Daniel is an Ethiopian farmer I met by the light of flashlights on a trail deep in the jungle of Ethiopia. I was with a team of 7 women as we spent several days with Daniel and with the people he has spent his life serving. Through our conversations and watching the way Daniel lived, I got a picture of what our lives could look like if we chose to “spend ourselves” on a daily basis. There were four key choices Daniel made daily that enabled him to pour himself out for the people around him.
This is Daniel’s guide to spending yourself:
- T A K E T H E R I S K A N D F O R G I V E
Daniel’s father was murdered several years ago and as the oldest son, according to tradition, the responsibility of revenge fell to Daniel. For months, Daniel searched for the men who killed his father. He was overcome with anger and hate and the thought of killing the men consumed him.
However, when Daniel finally found the men, he looked into their eyes and felt compassion towards them. He made a choice to forgive the men who had caused his family so much pain. They still faced jail time for their actions, but Daniel was waiting for them on the other side of the jail walls with clothes and food when they were released.
Daniel’s mother and siblings saw his decision to spare the men as a sign of fear and weakness, but for Daniel, the risk of choosing forgiveness was liberating. Rather than keeping a tally of the wrongs done against him, he is able to love people deeply and authentically and is able to give of himself freely.
Is unforgiveness preventing you from spending yourself freely? Is it consuming your brain space and giving you an excuse to turn your eyes inward on yourself or to focus all your energy on the person who wronged you?
Ephesians 4:31-32 (NIV) says,
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
The hard truth is forgiveness doesn’t usually come with warm fuzzy feelings; most of the time it’s a really difficult choice. A choice based not on what you feel, but on what God says to be true. But it is a liberating choice.
- E M P T Y Y O U R H A N D S
Daniel’s family often urges him to leave Ethiopia and to make a better life for himself, but his heart is tied to his people. Even though Daniel is well educated, he has chosen a life of poverty in order to empower the people in the villages around him. When he’s not farming, he teaches reading and writing to hundreds of children at a school he constructed.
One night as we all sat around a fire after a long day, Daniel said to me, “I hope I die with nothing in my hands because I have given it all away.” To Daniel, seeing people realize their worth and step into futures of hope is far more valuable than earthly possessions.
What things are you clinging to that are keeping you from spending yourself? Whether it’s possessions, comfort, unforgiveness, or pride, if our hands are full we will never be able to give or serve fully. Try emptying your hands and opening your heart to how God wants to use you to be His hands and feet to the people around you.
- D O S O M E T H I N G W H E R E Y O U A R E N O W
As Daniel talked with people in various villages he realized that since most of them had never known anything but poverty, they didn’t believe there could be anything in their futures but poverty. Daniel had a strong conviction that people should be able to follow their dreams and have a chance at success. But what does one man living in the middle of the jungle do about that?
Well, he started walking from village to village and telling people they are valuable, loved by the King, worthy of successes, and capable of amazing things. He began speaking hope, purpose and belief into them. And guess what? Incredible things started happening!
Daniel began teaching adult literacy classes in the evenings and word spread like wildfire. People walked for miles to learn how to read and write, and to sit with Daniel and dream about how they could change the course of their lives. Now adults who were previously living in poverty are literate, learning trades, getting micro-loans and starting businesses to provide for their families.
Because of his faithfulness in a small village, Daniel has been able to impact thousands of people across the country of Ethiopia. Daniel looked around, saw a need and did something about it.
Look around you. Is there a need you are aware of but have ignored for a while? Why not make a decision to do something about it today? You never know the impact that can come from spending yourself in even the smallest ways.
- E X P E C T G O D T O B E R I G H T
In everything Daniel did, he believed God was with him and that His promises were true. Daniel was able to love God and the people around him with abandon because He trusted that God was right about what our lives will look like if we spend ourselves on those in need.
Here at HEARTWORK, we talk about Isaiah 58:10 a lot. It says,
“If you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.”
So many of us talk ourselves out of believing His commands and promises are relevant for us here and now. We decide we’ll spend ourselves on the people around us once we’re done with school, less busy, have our dream job, or when we’re on the mission field somewhere. But God wants us to spend ourselves today, exactly where we are and on the people around us! And when we do, our lives will shine!
Try out Daniel’s guide to spending yourself. There’s a good chance you’ll bond with God in a really special way as you take the risk to forgive, empty your hands, do something where you are now, and expect Him to be right.