"Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue
but with actions and in truth." 1 John 3:18 (NIV)
I am both humbled and blessed to have a "Feature Article" published this month on the Proverbs 31 Ministry "Everyday Life" site. When I originally submitted this article to the P31 editors for consideration, it was purely a written testimony of the Lord moving Joshua's heart to give an unexpected visitor a cup of cold water. The editors then asked me to expound on my foundational scripture for the article (1 John 3:18 - above) and other ways we can teach our children to show Christ's love in actions and truth.
If you have a few minutes, pop on over to "P31 Everyday Life". Then please stop back and leave a comment to share your ideas about sharing Christ's love in action. Let's spur one another on!
A Cup of Cold Water ~ Practical Ways to Reach Out to Others with the Love of Christ
by Sharon Sloan
"If anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is My disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward." Matthew 10:42 (NIV)
The fiendish heat wave was in its seventh day. Local news reporters were urging residents to stay inside in air conditioning as the air quality was so poor. One particular evening after dinner, the oppressive heat eased up just a touch, and we decided to brave the outdoors. I sat on our front porch while Joshua and Gabrielle played contently in the front yard with some neighborhood friends.
A distinguished-looking man with a friendly countenance walked at a purposeful pace down the sidewalk. Quickly observing an aide assisting him with campaign literature, I knew he must be a hopeful politician seeking support in the upcoming elections.
As he strode up our driveway and reached out his hand to shake mine, it was clear his body was struggling with the stifling heat. As his brow glistened with large beads of sweat, his breathing was noticeably labored. His once crisp and perfectly-ironed shirt was now wrinkled and soaked with perspiration. The visitor's efficient greeting was an effort to politely keep cadence so he could complete his neighborhood campaign and find necessary relief from the heat.
All the children had kept playing during this brief encounter, but Joshua had been taking notice. As the man was walking down our driveway towards our neighbor's home, Joshua said, "Mommy, that man and his helper look very hot. I was just thinking I would like to give them some cold water. He has wet spots all over his shirt, and cold water would help him."
My heart rejoiced in Joshua's compassionate and responsive heart. He genuinely cared and discerned the condition and needs of our unexpected callers. Joshua was loving in actions and in truth. "Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth." 1 John 3:18 (NIV)
As my husband and I spend these precious parenting years in the trenches, our desire is to train our children how to apply 1 John 3:18 and be mindful of the needs of those God has placed in our paths. We prayerfully trust the Holy Spirit to gently nudge our children's hearts and fill them with the joy and peace that accompanies obedience. All around us are opportunities to love with actions that bring honor to God.
Ever since the children were small toddlers, we've walked around our cul-de-sac together to bring morning papers from the bottom of neighbors' driveways up to their porches. On trash collection mornings, we often would bring the neighbors empty trashcans up to their garage doors. Now, when our children see a newspaper or an empty trashcan, they take action instinctively on their own. Though they are young, they can serve the Lord in useful and significant ways. "Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity." 1 Tim. 4:12 (NIV)
Some other ideas may include leaving a home-made card or a little gift at the door of someone hurting or needing encouragement. At Christmas, small gifts can be purchased for other children whose parents may be struggling financially. Sponsoring a child through Compassion International and having your children pray for and write to that child is a beautiful way of awakening your child's heart to the needs of others. For Easter, through Samaritan's Purse Ministries, musical stuffed lambs that play "Jesus Loves Me" can be sent to children in third world countries.
As we respond in obedience to His leading, these acts of kindness stir children's sensitivity and prime their hearts to be actively looking for ways to serve others in their family, neighborhood and around the world.
"And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds." Hebrews 10:24 (NIV) A few years ago, we were inspired by another Christian family in our community who put love into action. So, following their lead, for our birthdays that year, rather than receiving birthday gifts for ourselves, we requested new library books for a Christian school in New Orleans that had been devastated by Hurricane Katrina. In total, our little family received almost 200 new books for the school after we had celebrated all four of our birthdays.
This year, our birthday ministry outreach was by theme. Joshua chose basketball, and Gabrielle chose a theme of flip flops. Their party guests brought gift cards for footwear and new basketballs for Rock Ministries of Philadelphia, which ministers to at-risk young men of Philadelphia's inner city. Gabrielle's guests generously gave more than $400 in footwear gift cards, and Joshua's guests donated 30 new basketballs for these young men at Rock Ministries.
Seemingly small expressions of kindness can soften hearts and bear eternal fruit. As we love others with actions and in truth, He is faithful to bring forth a harvest. When we extend His love and kindness to others, they can see His perfect love, salvation and provision. Our rewards blossom in our soul as He fills us with His joy and peace.
As Joshua served our visitors bottles of cold water for their journey that evening, his reward was a personal treasure in his heart between himself and our Heavenly Father. "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me." Matthew 25:40 (NIV) With a pure heart, Joshua had served our Lord and King a cup of cold water. He was loving with actions and walking in the truth of God's Word. Indeed, there is no greater joy for a Christian parent. "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth." 3 John 1:4 (NIV)
About the Author: Sharon Sloan and her devoted husband, Jim, live in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. They have two precious children: Joshua (8) and Gabrielle (6). Sharon is a She Speaks! Graduate and has had devotions published through P31 on-line devotions. A paralegal by profession, Sharon now works part-time at her church as an administrative assistant. She leads a P31 Gather & Grow group in her home. Sharon is passionate about encouraging others in their personal walk with the Lord. The Sloans invite you to visit them at: www.joyinthetruth.blogspot.com.