Ken W. Smith, President and Founder Christian Stewardship Ministries

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Summary: Success is purely and simply doing what God wants us to do when He wants us to do it. When we love the unlovely, when we respond to God’s love and His call to help others, we succeed.

The needs of others. What is really important? What does God require of His children? Jesus says those who will receive His Father’s blessing at the final judgment are those who helped others in need—the hungry, the thirsty, the unclothed, the sick, the prisoners (Mt 25:34-46).

It is clear that God puts a high premium on ministering to the needs of others—particularly those who find themselves in difficult circumstances. And those who do help others are going to be blessed ?out of their socks!?

Failure—humanly speaking. Over the years, my wife Pat and I have invested in the lives of several individuals and families who met the criteria Jesus laid out. A single mother of three with an addiction to alcohol. A family of seven, including five lovely children and a father who was ?allergic? to work. A homeless grandmother and her three homeless grand-children. An ex-offender who chose to return to prison. A homeless man with a heartrending story that upon further investigation turned out to be a complete con!

From a human point of view, our efforts with every single one of these hurting people could only be graded a failure. None of them appeared to benefit in the long term from our help. They all maintained or returned to their misery. The single mom ran out on her lease, costing us several thousand dollars, in addition to the time and money we invested moving her from a filthy unfurnished apartment to a nice, clean, fully-furnished one. The mother of five wrote to our board of directors to denounce me. The homeless grandmother ultimately lost her grandchildren to the child protective services and remained homeless. The prisoner told the judge he would rather go back to jail—for seven years—than do what he had promised to do as a condition of probation! And the homeless man took what he could get and then disappeared into the anonymity of the inner city.

Despite these apparent failures, we are convinced we were successful in each instance. Why? Because we believed we did what Jesus wanted us to do.

What determines success. Since beginning our ministry, we have learned a basic spiritual truth that runs completely counter to the wisdom of the world. Success is not dependent on rescuing the people God places in our care. Success cannot be measured by how much time or money we commit to their well-being. Success is not in seeing their lives change, although we hope and pray for that to happen!

Success is purely and simply doing what God wants us to do when He wants us to do it. When we love the unlovely, when we respond to God’s love and His call to help others, we succeed.

It depends on how you measure it. Reading a biography of Mother Teresa has been very helpful to me in recognizing this spiritual truth. Mother Teresa believed God’s call on her life was to live among and minister to the poorest of the poor, spreading God’s love to everyone she met. She spent many years caring for terminally-ill, impoverished outcasts, many of whom had just weeks, days, or hours to live. She cleaned their vomit, washed their sores, held their hands and, in many cases, provided the only love they every experienced.

One man she cared for had never slept in a bed his entire life until she placed him in one so he could die peacefully, with a smile on his face.

My wife and I are certainly not Mother Teresa. There are many people and situations neither of us could handle. We don’t go looking for what we cannot do. We have learned to go looking for what God wants and equips us to do. The more we look, the more we find, and the more we are blessed. Not because we necessarily enjoy the company of the people, but because we enjoy doing what God wants us to do, while helping someone Jesus called ?one of the least of these brothers of mine? (Mt 25:40).

Maybe you’ve been disappointed in the past because your efforts to help others haven’t resulted in the hoped for changes in their lives. I encourage you to measure your assistance not in terms of the response of those you help, but as your obedient response to a loving God. We worship a God who continues to seek out His children and offer them chance after chance, often through the hands of those who are already committed to serve Him.

You’ll know him when you meet him. If you sense God calling you to reach out to help others more, begin to look around. Maybe your mission is the stranger in the church—the newcomer who feels too awkward to ask for help or companionship, a helping hand or even just an introduction. Or maybe it’s your neighbor who needs an invitation to join you at church. If you’re not exposed to the less fortunate or the disadvantaged in your daily life and you believe God is asking you to help them, call some of the organizations that deal with the homeless, the hungry, or those in or released from prison. They can help you help others.

I invite you to join with our family this year in loving ?one of the least of Jesus’ brothers.? Ask God to put a person in your path that He wants you to reach out to. And ask Him to help you recognized that person when you see him or her. Not only will you receive the blessing Jesus promised, but you’ll be guaranteed to be less concerned about your own challenges—they will pale in comparison.