Article 2 in a weekly series: Spiritual Resolutions
“Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.” St. Francis
We are now in week two of the topic of making a spiritual resolution. We began this series by looking into the Great Commandments of God. If you are just joining us in this study, you may want to stop here and read the first article, Spiritual Resolutions: Scripture as our guide.
A spiritual resolution involves making an effort to do something within our spiritual life that will bring us more inline with the teachings of Jesus Christ. Therefore, the best guide for making a spiritual resolution is Jesus. Throughout the New Testament of the Bible, we read about the teachings Jesus Christ passed down to us through his Apostles and disciples.
A look into where the Corporal Works of Mercy are taught:
Take a few minutes right now to read from Matthew 25:31-45.
The Apostle Matthew is teaching on the fact that ‘what we do for others, we are really doing for Jesus’. Some of us might ask ‘how is this so’? When we consider the fact that we are the body of Christ, we can realize that our hands are Jesus’ hands; and whatever we do with our hands (or any part of our body), aligned with his teachings, we are simply being the vessel Jesus uses to help, comfort, or relieve his people. Our willingness to be this vessel, provides Jesus one way to give HOPE, MERCY, GRACE, PEACE, LIGHT, and LOVE to his people.
These teachings are known as the Corporal Gifts of Mercy. Corporal means ‘regarding the needs of the body’. They are so named because when we open ourselves to be Christ’s vessel, we are allowing him to provide a gift of himself to those who need him to bring aid to their bodily needs and/or well-being.
It is a fact that our salvation comes from God alone. We are saved through and by God’s grace. So why should we give any attention to discussing what Jesus taught us in Matthew 25? The short and to-the-point answer is… because Jesus said so! Seriously!
Yet, we do have the Word of God to dig into for an answer to this question: if we are saved by God’s grace because we have faith, must we do ‘works’?
For the answer, I direct our attention to Peter, the Apostle on whom Jesus built his church. Let us read from 2 Peter 1:3-11.
“His divine power has bestowed on us everything that makes for life and devotion, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and power. Through these, he has bestowed on us the precious and very great promises, so that through them you may come to share in the divine nature, after escaping from the corruption that is in the world because of evil desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, virtue with knowledge, knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance with devotion, devotion with mutual affection, mutual affection with love. If these are yours and increase in abundance, they will keep you from being idle or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Anyone who lacks them is blind and shortsighted, forgetful of the cleansing of his past sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more eager to make your call and election firm, for, in doing so, you will never stumble. For, in this way, entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ will be richly provided for you.”
When we dig into this passage, and break it down, we can surmise that because we “may come to share in the divine nature” of God, we also will come to share in doing what Jesus would do. We can surmise that when we make efforts to “supplement [our] faith with virtue, virtue with knowledge, knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance with devotion, devotion with mutual affection, mutual affection with love”… we are doing those things which Jesus would do. As we continue to break down this passage, we can surmise that if we have these things within ourselves, and when we focus our attention to increasing them, “they will keep [us] from being idle or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ”.
As I understand this passage, when we share in the divine nature of God, we desire to unite ourselves with what Jesus Christ did; thereby, aligning ourselves with his teachings. It does begin with our FAITH. And, as we supplement our faith by building upon the actions presented in 2 Peter 1:5-7, we ultimately arrive at LOVE.
God’s LOVE is the key:
God is the epitome of LOVE, because God IS LOVE! There is a whole other teaching we could do here on this particular topic. However, due to restraints of keeping this article short, I encourage you to read 1 John 4:7-21, for a quick overview of what is meant when we say ‘God Is Love’.
Let’s look at what God calls us to do with the LOVE he has shown to us… the LOVE he has entrusted to us… the LOVE he commands of us.
From 1 Peter 1, we must pay attention to verse 8 which states, “If these are yours and increase in abundance, they will keep you from being idle or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” When we consider what the words ‘idle’ and ‘unfruitful’ mean, we realize this verse is saying that when we focus on supplementing our faith with everything leading up to and including LOVE, we are fulfilling Christ’s teachings. We have a purposeful role in God’s plan, which is to be active in spreading the teachings of Christ through word and action. And in doing so, we are a vessel in making things happen for God’s people; and we have had a role in producing results to make things better for God’s people.
Before we give examples of each one of the Corporal Works of Mercy (given to us by Jesus in Matthew 25), here is a quick list to provide you with their ‘title’: Feed the Hungry, Give drink to the Thirsty, Clothe the Naked, Welcome the Stranger / Shelter the Homeless, Heal / Visit the Sick, Visit the Imprisoned, Bury the Dead.
