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When we seek to serve those dealing with material poverty the mode of our helping matters. We need to thoughtful in our helping so that we don’t unintentionally hurt others through helping. In this message, Fort Wort Campus Pastor Tyler Briggs, provides a roadmap to ensure that we are helping without hurting.
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All right. Well, good morning friends. Have you ever known somebody who loved to help? They were really zealous and excited about helping other people? Not just somebody that was zealous about other people, but someone who's so excited about it. You know it's coming from the purest of intentions and a good heart. They want to help so bad. So they dive in to help somebody with their situation, but despite their good intentions, no matter how hard they try, they hurt the situation more than help it.
I want to show you such a person this morning. It's a little guy (a little toddler) who sees his mom. His mom is always working hard to set the table for the meal. He decides that he's going to be her big helper, and he's going to help set the table and had really great intentions to do so. It doesn't necessarily turn out (I don't think) the way that he intended. Watch this real quick.
Okay. First off, I can't believe that you laughed at that little kid when he fell down. He might've been hurt or something. Shame on you. Oh, but it's so funny. You know he was like, "Oh, Mom is going to be so happy this morning." He gets to help, and no matter how hard he tries to help, he's just hurting the situation. That's what we're going to be talking about this morning. Particularly, not how to hurt a situation by helping but how to help without hurting.
Last week if you weren't with us, we talked about (and celebrated, really) all the life change that we see happening inside this body, particularly how people from the city are coming to us and having their lives radically transform as they interact (as they initiate) and start a relationship with us. Then also taking a look at probably our greatest opportunity for growth as a local church and not just serving the people in the city that come to us, but us, very purposefully and intentionally going to the people of this city to serve and to help them.
The reason we're going to talk about helping without hurting this morning is because we want to zoom in and take a look and understand that our mode of helping matters. It's not just enough to have good intentions. We also need to be wise in how we help so in our good intentions we actually bless other people and not hurt other people. Particularly, we're going to look at a couple of things.
Before I jump into that, I want to say as we talk about this, this morning we're really looking at helping people who are in poverty, helping people who may or may not be homeless but for whatever reason are dealing with issues of material poverty, and how we come alongside them in such a way as God calls us to truly help them indeed. There's something unfortunate as it relates to the church when we talk about this issue. What that is is that we've chosen largely one of two paths.
The first path is that we look at people who are struggling with material poverty, and we look at them with disdain. We look at them and decide that these people are in this situation exclusively because of their own decisions, and they have no motivation whatsoever to help themselves. If they would just get busy, they wouldn't have the problems they have. You're going to learn this morning that that simply is not true.
The other mistake we can make as a church, and what we've done largely, is we have punted the responsibility of caring for the poor to the government. We were never meant to do that. The church was never meant to pass off the responsibility to care for the poor, but rather we carry the primary responsibility to love and care for all people in a way that is a blessing to them.
If you didn't know, we can offer something to the poor the government simply can't: an answer to the greatest need that they have, which is a need to experience healing to their brokenness, forgiveness for their sins, and hope where there is despair. That only happens through a relationship with who we know as Jesus Christ, who is God in the flesh and our Lord and Savior.
So this matters. The mode we help with matters. There are four particular things we're going to look at and talk about this morning. You're going to hear from me for a little bit, and then you're going to get an opportunity to hear from a good friend of mine. I think it's going to be an encouragement to you.
As we look at The Mode of Our Helping Matters, I'll go ahead and give you a way to remember it. If you can remember the word mode you can remember what's important and how we help. We want to help with the right motive, we want to help while dealing with the origin of the problem and not just the outward appearance, we want to help through discipling, and we want to help through empowering. M-O-D-E. So we're going to walk through each of those.
1._ Motive_. Helping without hurting starts with having the right motives. Picture this, you're driving down Camp Bowie (should be pretty easy to imagine), and you come to the intersection of Camp Bowie and Bryant Irvin. Standing there, or sitting there, at the corner of Camp Bowie and Bryant Irvin, you see this man. It's probably happened before.
Maybe you're not over in our neck of the woods. Maybe you're closer toward downtown, and you're driving around and you happen to see this woman. Maybe you're not on the streets driving around at all, but you're going in and out of businesses, and you bump into this man. I think all of us can relate. This is not a foreign interaction or uncommon interaction with people who we might encounter here in our city. Here's why I show you those pictures.
