The following story happened thirty years ago, in a safe town, on a Sunday morning, with nothing to fear except being late for church. But, it really happened and the more you know about the whole experience, the sadder the story actually is.

A group of university-aged young ladies ran out of gas about a mile from church. They were on the main road to the church. Hundreds of people going to that church and a couple of others had to pass by their car stopped on the side of the road. But ... nobody stopped. Nobody! ... As one of the young ladies walked to the gas station with a gas can and then walked back to the car with the gas can in the pouring rain, nobody stopped.

I'm sure a lot of people said to each other, "Somebody really ought to stop and help those girls." Anybody could have stopped and helped. Nobody did. Even those who had kids in the classes they taught and wondered why their kids' teachers were late drove right on by the girls.

Before you get all riled up about the incident — whether you want to bash church folks or bash me for talking about church folks in a poor light — nearly every single one of us has "walked by on the other side" (Luke 10:29-37) of many a situation like the one just described. We forget one of the most important principles of God's redemptive work: when God rescues, redeems and helps people, He uses everyday ordinary people to do it — put in cornbread English, God uses us to be His means of deliverance and help.

Doubt that?

Let me give you the most powerful example that this is true: Jesus! Nobody in Jesus' hometown expected anything of this carpenter from Nazareth (Mark 6:1-6). Jesus was just a nobody boy from a one camel town. He wasn't born to a family of power or position. Yet Jesus is God's greatest deliverer!

Let me share with you one other example that convicted me of this principle recently. Look carefully at the story of Moses' call at the burning bush (emphasis added):

Then the LORD said, "I have seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters; I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring forth my people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt" (Exodus 3:7-15 RSV).

Now notice carefully. The LORD saw, heard, and knew the suffering, oppression, and affliction of His people so He came down to deliver them (Exodus 3:7-8). How did He do it? What was His means of deliverance? Moses! Notice the parallel statement and how it is modified (Exodus 3:9-10). The Lord heard and saw the oppression of His people and He sent Moses!

God uses people to be His means of deliverance. Whether it is a Deborah, Jael, or Esther. Whether it is a Joshua, David, or Daniel. God uses His people to do His work of deliverance.

"So what? What difference does that make for me? I'm no Esther or King David?"

Isn't that what a part of us whispers in our hearts? Because we don't feel like we have any great thing to offer or can't do anything great to change the landscape of history, we just assume we've got no place in God's work of redemption. So in the process of discounting our importance to God and to others, we overlook the thousands of ways we can help those around us! We drive right on by a car full of college-aged girls and complain about our children's Bible class teachers being late when we were given the opportunity to be God's tool of deliverance. Don't you think this is why Jesus promised:

And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is known to be my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly be rewarded (Matthew 10:42 TNIV).

God wants us to know that in most situations when anybody can help, nobody probably will ... unless we decide we are Christ's Body, sent to bring God's deliverance, in big and small ways, to the people in our world. Just like God did with Moses, He reminds us that He sees, hears, and knows the problems of the people around us and He is coming down to help them ... by sending us!

The following questions are designed for your introspection and for use in discussion of this article with others. Feel free to share your thoughts on the ideas in this article by leaving a response on my blog:

We are given the opportunity to be God's tools of deliverance!
For a powerful example of the importance of the principles in this article, please read Rubel Shelly's recent "Fax of Life" piece called Mercy!

Why do you think we find it so easy to "walk by on the other side" when we see people who need help?

  • Can you think of a specific instance when you assumed someone else would help and didn't stop to help for one reason or another?
  • Can you think of a specific instance when you did help?

Why do we discount our deeds of kindness done in Jesus' name?

What would happen if instead of thinking "anybody could do that" or "somebody should help," we decided that we are the part of Christ's Body God is going to use for delivering them?