A Recipe for Helpfulness

By Emily Moore

Have you ever tasted something so delicious that you try recreating it yourself? The problem is, if can’t find a recipe, there is no way of knowing exactly what the dish needs. Thankfully, God gives us recipes when it comes to helping others. Paul’s first letter to Thessalonica is filled with practical instruction about helping other Christians in their walk. 

In 1 Thessalonians 5:14, Paul provides a key ingredient to helping the church: give each person what they need. Each person is different, but it’s easy to fall into the habit of generic outreach. We develop these blanket statements for whatever need arises such as, “praying for you,” “let me know if you need anything,” etc. There is nothing wrong with these phrases, but we have to make sure they are specific to the person’s need. Prayer is for every situation, and people need to know you’re there for them. However, our outreach is more effective if we tailor it to the individual’s circumstances. The hardest part about this task is figuring out exactly what the need is. Three things will help you determine a struggling Christian’s personal need. 

#1 Watch…In our fast-paced society, it’s easy for others’ lives to become a blur as we fly through our own. Next time you are at worship, a fellowship gathering, work, or anywhere else in the world, step outside of yourself and be on the lookout for those who seem down, stressed, or lonely. Noticing external cues is a major part of picking up on opportunities to help. 

#2 Ask…Too often, we fail to directly ask people about specific challenges and how we can help. In 1 Thess. 5:14, Paul mentions specific groups: “the idle,” “the fainthearted,” and “the weak.” Spiritual weakness or faintheartedness can be masked by a smile or humor, and many people are reluctant to express need for fear of seeming selfish or weak. We all need help pushing past spiritual plateaus or discouragement. Think about how much stronger others or you would be if someone asked to carry the burden too. Asking others about their struggles takes courage, but think about how much courage you’re challenging them to have by confiding in you. Ask people to share their trials with you! It will help you as much as it helps them.

#3 Listen…It’s a simple concept, yet so hard to do consistently. Take a lesson from God’s example. He gave us numerous verses on prayer. Our Father wants us to tell Him everything we are going through, grateful for, happy about…He wants to hear it ALL. Notice how many of those verses mention Him hearing us. He listens, and so should we. People should know they can come to us (His people) when they need help. Whether someone comes to you on their own or you ask them to share their life with you, listen. This act alone is a ministry!

These principles should be applied not just to Christians but to any and everyone who needs help. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul says, “as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone…” (Gal. 6:10). Love and the good news of the gospel are two needs that apply to EVERYONE. Watch for those in need; ask them about it and listen for ways to help.