I want you to stop for a moment and imagine yourself sitting in your car, and you're at that intersection, and you see that man or that woman. I want you to think about the last time that happened. I want you to try to recall, largely, what the thoughts were that were running through your mind. Was it, "Oh, I need to check my work emails," and you conveniently pull out your phone as an excuse to look down, not to have to lock eyes and engage with this person who is there on the corner?
Maybe it's that you are wanting to let this person know they're loved, but you really don't want to spend a lot of time with them. So you look and you give a quick wave, but not long enough to engage or lock eyes with them. That would draw them towards your vehicle or draw them towards an interaction with you. Because we're uncomfortable, and because we don't know what we're supposed to do in that moment.
Maybe it's that we're filled with guilt. We're filled with guilt that we're in a position where God has blessed us, so to speak. In a sense that we have a car to drive and a house to live in, and we've never worried about where our next meal is coming from, and because we feel guilty about this person's plight in life, we roll down the window, and we give them a $10 bill.
Not because we truly care about helping them but because we want to release our self from our guilt and remove the burden that we feel, and the quickest way to do that is to just to give them something and then walk away as if we did the big thing, and we didn't.
Maybe it's that we truly do love them, and we're filled with empathy for the plight that they have. Yet we still see them as someone who's incapable of helping themselves in any way, shape or form, so we try to do everything for him. In doing so, we remove from them an inherent dignity they have, that they can be a productive member of society, and that they are, themselves, gifted by God and able to produce and be contributing members to the church and into society at large. In our really empathetic and loving attempt to help them, we do more harm than good.
Those would all be faulty motives to help someone. What is the right motive? How can we start with having the right motive so we truly help someone without hurting them? It starts with this. We see it in Genesis 1:27 and it says, "God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." This is what that verse says, and this is how it helps our motive. It says that all people… Every single person is created in God's image and, because of that, has inherent worth and value and dignity.
So how we apply that to this situation is we start by viewing this person on the corner or in the store that we interact with as just that, a person. Not as a burden, not as an interruption to our lives, but as someone who God has created, as someone who God loves and desires to thrive, and who has given abilities to thrive. They need help being freed up to succeed and to thrive in those ways. So we start there. Not only that, we see ourselves with them as equals, that we are better than they are and that we are not above them.
Proverbs 22:2 says, "The rich and the poor have a common bond, the LORD is the maker of them all." Romans 3:23 says, "…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…" All of us are created in God's image. All of us experience brokenness in our lives, and all of us, to the same degree, need Jesus.
We're all in different paths and different journeys, and we have an opportunity to help one another. So in order to truly help, we need to (from the heart) see this person as valuable and worthy to be loved. We can go no further to truly help that person until we have that understanding and that perspective and that motive in our own life.
I need to tell you this morning that I have not always had the right motive. For a long, long time I viewed someone who was living in material poverty as lazy, as a burden to society, and as an interruption to my life and my plans, and because of that, I harmed a lot of people strictly because I avoided them.
It's only been through personally understanding this concept of imago Dei (the image of God) that everyone is created in…that everyone deserves to be loved and valued, and I'm no different than they are. In a moment's bad decision, I could be in that same place…that I have begun to realize and to walk and to serve and help in a way that is truly loving, indeed.
So this morning, as you thought back to what was running through your mind the last time you encountered someone who was in material poverty, if it was anything other than, "That is a person who God has made who needs to know that they are loved," the first thing for you to do this morning is to repent, to seek forgiveness from the Lord, and to reorient your heart to approach people with the right motive, understanding who they are. So helping without hurting starts with helping from the right motive.
2._ Origin_. Helping without hurting requires that we discover and deal with the origin of the problem. About a year ago, Hurricane Harvey came through southeast Texas. I had family that lived down there, I have a huge network of relationships who lived down on the Gulf Coast, so I had the opportunity to go down there a couple of weeks after this storm with a group of people to help with alleviation efforts after the storm, and something happened.
