13 November 2017

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished or Unrewarded // "For which of my good deeds are you stoning me?" (asks Jesus)

Paul Cowell worked fervently to finish his book, No Good Deed Goes Unpunished before his death a year ago. He knew it would enrich the lives of others.

Indeed I have been enriched by this book, and am very grateful to have been given a copy while at the Missionary GetAway in Capetown, South Africa. Below you will find some of the highlights.

Jesus condemns those who refuse to help the needy and states that helping the poor is the same as helping him. Obviously, God’s intention is for us to do good deeds.

I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.   ~ Matthew 25:40

We know that ultimately every good deed gets rewarded, even if it’s not observable. We are called to do good deeds, but we cannot escape the fact that some people we help will become extremely critical of us, especially when you end your assistance.

When we do good deeds, we should expect opposition.

Helping others is often inconvenient and even messy. According to Jesus, the principles of rescue have eternal consequences. The story of the Good Samaritan was Christ's answer to the question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Explaining his command, "Love your neighbor as yourself," (Luke 10:27) is that my neighbor might be someone of a different ethnicity, lying in a ditch, and who might not otherwise even speak to me. As we love our neighbors lying in a ditch, we must be ‘as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves'.   ~ Matthew 10:16

Satan has discouraged many well-meaning, good-hearted rescuers by inciting those helped to attack their rescuer. You must understand that you have not failed if you encounter attack by showing ‘Good Samaritan’ love. Even Christ endured attack, when those he came to save rejected him.

We have been sent like lambs among wolves (Luke 10:3), and must help people wisely - regardless of the consequences. Do not quit or withdraw; you are a soldier in battle and may be wounded by friendly fire. Continue to serve others, even if you find yourself washing the feet of Judas.

Most people return small favors, acknowledge medium ones, and repay great ones with ingratitude.   ~ Benjamin Franklin

I was not prepared for the selfishness and animosity that followed some of my best efforts to lighten the load of those less fortunate.   ~ Paul Cowell

Clearly, we cannot turn away from the needy. Help must be given, but with wisdom and realistic expectations. But even when motives are pure and assistance is sincere, rescue still doesn’t always work out.

“Love one another (remember – not emotions and feelings, but Good Samaritan action – good deeds). Don’t get tired of earnest endeavor as you serve the Lord. When using your spiritual gifts, be steadfast and patient in suffering and tribulation; be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of God’s people. Pursue the practice of hospitality. Bless those who persecute you and are cruel in their attitude toward you. Bless and do not curse them."   ~ Romans 12:10-14 (Amp)

   You have spiritual gifts that can make a valuable contribution to those who are in need. If you have been blessed, it’s for you to be a blessing! 
   But you will be persecuted and criticized by some. In fact, the needy and the persecutors may be one and the same. You will be punished for your good deeds. 
   Do not let this evil overwhelm you. Overcome all this with good.    ~ Cowell’s paraphrase, Romans 12:21

Good works are the front line of the battle. You are a soldier and you have an enemy who seeks to discourage you with attacks from those you help. “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted."   ~ 2 Timothy 3:12

We expect the minimum of a ‘thank you’ when we assist someone, as good works producing hostility seems illogical. However, even Jesus experienced a lack of gratitude when he healed ten lepers. They cried out to him, “Jesus, have pity on us!” At Jesus' command all ten were healed, but only ONE came back to Jesus in gratitude. Only one in ten! Jesus showed disappointment, but not surprise.

“Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner."   ~ 1 Peter 4:12-13 (Msg)

Let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up or quit.   ~ Galatians 6:9-10 (Msg)

Realistically knowing what to expect is not pessimism or cynicism. Knowing that all who are in need will respond with gratitude should not keep you from doing the good works God has positioned you to do. Helping others is the essence of God’s call and commission. Don’t quit!

“Count yourself blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble. Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt and seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness?"   ~ Matthew 5:11-13 (Msg)

God uses these attacks – like a refiner’s fire – to accomplish purity and strength, giving us more consistency and usefulness. Our heavenly refiner desires that our impurities be burned away, so we’ll reflect more and more of his glory and image. He uses the troubles that come from serving others to accomplish his purpose. Refining fires produce character and humility to make us more useful to God.

God says, “I have refined you, but not as silver is refined; rather, I have refined you in the furnace of suffering.”   ~ Isaiah 48:10 (NLT)

One time when Jesus spoke at the Jewish temple in Jerusalem, he declared that he and the Father were one. This made the Jews so angry, they picked up stones to throw at Jesus. He responded,

At my Father’s direction I have done many good works. For which one will you stone me?
   ~ John 10:32

It is certainly love to reach out to those in need, but love goes one step further and forgives the recipient, even if they are unappreciative and attack you personally. Jesus prayed for those who crucified him while he was on the cross, "Father, forgive them, for they don't know what they're doing."   ~ Luke 23:34

Only forgiveness allows you to move forward. Do not allow bitterness and hurt to gain power over you. Take every action you can to minimize or eliminate hostility from those you help. When you do good works and are wounded, forgive anyone who offends you. It's God's way and is in your best interests.

To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.   ~ C.S. Lewis

Be gentle and sensitive with one another. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.   ~ Ephesians 4:32 (Msg)

Every day on earth you are either adding to your treasures in heaven or you are laboring in vain with nothing accomplished for eternity. God has given you the opportunity and the resources to do good deeds. Being alert to those in need around you gives you an opportunity to increase your heavenly rewards, laying up treasures held for you in heaven.

Love each other; conduct your lives in love. Don't lose out on what you've worked so diligently for. I want you to receive every reward you have coming to you.   ~ 2 John 5, 6, 8 (Msg)

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In Cowell's book, he quotes this song's lyrics - So Send I You. I hope you'll take a few minutes to listen, as they are very fitting to the subject of his book.

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