What is Jesus Looking For?
COULD YOU PASS THIS TEST?
When I was a very young man, I worked as a shift manager for a fast-food restaurant. One day the owner, Mr. Brennan, announced that soon his 20 managers would have to take a test. The written test would come at the end of the month. The one with the highest score would receive a $25 prize.
To be honest, I was not highly motivated by the $25 purse. I was a good employee, but I knew fast food could not be my career. I was in college and my free time was limited. This young man had things to do and people to see on his free time. Still, some study did take place. In fact, I studied the things I thought this test would cover – customer wait times, emergency protocols, scheduling, food prep, all the essentials I thought.
Perhaps you anticipated what comes next, the test scarcely covered any of these topics. It focused on fryer and freezer temps, broiler break-down instructions, and data hidden in the manuals of the drink and shake machines. I was never the exceptional student, but I did well in school. Passing tests was not a challenge, until that fateful day.
I was fully unprepared and finished last among the management staff. Mortified, I determined to never let that happen again. I did not win $25 and felt led to write the owner, apologize for not preparing adequately, and commit to study all the material on the test.
Sometimes, not passing a test has minor consequences. However, another test is coming, and the stakes are unimaginably high for God’s judgment. This test will be for those who live through the tribulation period. This test, or Sheep and Goat Judgment, is detailed in Matthew 25.
You may be thinking, “That judgment doesn’t apply to me because I will be raptured and not on earth at the end of the tribulation.” Yes, for faithful believers that is true. But there is wisdom in carefully considering what is on the test that concludes this age.
Long ago I failed a test because I did not adequately prepare and studied the wrong material. In Matthew 25, Jesus reveals what will be on HIS test; what He will be looking for. True believers today will be raptured and will not take this test, but we must remember that as “God never changes,” it is very likely He will expect something different of believers then than He expects of believers today. Let’s review the Matthew 25 passage and consider a few key points.
“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. Before Him will be gathered all the nations, and He will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And He will place the sheep on His right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed Me, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you visited Me, I was in prison and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? And when did we see You a stranger and welcome You, or naked and clothe You? And when did we see You sick or in prison and visit You?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these My brothers, you did it to Me.’
“Then He will say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave Me no food, I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome Me, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:31-46)
WHAT WILL BE ON THE TEST?
Verse 33 notes that first and foremost, Jesus will determine who truly believes – who is a fully committed follower of Christ. These are individuals who pray, give, study, witness, love, forgive, and bear fruit. Their faith is obvious, their affection for God demonstrated in how they live. These are the sheep, and Christ is their Shepherd.
Verse 34-36 reveal another dimension to the test. For the moment, we will call this part “B.” As when taking a test to obtain a driver’s license, one must first pass the written test (part A), then pass the driving test (part B). Part B demonstrates you understand and can practically apply the information in the book. It’s not enough to know part A, you must be able to do part A.
For these believers, part “A” centers on loving God and having faith in Christ. Part “B” notes what it looks like to live-out that faith. Verses 34-36 explains what it looks like to live out our faith – what we must do, even today, to finish well in the eyes of God.
- Feed the hungry
- Give the thirsty a drink
- Welcome a stranger
- Visit those in prison
The list is interesting. Jesus does not list missionary service, great teaching, giving, or evangelism efforts; these things are important, but here Jesus notes that the “fruit” He first looks for are the simple works noted above.
I notice that these works require no special training, experience, or money. Anyone can do these things – everyone should do these things.
I also see that the four works noted above have both physical and spiritual applications. The spiritual applications are:
- Feed the hungry = share and teach the word of God
- Give the thirsty a drink = refresh, revive, renew, and restore others
- Welcome a stranger = love the unlovable. Reach out to those you do not know
- Visit those in prison = spend time with those bound in the chains of the enemy. Proclaim how Christ has come to set them free
Noted below are suggestions for how to apply the Lord’s directive in the physical realm. I believe that as we address the physical needs, we are in great positions to address spiritual needs. Sending a check to a homeless center or food bank is a good start, but I believe the Lord is looking for personal interaction.