In just two weeks' time, every single house that had water in it had black mold growing three-quarters of the way or all the way up the wall. What we were there to do was to help these people gut their house, to tear everything out that had been damaged. To do that you were required to wear a certain type of respirator. So I went and got it. I followed the instructions. I did what I was supposed to, but I came home and had the worst upper respiratory infection I have ever had in my entire life.
So I did what any prideful, independent human being would do. I went to CVS, and I got Tylenol Sinus, and I got Mucinex, and I got every over-the-counter remedy that you could, and I just went to town. You know what? A month later I was still sick. As soon as I stopped taking any of those things, the congestion came right back.
Finally, I humbled myself before a doctor and said, "Okay, Doc. What's going on?" I had an infection, and he prescribed me something to specifically target that type of infection. You know what happened? I got better, and I felt great, and life was good. The reason I got better is not because I kept trying to treat the symptoms but because I went to someone who could help me identify the root cause of the problem and who could, therefore, apply the appropriate treatment to deal with it.
I want you to imagine again that you're interacting with someone who's in material poverty…that man or that woman on the street. You look at them, and I want you to ask the question, "Why are they there?" At face value, just looking at a simple view you might say, "Well they're there because they're hungry, or because they're thirsty, or they have no place to stay."
Yes, those things are true, but the vast majority of the time, those issues of hunger and thirst and homelessness are merely symptoms of an underlying problem. So we have the responsibility to care enough about this individual to stop and to take time and to listen to them and to listen to their story and to hear and to help discover what truly is the origin, or the cause, of the problems that are going on here.
3._ Discipling_. A lot of times, what we'll discover is that someone who… You could talk to 100 different people who are dealing with material poverty, and you could end up discovering that there are 100 different root causes of that material poverty. If we come in and we try to only treat the symptoms, or we try to treat every single one of those people in the same exact way, we are going to be ineffective.
So we look for ways and opportunities to help identify the cause. If it's a lack of knowledge or skills, we seek to educate. If it's oppression by powerful people… Maybe it's a prostitute who was on the corner and who is stuck in this cycle. It may be because she is being oppressed by the powers that be in this community. What we're to do there is not only give food and water, we're to come alongside and work for justice for her.
It may be that this individual is there because of consequences of their own bad decisions in their life, consequences of sin and disbelief in God. How we would deal with that issue is we evangelize, and we disciple, and we teach them the truth about who Jesus is and the goodness that comes from trusting in and following him. Maybe it's that they do lack, simply, material resources because of a crisis in their life. So we come in, and we supply that need.
Maybe it's that for whatever reason they have broken relationships all around them. They don't have a single relationship with anybody in their family, either because of decisions their family made or that they made. They're completely isolated in life. What do we do there? We come alongside them, and we help them in the process of amends and reconciliation.
Most people we encounter aren't just dealing with the crisis issues of food and shelter and water. There is a much deeper and broader underlying cause we need to identify. Jesus, talking to the Pharisees, says something related to this where the principle applies.
In Matthew 23:25-26 he says, "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also." Meaning, if we come in and we truly seek to help people without hurting them and we help them deal with the root causes, the external symptoms will largely go away and take care of themselves. So let's step in and help people with the origin of the issues that are going on there.
So, specifically, what can you do to help in this? It's just to listen. Take the time to stop and engage with this person, listen to their story, and to eat. Who doesn't get hungry? When time is available, invite them to come and grab a meal with you. Over the course of a meal, you're meeting a crisis need they may have in that moment, but you're building a relationship with them that's going to continue.
Here's what you may be thinking as well. "How do I know if I should do this? What if it's dangerous?" Well, use wisdom. If you're a woman, I wouldn't encourage you to pursue a lasting relationship with a man who's in this position or vice versa. Use wisdom here, but where wisdom would move you to act and to intervene, all of these things make complete sense.
We want to deal with the origin of the issue, but because the church is not just another social justice organization, we don't stop with meeting the tangible needs in people's lives. We can't stop with just meeting the tangible needs in people's lives. We know the greatest need in anyone's life is to have their spiritual problem dealt with, their sin that separates them from God, forgiven, and their hopelessness met by a God who provides hope, and because of that every interaction and every conversation that we have, all of our good deeds, need to be accompanied with the good news of Jesus Christ.
