of every person calling upon Him (Philippians 4:19).