All of us are surrounded by a sea of needs. From the people in our homes and workplaces to refugee families who come to our nation from around the world, from people who suffer from illness and disability to people who struggle with financial strain and debt—everyone has unique spiritual, emotional, and physical needs. The needs may look and sound different but each cries out to us as a potential opportunity to invest our time and energy. In order to live faithful lives rather than frantic lives, we must learn the sobering truth that every need is not a call.
Jesus saw every need of every human being he encountered, yet he didn’t meet all of them. He followed the Father’s will, knowing when to say yes and when to say no, when to work and when to rest. He didn’t spend his three short years of public ministry in a frantic whirlwind; rather, he faithfully executed the will of the Father by staying close to the Father, seeking to please him alone.
You may say, “But he was Jesus. And he knew the Father’s will.” In such a sea of needs, how are we, with our limited abilities and understanding, to discern which works are ours to do? How are we to know when to say yes and when to say no? How will we know which people we can help, which causes we can support—and which ones we can’t?
As much as we may long for a simple (or even complex) equation by which to discern God’s will for our lives, God has given those who are in Christ something far better. He’s chosen to dwell in us through the Holy Spirit. He’s given us his Word and has promised that we, too, can have the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16).
When we walk in dependence upon Christ, we can learn to respond to needs faithfully rather than frantically.
As we try to discern the often blurry lines between good, better, and best, we should prayerfully consider our passions, priorities, and providential circumstances. When we walk in dependence upon Christ, we can learn to respond to needs faithfully rather than frantically.
Our God is so multifaceted that it takes the entire body of Christ (past, present, and future) to display his fullness. As such, each believer reflects some sliver of the beautiful character of Christ. Some hearts break over sex trafficking, while others beat for the right of the unborn to live. Some believers are fueled by meeting physical needs while others delight to train minds. The more we understand the way God has wired each of us and identify the passions that ignite our hearts to prayerful action, the less likely we are to run around frantically trying to address every need.
There are plenty of good works to be done within the lanes of our spiritual and physical gifts; we need not try to operate in every possible lane.
It takes self-awareness and cultivated humility to learn to let each member of the body of Christ do its part (1 Cor. 12:4–11; 1 Pet. 4:10–11). There are plenty of good works to be done within the lanes of our spiritual and physical gifts; we need not try to operate in every possible lane. While there will be times when God calls us to stretch out of our comfort zones, we can also be assured that God has wired us for the good works he’s prepared for us to do (Ps. 139:14–16; Eph. 2:10).
As we evaluate whether God is calling us to serve a particular need, we should consider questions like, What gifts and passions have others in the body consistently affirmed in me? What areas of need particularly grieve my heart? When do I most feel the pleasure of God as I work?
Our passions alone cannot determine how we spend our time. Even those who know their passions and personalities only have 24 hours in a day. The Word of God determines our priorities, beginning with a commitment to abide in the Lord. Abiding in him enables us to bear fruit and love others (John 15:4,12).
Next, we should seek to fulfill our basic commitments within the boundary lines God has laid for us (Ps. 16:5–6). For example, students should prioritize commitment to their studies and classes, even when they don’t feel particularly excited about their course load. Employees are to prioritize their work, even when their passions lie elsewhere.
In different seasons of life, different priorities may dictate our days. Parents with young children have different priorities to consider than empty nesters. People with chronic illnesses or who care for others with special needs operate with different priorities than those who have more margin in their schedules.
If meeting a particular need prohibits us from being present with people we should rightly prioritize, we may need to prayerfully reconsider, What are my priorities in this season of life? Are the needs before me going to pull me away from those priorities, or can they come alongside my priorities in a meaningful way?
In addition to our passions and priorities, it’s helpful to consider the present opportunities God has providentially placed before us. As believers, we know God sovereignly sets stars in their courses and us in our circumstances. There’s no detail of our days that lies outside of God’s purview. God’s calling is often right in front of our face.
If we’re wondering which needs might be God-given calls, we would do well to be engaged observers. Consider, What people has God set before me? What unique resources, connections, or insights has he given me in this season? What needs or causes have been consistently burdening my heart?
If we’re wondering which needs might be God-given calls, we would do well to be engaged observers.
As we navigate the sea of needs all around us, we must fix our eyes on the infinite One who alone can meet every need. As we remember his endless capacity and his abundant resources, we’re freed to be faithful rather than frantic. When we recognize his unlimited nature, we’re better able to meet needs while also living in light of our own limitations.