The Practical Side of Faith (part 3)

Over the last two weeks, and concluding with today’s newsletter, we have been looking at a ‘holistic hierarchy of personal growth’. We began two weeks ago by talking about how, in phase one of the hierarchy, we have the three elements of ourselves (physical, mental, and spiritual) arranged as three levels. The lowest level is physical, with the next up being mental, and the highest is spiritual. The idea is that if we are lacking in the lower levels, the higher levels will not be as strong. (When we are hungry or worried, we are less inclined to hear the Holy Spirit or to discern the will of God.) Phase one is called self-service.

Last week, we then moved up into phase two and showed that once we are balanced and full in our own personal lives, we are able to help others who may be struggling in any of the lower levels. Well, I should say, we can help others while we are in phase one provided that we notice them. Chances are that if you are caught in hunger or worry, you are significantly less likely to even see others in need, much less be in a position where you can help them. So the next phase up (phase two) is called other-service.

This week, to conclude our series, we will be talking about the highest phase, which we’ll call the ‘servant-leader’ phase. It will be challenging to me to even describe many of the elements of this phase, mainly because I have the least amount of experience with it. However, this phase is one where motives come into play.

Not much is different in appearance between phases two and three—mainly that the focus is helping others, but the real key that determines phase three is the ‘why’. A phase two ‘why’ is often self-serving or done from feelings of obligation. A phase three ‘servant-leader’ action is done almost habitually from the heart. A phase three response is almost involuntary, not because you don’t have control, but because you act/react positively without really even being aware of it.

Let’s look at some levels of help that we can give others and contrast phase’s two and three.

Physically helping someone is excellent. Giving them a meal or helping someone with clothes is a great action, however what is the motivation behind it. Are you doing it because it helps you feel good, because they will then feel indebted to you, because the universe will balance your generosity and send you blessings, or because God told you to? This is ‘phase two’ logic. This reasoning has self at its core and while it sounds spiritual, it is not genuinely helping for the sake of helping.

Phase three physical assistance is helping someone in need because you can and they have a need. Will they pay me back? Maybe, but it doesn’t matter. Will it help me feel good? Probably, but I’m not worried if it doesn’t. Will the universe send me blessings? Am I conceited enough to try to impress God? Phase three physical assistance is providing help with no strings attached—help that is free for the other person to use or squander.

I have helped others with no strings attached, because I can and they have a need, but all too often even if that is what I’d like to say is the only reason, negative self-serving reasons seem to want to materialize in my mind and cause doubt. I seem to question what the real reason for helping the other person is, and this is often challenging for me to do.

Phase three mental assistance is helping someone in need because you have the means and they have a need, but giving someone a place to stay because you felt ‘guilted’ into it, or in any way that could cause resentment or conditional acceptance shows this help as being a phase two (other-serving-self). Helping someone or giving them a place to stay, and doing it even when your house might not look the same when they are gone, is phase three assistance.

The same goes for visiting someone in prison. Do you feel ‘guilted’ or manipulated into making the decision, or do you genuinely want to visit and have made it a priority on your ‘preferred’ to-do-list?

Phase three spiritual sharing/assistance is tricky for me to describe, because this is where I get caught and fail most of the time. What is my motivation for sharing Jesus? Do I want to convince someone else of the validity of my beliefs? Do I have something to prove? Do I want to stand on a ‘soap-box’? Am I sharing only because Jesus told me (as a disciple) to before He returned to heaven? These are phase two responses and have self-service at their core.

What is phase three spiritual help? Living a life that is different enough that other people begin to notice and ask. This is often a cop-out answer given to avoid stepping out. However, live the other two levels in phase three and you will stand out. You will be moving against the current of society and that will attract attention.

You can use this as an opening to share why you seem to help even if the other person doesn’t appreciate the assistance — “Because I’ve found that obeying Jesus is the only way to live that leads to life making sense. I want to help you if you are interested.”

Living life in phase three is both practical religion/faith and living as a true disciple. What living life in phase three is not is being unintelligent with how you help others. As we said last week, the help must meet the need—more specifically: the root need. Money challenges almost always come from lack of training/understanding or bad habits/addictions. Helping in unintelligent ways treats the symptoms while ignoring the root. This type of aid is not help, it is enabling, and it actually rewards the person for lack of growth. When helping others—especially when you are helping others from a phase three viewpoint, the help must treat the root issue, otherwise it will only enable the person in need to remain ‘in need’.

Are there higher ‘phases’ than the three we have discussed these past three weeks? Some may say so. Levels of sacrifice that some people have chosen that lead them to immerse themselves in the lives of the people they help takes the concepts behind phase three help to an extreme, however, what God places on our hearts may be different. I hesitate identifying another phase with an action that involves something that only some people are called to.

Everyone is called to live the life of a disciple, and the life of a disciple is to be like Jesus. Jesus ministered to people who were hurting and in need, and helped them grow into the people God created them to be. He did this not because He needed their approval or because He was just obeying God (the Father), but because He genuinely loved them and He had the means to fill the needs that He saw around Him. He even promised to give us the means to help those who we see.

So how has God wired you for servant-leadership? What are some ways that you can help someone else who is in need—simply because you have the means, time, and/or talents to help? Why not step out this weekend and help someone in need—with zero strings attached, and with no ulterior or self-serving motives.


P.S. As always, if I missed something, or if you would like to respond on this topic, join the conversation below!