Something amazing happens as we serve, as we help people with tangible needs in their life or the root causes in their life. As we do those good deeds, we produce goodwill, which means we gain trust with them. As we gain trust with them, it makes a platform for us to then share the gospel with them and invite them to come and be a part of a local church of the body of Christ.
Here's what we also need to know in that. Our good deeds are not simply a trojan horse for us to be able to share the gospel. What I mean is this. We don't only do good deeds so we can share Jesus with people. We do good deeds and we help people simply because they're deserving of being helped, because they're created in the image of God and because they are to be loved and to be cared for.
It simply adds fuel and makes the message of the gospel more believable because now, all of a sudden, we're not just telling them the message of the gospel, we're living the message of the gospel. It will truly bring about change in people's lives should they choose to respond. So our helping without hurting is always discipling. We are always looking for opportunities to come alongside people; not just to meet their physical needs but their spiritual and emotional needs as well. We come alongside them to help in that way.
Here's where I might lose some of you. Paul, when he talks about this issues of having a discipling life, doesn't leave us room to stop with one conversation or one interaction. In 1 Thessalonians 2:8 he says they have such a fond affection for the church in Thessalonica so that "We [the church that was with him] were pleased to impart to them not only the gospel but also their own lives," because they had become very dear to him.
This is truly what Jesus is asking of us as his hands and feet as we deal with the materially poor. He's asking us not to stop with handing them a care package out of our car or learning their name. He's asking us to invite them to come and be a part of our church because they're welcome here. He's asking us, where wisdom applies, to invite them into our homes, invite them to have a meal with us, and to invite them into our Community Groups and to be as much a part of our lives in this church as anyone else in this room would be.
The call to help without hurting is a call to relationships. The greatest gift that you're going to be able to give someone…to understand the root cause is to disciple them and to empower them…is a relationship with you. Imagine this. There's that guy on the corner or that woman on the corner whose greatest need in life is a relationship with Jesus. You're sitting there, which means God has someone in the presence of that person whose sole purpose in life, whose greatest purpose in life, is to tell that person about Jesus.
When you're sitting there and you're wondering what you are supposed to do there, just remember God has you in that moment to share with that person about who he is and the life that can be found in Christ. You won't always be able to pull into the parking lot and get out and have a long conversation with that person, but you might be able to establish a meaningful relationship with them even in short windows and opportunities of time.
What many have done is to put together a care kit which is a gallon-sized baggie. Inside of it, you put some water, you put some non-perishable food, you drop in there a gospel tract, and then you pre-write personal letters that let them know that you're going to express to this person that you wish you had more time to give in that moment, but you don't, but you'd love to invite them to come and see, to come and be a part of, a fellowship that you're a part of where we care about who God cares about, who is them.
You invite them to come and you give them, maybe, a phone number, a way to contact you, or a place to find you, which would be here where you meet them and engage with them. Then you start the longer relationship with them, should they choose to respond, and we begin to disciple this person as we help them and as we seek to serve with them. So, helping without hurting is discipling.
4._ Empowering_. The church, the body of Christ, has always meant to be a group of people, an expression of God, who helps other people become free, become free from addictions and sin and burdens that may entangle them in life, and also free to be someone who is deploying gifts that God has given them, natural talents that God has given them, to contribute to the life of the church and the health of a community around them.
We can't do that if we're trying to do everything for somebody. We can only empower others when we view them not as projects we have to rescue but as partners who we walk alongside. We empower people by walking alongside them as partners in this life. Robert Lupton, who's the author of a book called Toxic Charity,sayswe can't fulfill the purpose of the church, or fulfill the purpose of helping other people, by doing for others what they can do for themselves. Never do for the poor what they have or could have the capacity to do for themselves.
He says somewhere else in that book that our kind charity, if it's doing for others what they have the capacity to do for themselves, may be the kindest way to destroy someone's life. What happens as we look at this empowering… If we're giving everything one way and we're not inviting this person in to participate, we can create dependence and remove that person's dignity by reinforcing a message to them that they can't do it when they can. God desires for them to.
When we serve with them as a partner, we empower them and produce freedom in their life and affirm their dignity and value as a person. So we want our serving to be empowering. To illustrate this to you biblically, God's word speaks to this in Galatians 6 in two particular verses about how we are to walk alongside each other as partners.