Examples of the Corporal Works of Mercy:
Utilizing the teachings (directives) given to us by Jesus Christ, the following brief paragraphs are provided as basic examples of what we call the Corporal Works of Mercy:
- When we donate food or money to a food pantry or a soup kitchen, volunteer our time to prepare or serve food in a shelter, invite friends to a homecooked meal, pay for a stranger’s meal at a restaurant, or hand a meal to a homeless person, we are accomplishing the act of feeding the hungry.
- When we serve at a soup kitchen, donate food or money to a food pantry or a shelter, donate to a well project (generally in an undeveloped country), or provide a drink to a passerby or even our child or elderly loved one, we are providing a drink to those who are thirsty.
- When we donate new or gently used clothes to a homeless shelter or a charity which resells them to earn money, donate a coat to a coat drive, offer a jacket to a person on the street, or buy an item for someone we know who needs new clothes, we are clothing the naked.
- When we donate to a homeless shelter, help to raise money for the homeless population, volunteer our time at a homeless shelter, help in building projects for the poor and homeless, or offer a bed in your own home for a missionary or ministry workers, we are sheltering the homeless and welcoming a stranger.
- When people are sick we have opportunities to be Christ’s hands, as we take time to pray for, with, and over them; volunteer at the home of an ill friend, a hospital, skilled nursing facility, or hospice home; bring food or supplies to someone who is home-bound due to age, illness, etc.; donate blood, bring fresh flowers to brighten up a person’s room in their home, a hospital, skilled nursing facility, or hospice home; when we share our talent with someone who is sick, we are healing and/or visiting the sick.
- When we hold those people who are in prison or jail in prayer, visit them as part of a prison ministry program, donate bibles or other self-improvement items to a prison ministry, donate to a charity that supports the children of parents who are incarcerated, we are doing what is covered under the notion of visit the imprisoned.
- When we pray for those who have passed away, send a sympathy card or offer our condolences to family members of a deceased person, attend funerals, volunteer to clean up a cemetery, or place flowers on a tombstone of a friend, loved one, or stranger, we are doing what falls under bury the dead.
Saved by grace:
Now, let’s answer the question we asked in the beginning of this article: if we are saved by God’s grace because we have faith, must we do ‘works’?
No, we do not have to do anything other than to have FAITH in God, to be saved. However, Peter told us that we are to supplement our faith. Doing these corporal works, then, are supplemental to our faith. Therefore, I do believe that we must do ‘works’; not to be saved, but to live our lives according to the teachings of Jesus Christ.
We can now turn to the Corporal Works of Mercy to continue our discernment process of making our spiritual resolutions.
Application from today’s article:
This week, spend time in prayer and discernment. Here is a sample guideline for those who have never done this type of prayer process:
1) Spend the first few minutes praising and worshiping God.
a. You may utilize Christian music, poetry, or other books of prayer. In prayer, quiet your mind.
b. This is a time for you to let God know of your love, adoration, admiration, and thankfulness.
c. Invite Holy Spirit to be present to you… “Come, Holy Spirit, Come”.
2) When you feel ready to begin, re-read Matthew 25:31-45.
a. In your Bible, underline what popped out at you, or write them in your journal.
3) Re-read the Corporal Works of Mercy examples presented in this article.
a. In your journal, write down any of them which tugged at your heart, or entered your mind as something you may like to do (or continue to do).
b. In your journal, write down any of them which you felt no connection.
c. Compare what you underlined in your Bible (or wrote in your journal) when you read Matthew 25:31-45, with what you wrote in your journal as you read the examples of the Corporal Works of Mercy. Make notes for your own purposes.
4) Take this to prayer, asking God questions, and then in silence, listening for His responses. It is helpful and beneficial to journal this conversation out.
a. Example questions to get you started (note: you may choose to ask more detailed questions utilizing or based on what you highlighted in your Bible, or wrote in your journal):
i. God, is there an area within these corporal works you are calling me to serve you?
ii. Is there something that I am currently doing that you are calling me to be more active?
iii. Is there something that I am currently doing that you are calling me to step back or away from?
5) Spend time praising, worshiping and thanking God for His time with you.
Be sure to keep in mind that if you do not receive any word, acknowledgment, or direction during this time in prayer, it is ok. It may be that He is not calling you to this area at this season of life; and he has something else in store for you. Or, if you have not had much practice in praying in this way (sitting in silence to listen for God’s word to us), it may be that you are being called to simply being patient. It does generally take a few times of practice to begin hearing God’s responses. And, even for those of us who have experienced hearing God’s responses, there are days when it is difficult to quiet our mind enough to hear. Or, it may be that the enemy is making efforts to block you from maintaining this conversation; and you need to rebuke him by telling him to depart from you; or by asking Jesus to block the enemy from being present. Be patient with the process.
If you complete the application from this article, I would enjoy hearing your experience.
Next week we will review the Spiritual Works of Mercy as a tool for our spiritual resolution process.
May God shine His light, love, mercy, grace, and peace upon you.