Bible in a Year :
Psalms 20–22; Acts 21:1–17
Encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone.
1 Thessalonians 5:14
As I stopped my car at a red light, I saw the same man standing beside the road again. He held a cardboard sign: Need money for food. Anything helps. I looked away and sighed. Was I the kind of person who ignored the needy?
Some people pretend to have needs but are actually con artists. Others have legitimate needs but face difficulties overcoming destructive habits. Social workers tell us it’s better to give money to the aid ministries in our city. I swallowed hard and drove past. I felt bad, but I may have acted wisely.
God commands us to “warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak” (1 Thessalonians 5:14). To do this well we must know who belongs in which category. If we warn a weak or disheartened person, we may break her spirit; if we help an idle person, we may encourage laziness. Consequently, we help best from up close, when we know the person well enough to know what he needs.
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Has God burdened your heart to help someone? Great! Now the work begins. Don’t assume you know what that person needs. Ask her to share her story, and listen. Prayerfully give as seems wise and not merely to feel better. When we truly aim “to do what is good for each other,” we will more readily “be patient with everyone,” even when they stumble (vv. 14–15).