How do you help people in your class remain faithful to God when they are facing difficult circumstances in life? All of us face them at some point in life. Allow me to share an example of someone who faced the difficulties with faith. Jason was a young adult in my last church. He was a strong Christian, who loved serving his Lord, and caring for people. Besides faith, we found common likes as avid sports card collectors, Atlanta Braves & SEC football fans.
I would discover soon after I met him that he had a long bout with a kidney disease since he was 17 years old. He had two kidney transplants and had lots both before I met him. I discovered the sacrifices and trials he faced each week with dialysis, while he continued to work and do his best to serve in his church. I saw firsthand what this disease was doing through countless experiences with him at church, with the young adult Sunday School class, in and out of the hospital and through the many hours we would spend texting back and forth through some of his dark nights of the soul. There was the occasional question of “Why me?” usually followed by “I don’t mind what I am having to face as long as God will show me the purpose behind it.”
Of course I was always honest with Jason. There are no easy answers to the why question. None of us know on this side of eternity why we face what we face. Only God knows. I, however, had an answer for how God was using him through it all. Jason chose to be a person of faith despite his trials. He chose to keep serving God and trying to do what he could in life despite his circumstances. There have been countless times through the seven and half years that I knew him where Jason had been a testimony and witness to me and to those who knew him. When we look at what he had to face, and the way in which he faced it as a person of faith, we simply were inspired by his life and witness.
I was inspired to love more, live more and share God’s love more. I was inspired that when things were tough for others I counseled with, that there are others like Jason facing much more difficult circumstances who continued to serve faithfully, and so should we.
So how can you encourage someone in your class who faces crises?
1. Listen to their hurts without giving the pat answers. Give them words of comfort, encouragement and faith filled messages. Pat answers are used to relieve our anxiety, but not help the person going through the struggles. The best thing we can do is follow Romans 12: 12-15:
12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
2. Pray with them on a regular basis. Often I would call Jason and after hearing the latest challenges, pray with him. I was honest in those prayers as well. Like the book of Psalms, we can be honest with God when we don’t understand and hurt with someone. The Psalmist was honest, and faithful at the same time.
3. Set up Care Group Leaders to stay in touch with members and prospects. If a person misses three Sundays in a row, there is a 50% chance they won’t be back. You need help caring for your members and prospects.
4. Help them to see that Faith is in following Jesus even when things are tough.
Jason’s faith inspired me to write a sermon in which I said the following about the Christian life:
In the Gospel of John (Chapter 15), Christ does not say that we are to think about him or to believe in him. Rather we are to abide in him. We are to follow: to live in the world and do what he did. Christianity to Jesus is being a follower. Christianity is not a set of beliefs. It is a matter of following. Faith in Jesus is not believing in Jesus; it is following Jesus even when life is tough. Faith is in following.