The four groups or categories of people noted above corresponds to the groups or categories of people Jesus profiles in the Beatitudes (Matt. 5:3-12). There, Jesus singles out and encourages those who are “poor in spirit,” “those who mourn,” and “those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.”
The text can apply to the elite of this world, but more often than not, the text applies to the poor, the hurting, and the desperate. It is to these people we must extend God’s love to if we want to pass the test.
A FEW SUGGESTIONS TO FOLLOW
- Bring supplies to a local homeless center or food bank. Volunteer to assist with serving a meal, distributing supplies or a service project.
- With a prayer partner, go to a location where homeless are known to gather, and distribute fruit, bottled water, sack lunches, and healthy easy to carry snacks such as granola bars. Include a fast-read piece of literature that profiles the love of God and presents the plan of salvation. Stay, talk, and pray with those who are open.
- Purchase gift cards from local fast food restaurants and, as the Lord leads, give these to individuals who typically seek aid in front of a store or at a busy intersection. Be sure to include a smile, a “God bless you” or, “Remember, God loves you,” and the fast-read piece of literature noted above.
- Regarding welcoming a stranger, there are many opportunities to minister to the broken if our heart is in it. It does require time and effort, and often we are called to step outside our comfort zone. But it is part of the cost of discipleship. We can all welcome a stranger.
- Inform your pastor you are willing to take a visitor to a meal after a service. Stand near the pastor after the service so he can quickly discern if this seems appropriate and have him introduce the guest to you.
- Go to a hospital waiting room or cafeteria and look for the weary and worried. Smile. Ask if you can bring them a cup of coffee. Ask if you can pray for them or their concern. Remind them that God loves them. Give them a paper with verses of comfort and prayer promises.
- Contact a homeless center and see if they have a ‘Day Room,’ a place where people can sit and perhaps receive a meal. If so, tell a case manager your intent to visit with a few people – if they are open – to encourage them. Ask if you can give guests the fast-read piece of literature. When you arrive, ask the case manager or program coordinator if there is anyone you should (or should not) talk to. The first step may seem awkward, but after a few times it will become second nature.
Many approaches work. Simple and positive is best. Simply approach a table where a person is sitting (usually alone), tell them your name and share, “I’m here today to visit with and encourage some people. Would you like some company?” As this community of people are often broken and skeptical, expect the conversation to be stiff at first. Ask leading questions that are not likely to have ‘yes’ or ‘no’ replies. Do not dress up for this visit or wear fine jewelry, and do not ask questions that are too personal or reference events or activities that require money (i.e. “Did you see the latest ____ movie?”). Consider bringing with you a low dollar bus pass, phone card, fast food certificate or bottled water. End your visit by giving them one of the above items, the fast-read piece of literature, and an invitation to pray.
- If it is cold or rainy, consider giving hats, umbrellas, gloves or socks to individuals at any of the places noted in the points above.
- Regarding visiting those in prison, there are guidelines, but there is much that can be done. Yes, the environment is tough. The language may be coarse, but many who are incarcerated are lonely and broken. Many have long terms and little money to purchase even basic comforts (which generally must be purchased through the prison commissary at high prices). A little love can go a long way.
- Contact a chaplain to see how you can help. Consider adopting a ‘Block,’ which generally houses 15-20 inmates. If you do, what you do for one must be done for all on the Block. With a chaplain’s or counselor’s assistance, you can put “money on the books” of each person on the Block, along with a brief personal note from you. Like a Secret Santa, you can provide small gifts to inmates through the year (check with prison staff for guidelines). You can also check with prison staff to see if there are any recreational supplies needed. You may be able to provide basketballs or weight-lifting gloves, through a chaplain, with a note or label stating, “God loves you.” Contact a jail or prison counselor to explore face-to-face encouragement visit options.
This is not intended to be a comprehensive list – just something to prompt thinking along this line. It is important for all believers to consider how they are doing in these areas. They will all be on the final test.
May God bless you as you serve and grow in Him.
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