The Stranger

Matthew 25:43 “I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.”

Have you ever had a chance encounter with a stranger that turned into a moment that changed your life for the better? From my experience, these moments aren’t chance encounters but are reflective of the providence of God. There are stories in the Bible that either defined a person or brought condemnation, it all depended on how they responded.

When God brings opportunity to us, how will we respond? The providence of God’s leading can bring about opportunity for great blessing or reveal our hardened hearts.

What is God’s Providence?

John Piper describes providence as: “wise and purposeful sovereignty.” God’s sovereignty can be described as “His right and power to do all that he decides to do.”

The idea that God is in control of our circumstances opens up all kinds of questions.

Why does God allow evil to flourish?

When the Lord brought a revelation to Daniel He reminded him that there is a difference between the nature of the wicked compared to the the nature of the righteous.

Daniel 12:10 “Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.”

When God acts, only the righteous have the discernment to see His hand moving. Righteousness is reflective of a heart that is walking in obedience to the Lord. The fellowship of believers in the Spirit gives them a personal understanding of the power and glory of God.

Why does He allow bad things to happen to good people?

These are questions that many people have asked through the years and the answers are as complex as God is vast in wisdom.

John 8:47 “Whoever belongs to God hears the words of God. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”

Even if evil runs rampant, the righteous recognize God’s hand in the midst of the storm. There are times when God holds back evil and there are other times He allows it to run its course. The reasons for God’s actions can be seen if you look close enough, for those who have no understanding they draw false conclusions and typically blame God.

By gaining a better understanding of God’s nature, we can see the actions that are of God or apart from Him, knowledge allows our perspective to change. If I look for the evidence of His nature in this world, I see His goodness shining through. The purposes of God begin to make more sense the closer we draw near to Him.

An aspect of God’s character is His goodness. When we examine the characteristics of a trait that is exclusive to God, we see evidence of His Spirit in this world.

Ephesians 5:8 “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth)”

Since the fruit of the Spirit embodies God’s goodness, we look for these traits manifest in someone’s life.

Galatians 5:22 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.”

The image of God is displayed in those who walk in the Spirit, when they act in accordance with obedience. The hope is then to be a light to others, for those who fellowship in the Spirit, they recognize the work of the Spirit.

Why is it important to be able to see God’s character in this world?

Godly attributes are the measuring line by which we examine ourselves and is how we see His Spirit revealed in others. If I want to encourage a fellow believer in how he lives, I look for godly attributes in his life and then encourage him to continue. If I recognize sin in his life, I encourage him toward godliness by the Word of God.

If I’m praying for a spouse, a good friend, or if I’m concerned someone is backsliding, this is the measuring rod I use. God makes it clear to not be unequally yoked with another person, whether in marriage or in friendship. If I want to know whether someone is congruent with God’s nature, I look for God’s work in their life. If what is important is righteousness and holiness, then I am in agreement in the Spirit. If you walk by this standard, you are being wise.

*When it comes to showing love to others, it is God’s standard we are suppose to exhibit.

Jesus identifies with others.

Jesus’ heart is for the broken, downcast, poor, widower, lonely, hurting, and the multitude of other people this world has crushed and left hopeless–Jesus sees them all. He has known them from their inception, He has witnessed the abuse, the bad decisions and the ways they have attempted to press on but to no avail, and so He calls us to be His hands and His feet.

Jesus leads us to the lost.

A person’s life may intersect with your life only for a moment, you then you have a choice in what that moment will look like. Jesus told a parable of what it looks like when someone loves unconditionally.

Luke 10:30-37 “Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he discerned him, he passed by on the other side.  Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and discerned, and passed by on the other side.  But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he spiritually discerned him, he had compassion.  So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.  On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’  So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?”

And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.”

Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

The first two people who passed by the injured man recognized him from a worldly perspective. Knowing the effort it would take, the Levite and the priest passed by and ignored his cries and brought condemnation upon themselves. The very standard they claimed to possess became the standard of their judgement. The Samaritan who was despised by the jews, was willing to go the extra mile to show love to this stranger in need.

The men who supposedly espoused the attributes of God lacked the spiritual discernment necessary to see what was required of them. People who are called by God’s own name administer justice, and as they do so they honor the King.

Hebrews 13:2 “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.”

You just never know who you are going to have opportunity to bless. Whether it is an angel sent by the Lord or a man broken and needing care, we have such a short time on earth to love the Lord with our lives.

If you live by the Spirit, you will have the ability to see. You will have spiritual discernment like the Samaritan. The strangers in our lives will become opportunities to show God’s love. The Lord brings opportunity by the measure of your faith, because you have shown yourself faithful in small things, greater responsibility is then given.

What will you do with the opportunities you have? These can become your greatest regrets or your most improbable victories.

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