Unleashing the Power of Compassion
The early church was so moved by God’s heart for people with physical, financial, and medical needs that they unleashed unprecedented levels of compassion in this world.
Acts 2:45 tells us that they sold their possessions to meet the needs of others.
What sounds radical to us, was normal to them. And they were so committed to being the hands and feet of Jesus to those in need that Acts 4:34 says, “there were no needy persons among them.”
This is why at Eastside unleashing compassion is not something we do, it’s something we are.
- When has someone sacrificed for your benefit?
- Have you ever sacrificed for someone else’s benefit?
Have a volunteer read Isaiah 58:1-5.
These people are showing up for church, not every week but every single day. They’re studying, they’re worshipping, doing all these things, but it’s not bearing any fruit in their lives.
They ask God, “Why don’t you appreciate this religious activity that we’re doing before you? Why aren’t you impressed with us?”
And God responds “I will tell you why! It’s because you are fasting to please yourselves. You’re going through spiritual motions. You’re worshipping. You’re fasting. You’re praying, but it’s all about you.”
Note: For those of you who may not be familiar with it, fasting is a spiritual discipline in which you decide to go without food (or sometimes other thing: TV, Internet, coffee, alcohol, sex, etc.) in order to focus your mind and heart on God.
- Have you ever found yourself in a spiritual rut? Maybe you’re doing the things you think you’re supposed to do, but it seems like spiritually you’re just in a funk. Do you know why it happened? How did you get out of it?
Have a volunteer read Isaiah 58:6-7.
God goes on to say, if you’re going to fast, if you’re going to go to all of the effort to focus your mind and heart on me, then here’s what should result.
Injustice should be conquered and justice done. Oppressed people should find freedom. Hungry people should be fed. Homeless people should be housed. Those who need clothes should get them. And your relatives should not go without.
- Spend a few minutes discussing the problems of injustice, oppression, hunger, and homelessness in our country and in the world today.
- Now bring it a little closer to home. Where do injustice, oppression, hunger, and homelessness exist in our communities and in the lives of the people we come in contact with every day?
- Is there a house in your neighborhood that has five families living in it because they can’t afford rent on their own?
- Is there a school down the street or in the next town that you would never send your kids to?
- Do you pass by someone begging for money at an intersection on your way to work?
- Can the guy who mows your lawn or landscapes your apartment complex afford to feed his family?
- How can you as an individual and we as a group begin to make an impact on the injustice, oppression, hunger, and homelessness that are around us?
Have a volunteer read Isaiah 58:8-14.
It’s not when you’re just learning about God, attending a church service; or going to a small group, or engaging in 21 Days of prayer, but rather when you’re actually unleashing compassion that God says, “When you call on me, I will answer.”
Don’t miss that! Some of you right now feel stuck in your spiritual journey, you feel like you’re in a rut, you feel like things are in neutral. The most likely reason is that you’re not giving yourself away.
Sometimes when we’re stuck in a spiritual rut, we think we should learn more or find a new church or a new Bible study. But Isaiah teaches us that spiritual ruts happen when we aren’t giving of ourselves.
We can’t become spiritually mature without unleashing compassion.
- Where are you spiritually right now? Are you stuck, or are you firing on all cylinders? Maybe you’re somewhere in the middle? What has caused your current spiritual state? What do you need to do to move towards or sustain spiritual growth?
Sometimes we don’t like to talk about times when we have been a part of unleashing compassion because it feels like bragging. We don’t want to say, “I’m awesome. Look what I did.” But we need to humbly share stories in order to learn from and encourage one another.
- When is a time that you have been a part of unleashing compassion? What caused you to take action? Were there any fears or obstacles you had to overcome?
So often what holds us back from unleashing compassion is fear. It is fear of the unknown, fear for our safety, fear of sacrifice, fear of getting sucked into a situation we don’t know how to handle.
And the best way to overcome fear is with familiarity. Fear is all about what we don’t know. We don’t usually fear things that we understand. We may respect them and treat them carefully, but that’s healthy respect, not a fear that keeps us from engaging.
Take a few minutes right now to make a plan to become more familiar with someone or a group of people you would normally avoid.
- Do you get a lump in your throat when you walk by a homeless person? Stop and ask his name and where he’s from. Give him $5.
- Are you nervous about engaging with the alcoholic who lives next door? Next time you see her, ask how her day is going.
- Do you fear the culture of the people in the next neighborhood over? Take a walk through the neighborhood and say hello to the people you pass. If you get the chance, stop and have a conversation with someone.
- Do you avoid the coworker with the difficult home life? Invite him or her to lunch.
Before the group is over, share with the group what step you plan to take this week, and report back next week.