Editor’s Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Tom Davis’ new book, Red Letters: Living a Faith that Bleeds, (David C. Cook Publishing Co., 2007).
The words that Jesus spoke Himself are set apart from the rest of Scripture by red ink in many Bibles so they’ll receive special attention. Those red words reveal that Jesus placed great importance on helping people who needed it most – like the poor, the sick, the orphans, the prisoners, the disenfranchised, and the weary – and He urged all those who follow Him to do the same.
Jesus’ words recorded in the Bible weren’t just meant to be read; they were meant to be lived out. If you respond to Jesus’ words, your faith will bleed into the lives of those you help and point them to the hope they need.
Here’s how you can live out those red words in your Bible:
Look for Jesus all around you. Ask God to help you recognize Jesus in disguise as you encounter people who need help. Remember that they’re not just statistics; they’re real people who God has made in His image and who Jesus loves completely and unconditionally. Pray for the compassion you need to reach out to them in the ways God wants you to do so.
Embrace your global citizenship. Stop thinking in terms of “us” and “them” when you think about the world’s neediest people. Instead, realize that you’re connected to every person on the planet. Ask God to help you see how much you actually have in common with others who live in faraway places.
Break down the walls. Demolish the walls you’ve built around your life to protect your own agenda, and free up your time, energy, money, and talents for God to use however He would like. Make yourself available to respond whenever you sense God leading you to help someone.
Don’t just think about Jesus; act like Him. Go beyond just being inspired by Jesus through your time in church, Bible studies, or devotional prayers. Put your faith into action by answering God’s call to serve. Instead of trying to think yourself into new ways of living, live yourself into new ways of thinking. Embody the good news of the Gospel by doing all you can to work for justice in our fallen world. Trust God to help you every step of the way. Ask Him how you can best use the many resources He has already given you to reach people in need. Meet hurting people right where they are and invite God to pour out His love into their lives through you.
Live for something bigger than yourself. Don’t settle for just trying to amass as much wealth and influence as you can. Trade that agenda of temporary gain in for God’s plan for you to make an eternal difference in His kingdom. Think and pray about how you want to be remembered after you pass away. Then make decisions that reflect the right priorities –investing in what matters most from an eternal perspective. Make your time, energy, talents, and money available as God leads you to serve others.
Pray. Commit to praying daily for suffering people throughout the world. Pray specifically, interceding for certain groups of people in certain places as God brings them to your mind. Consider prayers for people afflicted with AIDS or HIV, those living in extreme poverty, those who have been orphaned, and more. Begin by devoting five minutes each day to these prayers, and increase the time when you can.
Fast. Abstain from food for a few hours once a week to help you focus on praying for the world’s needy people. Every time you feel a hunger pang, let that remind you of their suffering and motivate you to intercede for them in prayer.
Give money. Give a set monthly amount to an organization that’s working hard to meet the needs of suffering people throughout the world, such as the Five for 50 fund (www.fivefor50.com), which helps people suffering from AIDS or HIV. Consider giving special one-time gifts to other organizations whose work you admire.
Give time. Set aside several days each year to do volunteer work that benefits hurting people. Either travel overseas on a mission trip or work with suffering people domestically or even in your own community.
Change your shopping habits. Buy only from companies who engage in fair labor and trade practices. Support companies who donate a portion of their profits to help needy people, and those who provide employment opportunities to help people break out of poverty.
Sponsor a child. Connect with a ministry organization that works with children (such as Compassion International, www.compassion.com) to choose a child to support monthly in prayer and financially (for the costs of school tuition and supplies, immunizations, etc. that the child’s parents couldn’t otherwise afford). Invest in your sponsored child and build a relationship that will help that child grow to fulfill his or her highest potential.
Get others involved. Let other people know about what you’re doing to help the world’s suffering people, and why it’s important to you to do so. Blog about your work online, host a party at your house where you show pictures and tell stories, etc. Challenge your friends and family members to become involved in service themselves. Help them explore their options, and invite them to join you in your work if they’d like.
Adapted from Red Letters: Living a Faith that Bleeds, copyright 2007 by Tom Davis. Published by David C. Cook Publishing Co., Colorado Springs, Co., www.davidccook.com.
Tom Davis is an author, consultant, and the president of Children’s HopeChest (www.hopechest.org) a Christian-based child advocacy organization helping orphans in Eastern Europe and Africa. His first book, Fields of the Fatherless has sold more than 60,000 copies. Tom holds a Business and Pastoral Ministry degree from Dallas Baptist University and a Master’s Degree in Theology from The Criswell College.