In Galatians 6:2 Paul writes, "Bear one another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ." That word burden in the original language refers to a boulder so big that no person could carry it on their own. Therefore, we are to come alongside and carry these burdens (these boulders) together.
Then in verse 5, he makes, what seems to be, a contradictory statement when he says each person will bear his own load. What? What does that mean? How can we bear each other's burdens and then also tell each other that you have to carry it yourself? The word load in the original language doesn't refer to a big boulder but a backpack. A load that is small enough that this person can carry on their own.
The principal this is unpacking is we are to help one another, but every person has a part that only they can play. Each person has to be willing to participate and carry and do their part in their recovery or do their part in carrying their own burden. So we are to do this in a partnership. Speaking of partnership, one of our partners here in the city called The Net speaks to this in a way that is really helpful. They say, "We seek to walk alongside those we serve as equals."
We're not reaching down to pull someone up. We're walking alongside them, and we're doing so as equals with them on this journey together. So our helping, in order to not hurt, has to be empowering. The acronym for that, to make sure that our helping is not hurting, is we serve with the right motive. We look to understand the origin or the cause of the issue. Our helping is always discipling, centered around helping people come to know and walk with Jesus Christ. Then, also, our help is empowering. We are not doing things for people; we are doing things with people.
That's the theory of helping without hurting, but what's the practical application for you? How do you do this? The next time you see someone or encounter someone who's in material poverty, practically, what should you do? You can write this down.
Begin with prayer. That's it. Begin with prayer by praying that God would remind you that this person is someone who's created in his image and is worth being loved and valued and served and helped. Then pray with that person as you begin that interaction.
Listen. Listen to their story, and just get to know them. Better yet, listen to them while you eat. Whenever possible, seek to meet (right in that moment) a real, immediate, material need that they have. As you do so, listen to their story. As you do that, and as you hear their story, share the story of Christ and share your story. Continue the relationship in showing them truth and giving them the opportunity to respond to it.
Serve alongside them as a partner. As you discover and identify the needs that exist in their life, go with them. Help them figure out what the next steps are that they take from that moment forward.
Just doing these simple things you can tangibly show up in someone's life and help in a tremendous way without hurting them. Again, it's one thing, I think, for us to talk about this as a topic and as an issue, but I think it's a completely different thing, and it gives more context and realism to this issue in our city when we get the opportunity to hear from someone who has been experiencing or who has experienced material poverty and homelessness, so I want to introduce you to this morning to a good friend of mine, Rick Rojas. Please welcome Rick with me. Come on up Rick. Say hello to our friends, Rick.
Rick Rojas: Hello, everybody.
Tyler Briggs: Before the first service, you mentioned that you were nervous. Are you still nervous?
Rick: I'm not that nervous anymore.
Tyler: Rick had said, as we were talking about doing this, that the one thing he was worried about most was how we as a body would receive him and whether or not we would judge him. It's likely (it wouldn't surprise me) that for many of you in this room this is not the first time you've seen Rick. You may have engaged him out on Camp Bowie. If you would, please give a really loud welcome to let him know how much we love him and care for him. Let's do that now.
Rick: Thank you. Thank you very much.
Tyler: Rick, I want to spend some time giving you the opportunity to share with our body your story. It doesn't start with you being here in West Fort Worth out on the streets, but that's where a lot of this picks up. Let me give a little bit of your biographical information and background. There's a specific moment I want to pick up to end your story with.
You grew up in Dallas in a single-parent home. Correct? Around the age of 13, found yourself kicked out of the house and on the streets looking for how to make ends meet. Through a series of circumstances, you ended up over here in Fort Worth and got to a moment where things started to look like they were moving in the right direction for you. You ended up starting to get some knowledge and develop a trade. Pick your story up right there and, tell us about what lead to a really big moment for you.
Rick: Well, like you said I was finding myself without a place to go. I pursued seeking an area in which could help me. I tried to join the service. It didn't work. I ended up joining a trade school, went away for two years, and studied and learned how to be a licensed electrician. I got married, had a kid, started a life, and things were going great, so I thought.
