I used to run a resume service. In general, I dealt with two types of job searchers – those who wanted a general resume that they could fire off “cold” to thousands of companies, and those who wanted a targeted resume that they could send to one employer in response to a job ad. The job searchers who sent out targeted resumes were almost always successful at getting at least an interview, whereas the job searchers who blanketed companies’ inboxes with their “To Whom It Concerns” resumes always, with very few exceptions, came up empty. Many job searchers were burnt out by the lack of response and lost interest in looking for work altogether.
Born-agains want to help people. It’s part of our spiritual DNA. We want others who don’t yet follow Jesus to experience how joyful life can be. The desire to help is so overwhelming sometimes that we feel we have to help everyone, every day, everywhere we go.
It should be no surprise to us that we end up helping no-one when we adopt the ‘shoot wide’ approach. People who don’t want to be helped cannot be helped. In job-search terms, they’re not currently hiring and they’re not open for our business.
God knows that. It’s how he operates. It’s also how Jesus operated during his ministry years, and it’s how we must operate, too, if we genuinely want to help someone.
Let’s take a look at scripture. In it, we can see examples of how Jesus and God can only help people who want their help. Certainly, God wants to help everyone all the time, but because of free will, only those who allow him to help them can be helped.
Jesus taught those who came to him, either in public places, in houses of worship, or at his home. During those teaching sessions, there were many who asked Jesus for specific help (e.g., more wine, healing physical ailments or deformities, casting out evil spirits, etc.), and, with God’s assistance, he was able to oblige. They sought him out, they wanted his help, and they believed he could help them. This is of particular importance – they believed he could help them. Many born-agains spend a lot of time trying to convince people they can help them. This is as backwards as making a decision about something you want to do, and then asking God to bless that decision and your subsequent efforts. From personal experience, I can tell you that this approach does not work very well. In fact, it doesn’t work at all.
The right approach is to wait for God to guide your decision, and then he will bless your efforts. Likewise, the right approach is to wait for people to seek out your help, and then you can help them because they’re open to what you can offer them. Metaphorically speaking, they’re open for business, they’re hiring, and you’re the favored candidate.
Jesus told us that those who make it into heaven are those how feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick, and so on. What distinguishes people in these situations from people in general is that they are in a position of need so they are open to getting help. That’s not to say that we can’t, like God, always be ready to help someone at the slightest indication that they want our help. When I was still an atheist, I chicken-sat in Australia. It was a 3-month house-sitting gig that involved looking after two pet chickens (Red and The White One) for a Christian woman named Mildred. Mildred had a Bible in her living room. Before she left, she didn’t tell me “Oh, by the way, there’s a Bible in the living room, if you want to learn about God and Jesus.” She knew that I, as an atheist, wouldn’t be open to that kind of pointed info, so she just left the Bible there, out in plain view where I could easily find it, in case I needed it.
And need it I did. Within a month and a half of being at her place, I was born again, and the first thing I did was make a bee-line for the Bible and read the New Testament from cover to cover. Thank God Mildred left the Bible out where I could easily find it, and thank God she didn’t try to bang me over the head with it.
You can waste your time and energy trying to help people who don’t want your help, or you can invest your time and energy wisely, like Jesus did, and target your help to those who ask for it. Always be ready and willing to help, but wait for the request. In the meantime, it doesn’t hurt to leave a Bible out where people who are clearly in need can easily find it.