The VIDA staff did a series of devotions based on Luke 4:18-19. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.”
Naomi did the first one on Sunday morning. It was powerful.
When Jesus started His ministry, He began with words that pronounced blessings to the poor in spirit. ” Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven… Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.” Matthew 5:3,5.
The reason why we minister to those in need is not because we are so rich and they are poor. The Laodecian church is also poor and blind and naked, except that it doesn’t realize its desperate condition.
We minister because we need to realize that we are poor in spirit. I need to realize that I am poor in spirit and that the kingdom of heaven is for me too. I need to learn meekness, to be like Jesus.
Naomi read a powerful passage from Testimonies for the Church Volume 6, under the chapter titled “The Church’s Need.”
While the world needs sympathy, while it needs the prayers and assistance of God’s people, while it needs to see Christ in the lives of His followers, the people of God are equally in need of opportunities that draw out their sympathies, give efficiency to their prayers, and develop in them a character like that of the divine pattern.
It is to provide these opportunities that God has placed among us the poor, the unfortunate, the sick, and the suffering. They are Christ’s legacy to His church, and they are to be cared for as He would care for them. In this way God takes away the dross and purifies the gold, giving us that culture of heart and character which we need.
The Lord could carry forward His work without our co-operation. He is not dependent on us for our money, our time, or our labor. But the church is very precious in His sight. It is the case which contains His jewels, the fold which encloses His flock, and He longs to see it without spot or blemish or any such thing. He yearns after it with unspeakable love. This is why He has given us opportunities to work for Him, and He accepts our labors as tokens of our love and loyalty.
In placing among us the poor and the suffering, the Lord is testing us to reveal to us what is in our hearts… The culture of the mind and heart is more easily accomplished when we feel such tender sympathy for others that we bestow our benefits and privileges to relieve their necessities. Getting and holding all that we can for ourselves tends to poverty of soul.
The purpose of mission trips is character development. Not that the poor needs us and that’s it. We need them for the purification of our character.
So then, what about God’s work and hastening His coming? It turns out that our character development does hasten Christ’s coming as well.
“When the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come.” Christ is waiting with longing desire for the manifestation of Himself in His church. When the character of Christ shall be perfectly reproduced in His people, then He will come to claim them as His own. Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 69.
Christ calls us to His work so we can experience His joy and His pain, that our hearts would beat the same beat as His.
God could have reached His object in saving sinners without our aid; but in order for us to develop a character like Christ’s, we must share in His work. In order to enter into His joy,—the joy of seeing souls redeemed by His sacrifice,—we must participate in His labors for their redemption. Desire of Ages, p. 142.