My wife ended up leaving. I moved her from San Antonio to Fort Worth and didn't uphold my responsibilities as a friend and as a husband. I worked, I paid the bills, but I left her at home with the child and really didn't pay too much attention after that. In turn, she left. I didn't expect that. When she left, she took a lot of anger with her and refused to talk to me. It kind of hurt. She was supposed to be my best friend. We had the kid. In order to deal with that and move on… I just didn't do that.
Tyler : When we were talking earlier this morning, and even a couple weeks ago, you were telling me when she left and took your kids, you gave up. Talk a little bit about that, and then talk about where you went to try to deal with that issue.
Rick: As I started losing stuff (house, cars, jobs), I started drinking more heavily, which lead to other substance abuse problems, which lead to ending up losing everything like relationships with my kids, jobs, house, and cars. Due to situations that I put myself around and the people that I associated with while I was in my addiction, it led to a lot of jail time and a lot of dishonest acts such as theft, which I was not good at.
Tyler: What makes you think you weren't good at it?
*Rick: * I ended up in jail a lot.
Tyler: So when thieving didn't work out for you because you kept getting caught, what did you turn to?
Rick: Well it's funny you say that. I started being honest and telling people, "Hey, you know what? I need help. I'm out here on the streets. I don't have an ID. I don't have a job. If you need help with anything, I'm an electrician by trade, but I don't mind mowing the lawn, picking up trash, or whatever you might need help with."
A lot of people didn't have work, but they offered me cash. By that time I had gained an addiction that I could not control. I would get sick, and without a dose I would be sick all day. So I focused on just keeping myself from being sick. All the money I made and the habits that I had kept me in the shame and the embarrassment of where I had ended up and kept me from being around people. I isolated myself, just looking for that wake-up and looking not to be sick.
It got to a point where I was getting tired of going to jail, I was getting tired of being out here on the streets. I was like, "Okay, God. Where are you at?" Around that time, Watermark came around, but I had already known Christ, and I had already built a relationship with him.
Tyler: So before we get to the Watermark piece and bumping into people here, in one of the stints that you were incarcerated you met some men who were a part of a ministry that's here in Fort Worth called Victory Temple. You saw other guys going there and their lives being changed by Jesus, so you got to a point where you decided to check it out.
Talk about how the way those guys invited you into a relationship with them and invited you into a relationship with Christ was instrumental in your life and helping you reconcile to God and really put you on a journey to where you are today.
Rick: I was hurt. I was an addict. I didn't want to be in that situation any longer. Victory Temple's vision is, "Go disciple sin. Go to the streets. Find the lost, the homeless, the sick, and down and out. Bring them in. Start discipling them, and when they're ready launch them off to continue on the vision." While you're there at the home it is a ministry. It's a discipleship program. They don't teach you to go look for work because your work is Jesus Christ, being a disciple, and making disciples. Jesus said he's going to teach us how to be fishers of men.
Tyler: Through that ministry and even through interactions we've had over the past several years you've learned Jesus had something to say about the hope and the despair that you were experiencing. What have you learned about that?
Rick: It's not about me. It's about Christ, and it's about everyone else around me. My experiences that I've gone through and the hurt and the pain is so that way I can help somebody else up. We all suffer from the same thing. It's called life. We're all here together, but we're all here for one another. The main thing is Jesus. Can I share something?
Tyler: Go right ahead.
Rick: Earlier you were saying about how to help people. It's not necessarily money. Every Sunday you walk into a doughnut shop, or you walk into a store, and somebody out there's asking for money. You feel the Christian thing to do is give them a dollar, give them some change, or help them out in that manner.
What if you just stop, and you don't give them a dollar, and you don't buy them something to eat? You pray for them. You pray with them. God teaches you how to open up your heart. As you're praying for that person, you realized the blessing and how truly blessed you are. It also teaches you how to better pray for that person and others to come. It's about planting the seed to me because that prayer will stick in that one person's mind and heart as it did for me.
Tyler: So Rick, as someone who's been on the streets before, what encouragement would you have for our friends. If they see someone this afternoon who's on the street or who's in material poverty, what would you tell them to do?
Rick: Pray to God to open up your eyes, and ask him what he wants you to do first. Now look at yourself and see where you can actually be of use to that person, and do so. To me, it's prayer. If you can't help in any other way, pray for that person. Offer them (man or woman, brother or sister) up to the Lord, because that's what God did with Jesus. That's what we're supposed to do.
