I assume that most of you reading this desire to help others. I hope all of you do. In our better moments, at least, most of us want to do acts of mercy and kindness, and want to see justice prevail on earth. For all who are serious disciples of Jesus, or long to be, the tugs on our hearts are especially persistent and varied. This is good, and reflects our Father’s heart of compassion, outreach, reconciliation, and blessings toward all people, both now and forever.
There is no question in my mind that you are needed to help the needy, even though I may never have met you. I say this for two reasons: conditions around you and around the world, and your unique qualities and abilities. Malnutrition, oppression, cruelty, sickness and anguish of every kind—these circumstances (possibly much closer to you and me than we realize) cry out for someone to come into their midst bringing justice and showing mercy.
The English word “need” has descended through a background of an Indo-European term meaning “to collapse with weariness” and a Welsh term meaning “starvation.” The hurts and longings of people everywhere demonstrate that you are needed—urgently.
The second reason you are needed is because of your unique qualities and abilities. Every person is different from every other person. It is not always flattery or hyperbole when someone says “you are unique.” It’s true of everyone. Your character, personality, skills, and, most of all—in believers—your hunger for truth, righteousness and God himself makes you just the right person to help specific people in specific situations.
The Bible says that all followers of Jesus Christ have gifts that are to be used in the church and in the world (Romans 12:1-13; 1 Corinthians 12:1-11; 1 Peter 4:7-11). Many of you reading this have some idea of your primary gift. God does not want this to be a great mystery, but wants to reveal to you how you are especially suited to serve. I generally tell people to ask three questions about a gift or skill they think they may have:
(1) Do you enjoy using this gift?
(2) Have others said that you seem to have this gift?
(3) Have you seen fruit (evidence; good results) when you use this gift?
If so, then continue to develop and use this gift to meet the needs on this crying planet. You are a gifted person, and you yourself are a gift!
But, who needs you the most? Should your decision be influenced by geography (do the “neediest” nations require you most?), family or acquaintances (should you help those you know best?), or the heinousness of the evil you wish to eradicate (human trafficking, for example)? Or is your local church where you are needed most?
I have no precise scientific formula or series of tests to lead you to the ministry and people who need you most. The best thing to do is to look around you right now, while keeping your eyes and heart open to the ends of the earth. Begin somewhere, somehow, if only by making a phone call or visit to some needy person. Perhaps work with a group where your skills are combined with those of others. And always think of the needs in your local church.
To answer our original question: you are needed most where God is tugging at you to help. This is not ultimately determined by studying population densities, social strata, prevalence of orphans, amount of education or Christian population in various parts of the world. I believe strongly in doing these kinds of research, but even more strongly in listening for the voice of the Spirit, living and praying and serving daily in the situations close to you today. If and when God wishes to use you differently, and you do not allow fear or selfishness to misdirect you, you will make future decisions wisely and confidently.
I close with these classic verses from the Bible.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5, 6, Today’s New International Version