Posted by: Mike Willoughby | June 22, 2011

Why Me?

I spent last week on a mission trip to Gualaco, Honduras along with eleven other adult sponsors and thirteen teens from our youth group.  Gaulaco is an impoverished village of about 3600 people in the north central part of Honduras.  Gualaco is one of thousands of poor villages in one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere.    For the week we were there, our team mixed concrete in portable mixers to replace dirt floors with more sanitary concrete floors for about 15 poor families.  We dug a latrine for a widow whose current latrine was full.  We built walls for a new church in the valley using cinder blocks and hand mixed mortar.  We painted a church inside and out and we passed out basic essentials to each family we had on our list.  We visited widows and single mothers to encourage them and discover their specific needs so their needs could be met by the local church.  We tried our best with limited Spanish language skills to encourage everyone we came into contact with and for those who had not heard the message of Jesus Christ, we shared the good news.  We worked hard under the tropical sun to try to make a difference in the lives of people who desperately need some help.  We made a difference but it felt like just a drop of help in an ocean of need.

After arriving home at 12:30a Monday morning, I jetted off to Manhattan on Monday afternoon for Tuesday meetings where I experienced a jarring sense of cultural whiplash as I rode in my taxi down portions of 5th Avenue, Park Avenue and Wall Street.  It is from that somewhat disoriented perspective that I answer a question posed to the entire group by our leader when we arrived in Honduras on Sunday. 

The question we were to ponder was “why me?”  Why was I born in the richest country in the history of the world with enormous opportunity to succeed in every way imaginable while the people we met in Gualaco were born into abject poverty with very little prospect for an improved condition?  My trip to Manhattan only served to further define just how polar opposite our conditions really are.  From stick and mud huts with dirt floors to glass and steel skyscrapers with every modern luxury known to man – Manhattan and Gualaco don’t seem to belong on the same planet.  Even the poorest sections of New York City’s boroughs are a considerable step up in living conditions from the best Gualaco has to offer.  So why did God place Mike in Plano, Texas USA and Pablo in Gualaco, Olancho Honduras?  Here is my answer – at least as I can currently wrap my head around the admittedly cosmic scope of the question.

First, I have to admit that I don’t know God’s reasons for placing people in certain situations at certain times.  Isaiah 55:8-9 tells me that I won’t always know God’s rationale for decisions.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
   neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
   so are my ways higher than your ways
   and my thoughts than your thoughts.

However, just because I don’t know God’s reasons for “why me” doesn’t mean he doesn’t have His reasons or that my birth is some random accident.  Acts 17:24-27 speaks to God’s intentionality behind my place in history.

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.  And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us.

I know He determined my allotted period and the boundaries of my dwelling place.  I also know that simply because I don’t understand His reasons, I’m not off the hook from my responsibilities to my Creator.  This passage in Acts tells me that part of my determined place in history is so that I should seek God, feel my way toward Him and find Him because He is really right beside me.  However, seeking and finding God is only the start of my responsibility.

Jesus told a parable (story) to His trusted disciples in Luke 12:41-48 in response to their questions about being prepared for Jesus to come again to reward His followers.

Peter said, “Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for all?”  And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time?  Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions.  But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful.  And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating.  But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.

For everyone who has been given responsibility for many resources in this world, much is expected in return by the One who provided those resources.  I cannot claim credit for anything I have been given in this life.  All I have is a gift from God.  But because I have been given much, God has very high expectations for a return on His investment in me.  Jesus tells another similar parable in Matthew 25:14-30.  Matthew 25 is a chapter specifically dealing with the second coming of Jesus and the judgment that will occur at that time.  This story uses investment as an illustration (a talent was a measure of wealth) which should resonate with each of us.  Notice how the master determined who should receive each measure of resource.

For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property.  To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.  He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more.  So also he who had the two talents made two talents more.  But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money.  Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them.  And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, “Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.”  His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.”  And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, “Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.”  His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.”  He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, “Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.”  But his master answered him, “You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed?  Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest.   So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents.  For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.  And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness.   In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

This is a very challenging story especially for those of us who have been given much.  If you are having trouble understanding what kind of return on investment the Master is looking for, you really just need to finish reading Matthew chapter 25.  Remember, the parable of the talents is in the chapter on being prepared for final judgment.  See how Jesus completes His thoughts beginning with the very next verse following the story.

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.  Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left.  Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,  I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.”  Then the righteous will answer him, saying, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?  And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?  And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?”  And the King will answer them, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”

Then he will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,  I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.”  Then they also will answer, saying, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?”  Then he will answer them, saying, “Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.”  And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

It is no accident these words of Jesus follow the story of return on investment.  I believe God calculates His return on investment in us based on the difference we make in others’ lives.  Each of us has a divine responsibility to use our all our resources, wealth, abilities, influence and experience to make this world a better place for others.  In this way, God has chosen to work through us to accomplish His purposes.  That He would choose to work through me is both humbling and exhilarating.  It is also a very sobering thought.

Our experience in Honduras was a very tangible example of making things better for those in desperate need.  However, I don’t need to travel to a foreign country to make lives better.  I don’t have to be a missionary or a minister to be a faithful servant.  God has called me to be a husband, father, shepherd, businessman and neighbor and He has placed me among fellow employees, church members, family members, friends, neighbors and an entire community of people who have significant physical, emotional and spiritual needs.  Why me?  So I can use the resources given to me to minister to others.  I think that is the bottom line.

I’ll end this Intersections article with a little about Pablo.  Pablo is the man kneeling at the far right front row in the picture above.  He is our full-time coordinator in Honduras for the AguaVida work our congregation helps support.  Pablo has been given pretty meager resources (by our standards) to work with as he ministers to the people of Gualaco and the Agalta Valley.  However, like the servant given two talents, Pablo is generating a significant return on investment with the resources given to him by God.  Pablo is a faithful servant and I believe he will receive the reward of a faithful servant.  I want to be like Pablo.

Until next week,

Meet me at the intersection!


Responses

  1. Mike, Matthew 25 has long given me great concern. While I believe that we are saved by God’s grace and that we must repent of our sins, confess Jesus as our Lord, and be immersed in water, for forgiveness of our sins, in Matthew 25, Jesus separartes the saved (sheep) from the condemed (goats) based on who gave drink to the thirsty, food to the hungry, clothes to those in need, cared for the sick, and visited the prisoners. While I believe that baptism is preached every Sunday in the pulpit’s of the Lord’s church, I don’t hear Matthew 25 mentioned. I pray that we will all become sheep.

  2. You are truly blessed Mike. I hope your trip to Manhattan after your wonderful mission trip was at least successful. What a culture shock.

  3. A good explanation of the many “why me” questions we all face. I loved your insights and thoughts about our responsibility to touch lives wherever we find ourselves.

    Bill Hunter


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