Tyler: We were talking earlier, and I asked you the question… I said, "If something happened (we're all human; none of is perfect yet) and you made a decision, and next week you're back out on the street…" Your first response was, "That isn't going to happen," which I like.
Rick: Check it out. I said that wasn't going to happen to me.
Tyler: But what if that happens with someone our friends are engaging with, and they get rejected? They don't have a good interaction, but then they start seeing that person again out on the streets or wherever they may see them. What are we supposed to do?
Rick: Say you make friends with somebody, and you pray with them, and you invite them into your life, nothing changes. Just because they relapsed and went back to where they went doesn't mean you have to change. If you're truly a friend, and you're truly trying to seek out the Lord in everything that you do, then you'll still be with them. Help lift them up, stay or give them the encouragement, and be that friend they don't have.
Tyler: Yeah. Don't give up. Rick, there were a lot of times over the past five years as I've known you and as other people here have known you where you… There were times when you were doing well, there were times when you'd relapse, there were times when you would come up to us and give us a hug, and there were times when you would avoid us. What are some of the ways that we have interacted (you with us, us with you) that were an encouragement to you along the way, even if we didn't know it?
Rick: Not necessarily giving but being the body of Christ. Actually doing what the Lord tells you to do. "Go forth and make disciples." Y'all never gave up on me. Y'all continued to seek me out. Y'all never judged me. Y'all continued to help me. Y'all continued to say, "Hey Rick. What's going on?" Even when y'all knew I was not doing well. Y'all never said anything. Y'all continued to encourage me and lift me up and be there for me.
There were a lot of times by myself, at night. I would think, and I would talk to God, and the first thing he would bring back to my mind was the prayers that somebody had given me. They didn't give me money, but they prayed for me. That's why I say it's so important that you plant that seed while that person has his head down, and you're praying and you're learning how to pray and how to open up your heart. You're actually seeing the struggle that he's going through. You're actually feeling it if you're doing it with your whole heart.
Tyler: Rick, you're right at four months sober and four months of walking faithfully with the Lord in this season. That's not all that he's doing for you. As you're choosing to make good decisions and walk with him, there's some other fun stuff that's happening as it relates to relationships. Share with our friends what's going on there.
Rick: Wow. I've been praying all my life to get my family back in my life and get my kids back in my life, just that things would change. Once I decided to say, "Enough is enough," and really buckled down… You just say, "Okay, Lord. If you're going to use me, use me already. You've already taught me a lot. I'm ready."
He knocked the taste of that addiction out of my mouth and he started restoring. I got my family back in my life. I got my children. Well, I'm getting there. I'm having conversations with them through the phone. He promises to restore me (all things could become new), and he says that he will restore me. I hold him to that promise.
I know one day my kid will be right next to us, like you right there. We'll be talking one day. Things are going to be better for me. I believe that with all my heart, but it's not for me. I believe it's for somebody else because I should not be here, but I am. I give all thanks and credit to God, and I thank him.
Tyler: Amen. Well Rick, as we close up this opportunity, if there's one more thing that you could share with Watermark Fort Worth, this church family who you're now jumping into…you're with us at re:gen on Monday nights and taking other steps to become even more a part of us…is there any last thing that you'd want to share with our friends as an encouragement and a challenge?
Rick: Don't mess up the opportunity to pray for somebody today. Even if it's just prayer, like I said. Don't mess up that opportunity. People are placed in your path for a reason. God has that reason. He knows what you're going to do. You pray for the knowledge or for what he wants you to see out of that. I guarantee you he's going to show you. You just let him take control.
Tyler: That's right. Pray for them today. When you see them tomorrow, pray for them tomorrow. When you see them the next day, pray for them then. Move toward them; build a relationship. Will y'all thank our friend, Rick? Rick, as we close out, I would love for you to pray for us. Then we'll stand and respond in worship. Will you pray for us?
Tyler: Thank you.
Rick: Dear Father, thank you for this day. Thank you for the opportunity that you've given me to share. Thank you for the family I have here at Watermark. I want to ask you to bless and guide them and keep them safe today. Help them to reach out, and help them to do your will and your bidding, Father God, with unselfish hearts. We love you. We thank you. In Jesus' name we pray, amen.