Helping Those In Distress!

A few years ago, there was this fragile older man who used to sit on the corner right next to my house. Everyone called him Frenchie! I'd known him for years; he had stayed at Cornerstone before, the homeless shelter I'm involved with. He was sweet, humble and shy. Frenchie could easily be described as a "petite" man, and everyone seemed to like him, but he had no money and no one to care for him, so day after day, he sat cross-legged on the sidewalk smoking his cigarettes.

Frenchie wouldn't beg for money, he was too shy for that and didn't want to bother anyone! He would just sit there, greeting and smiling at the people who'd walk on by. Random people would stop and give him things he may need, like some spare change, a sandwich or an item of clothing, but in general, he just sat there, day after day after day. 

Occasionally, I'd stop my commute and ask him if he was homeless and if he needed a place to stay, he'd always respond by telling me "thank you Jeremy, I'm fine, I'm staying with a friend!" I didn't believe him, I'd heard he was sleeping behind the local dollar store, but what could I do?

That year, as the weather started dropping, many men, women and children from the "homeless community" and "Jesus People" came to me, concerned about our friend, telling me we needed to do something! He was getting skinnier and looked sicker. I knew there was no way he would survive the winter and I had a solution! I had the ability to give him a warm bed, hot meals and case-management, but he wasn't ready to come in yet! 

Then one cold November evening, I went outside and stopped to talk to my buddy, and on this particular day, he decided to admit to that he was homeless and take up my offer; so together we walked over to Cornerstone and he nervously came inside! 

When I took this sweet old man inside, who was in his late sixties, I witnessed something that blew me away. It was one those moments where I was filled with joy, and was left with a smile on my face that just wouldn't go away.

Frenchie was not good at looking after himself and his hygiene was awful, only God knew when he last showered and he had been wearing the same clothes for a very long time. But when I brought him in, all these guys ignored his outward appearance or smell and embraced him. They were so glad to see him, they hugged him, they hugged me for bringing him inside and some who had "next to nothing", gave what little they had, to someone who had nothing and could give nothing in return!

I stood there and marveled at what a great example I was witnessing. I was witnessing the Kingdom of God in action; one guy gave him his nice winter coat, another guy gave him socks, another cooked him a meal and another made up his bed. They didn't have to do this, they were homeless themselves, they had their own struggles, but they embraced Frenchie and made him feel welcome and they showered him with love. They made him feel like he had come "home".

That night, and the months before, have been ingrained in my mind! I witnessed something beautiful. I witnessed a wide range of people, many who had nothing, many whom society has ostracized and demonized, many who had been in prison and homeless for years, flood this fragile, petite man with a bounty of love! These fellas took care of him, they looked after him, and expected nothing in return, because they knew, at that point, Frenchie had nothing to offer!

Frenchie's story did not end there; he stayed at CCO for a while, and during his stay, we helped him get an income through Social Security, and soon after, he successfully moved into his own subsidized apartment, and that's where he lived until he passed away a few years later. But my emphasis tonight is: Frenchie was taken care of, he was looked after, when he was in distress! People could have ignored him, they could have walked on by, but they chose to care for someone who could offer nothing in return. 

James 1:27 says, "Here are the beliefs and way of life that God our Father accepts as pure and without fault. When widows are in trouble, take care of them. Do the same for children who have no parents. And don’t let the world make you impure." (NIRV)

Or as the NIV words it: "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world"

The point I want to emphasize tonight is; God calls us and loves it when we look after, or take care of widows and orphans in their distress. Widows and orphans often cannot give us anything in return. They need the love and acceptance of people who are willing to lend a hand. Jesus calls us to live out His Kingdom with His kind of Love, which means making sacrifices and loving those who can't offer us much in return. 

Jesus said these words in Luke 14:12-14; “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

It doesn't matter if the person in need is our sick mother or someone like Frenchie, or if they have helped us before or not, Jesus calls us, as followers of Jesus, to look after and care for others in their distress. God calls us to use what we have, however big or small, to help ease that distress, fight for those who need our help and bring the love of Jesus to them. Just like with Frenchie, the guys at the shelter couldn't bring him in, but they advocated for him, made his bed, gave him some of their own clothing and cooked him a microwave meal; they did what they could, how they could, with what they had! That is Kingdom Love!  

God doesn't tell us we'll be financially blessed if we help those who need it, in fact, often times, when we assist others, we will lose our time, money or goods. He doesn't tell us to declare or decree that God will financially bless us; that's His choice, we can't make God do anything! God's ways are often not our ways! God calls us to use our gifts, our abilities and our goods for His Kingdom.

God knows what we can give and He also knows how much we can take! Sometimes, it may be better for us not get all this extra cash, because in the same verse, James tells us to keep ourselves "from being polluted by world". All that extra money may be a stumbling block! It may prod us back into our old ways! It may take us down roads we shouldn't go! God knows, we may not be ready; we gotta trust Him and wait on Him!

Some of the most generous and compassionate people I know, are poor and homeless! I see it all the time; they give what little they have to those in distress! Jesus sees this. Jesus watched the widow give a mite, which was a lot to her, but barely anything to the world, Jesus noticed and deemed her generous and righteous in His sight!

Whether we are rich or poor, what we do know is this; God wants us to help those who are widows and orphans, those who are poor, crippled, lame and blind, He wants us to help those who cannot repay us! This is the kind of love, Jesus expects to see from His children in the Kingdom of God. 

James calls this kind of religion "pure and without fault". Jesus sees what we're doing, He sees our hearts and He tells us we may not get anything financially in return in this life, but we will be blessed and we'll be repaid in the resurrection of the Righteous. 

In closing; my encouragement to you all, is this: look out for and care for those in distress, lift them up and help them in whatever way you can. Love the unloved. Speak to the lonely. Use what you have to bring God's Kingdom and the Love of Jesus to those in distress. 

A brief summary of why I wrote this: There's a ministry on the West-side of Chicago called Mission:USA; every Tuesday night they have a Church service called The BRIDGE. Their services are open to everybody, but especially those who find it hard to gel in their local congregations! Or to put into cruder terms; a lot of these men and women are ex-offenders, homeless and low-income folk who have felt ostracized and rejected by many churches, so their mission is to be a bridge between prison, the streets and the Church. The Bridge helps these wonderful men and women find churches that will welcome them with open arms..... 
And isn't this exactly what the Gospel and the "Kingdom of God" is all about? 

Every Tuesday night, The Bridge has a host team from a Church, who greet the guests and provide a meal. The guests anonymously submit questions about their "walk of faith", and staff from The Bridge pick out a relevant question. Meanwhile, they have invited 3 pastors from 3 different churches to come and give a 10 minute sermon each about this specific question or topic. In my humble opinion, this is a great concept and ministry, who's staff is very loving, compassionate and supportive to the "least of these".

This was a sermon preached on 1/12/16, in response to this question; "Being There For My Mom!"
I was drinking and drugging and my mom took care of me, now I want to take care of her. They're treating her wrong in the nursing home, so I want to have her live with me. I've decreed and declared that God will financially bless me, so what else do I need to do?
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