When We Can’t Do Good


We’ve heard the story of the Good Samaritan numerous times. A lawyer wishing to justify himself asks Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” And our Lord launches into a story of this poor guy travelling on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, who gets attacked by robbers and is left for dead. The priest and the Levite see his limp body and pass by, but the good Samaritan stops to help.

And Jesus says to the lawyer who asked the question, “Go and do likewise”. The Samaritan is the model do-gooder. So it seems.

But I wonder if Jesus was countering the lawyer’s legalism and emphasis on performance with another legalism: “Go and do likewise.” Was it meant to show the lawyer that truth without wisdom and God’s guidance is a trap?

I know of someone who gave two years of her time trying to help her neighbor who was in an abusive relationship. She listened to her neighbor’s story; she met the abusive boyfriend. She heard the daily quarrels, she was there when police were called.  

My dear friend, whose motto is “Do Good,” asked me to come and help. I came, and after 2 hours of listening to her neighbor, I came to the conclusion that she didn’t want help, she didn’t want advice, she didn’t want prayer — although she had said so the day before. She only wanted an additional person to listen to her daily drama.

“One and done,” as my American friend would say. I left.

You cannot help those who don’t want to be helped — even if you see that they desperately need it.   

Here’s another illustration:  

A well-known prophet was the son of missionaries in Brazil, living deep in the jungle, next to the Amazon river. Every so often, his evangelist father would take his motor boat and chug off to preach the gospel to the villagers, tend to new believers, or go down the river a long way off to get fresh supplies. The river was unpredictable. Sometimes, there were storms and the waves would be so rough that ships could be wrecked in the rocks below. 

On one such day, when his father had taken his boat down the river, a storm arose. The wind and the waves were violent, and a ship was wrecked. They heard sailors screaming for help. But there was only his mother and the children. He remembered standing there, watching the sailors struggling in the water and knowing that he didn’t have the strength to swim out, and his mother was standing at the banks, helpless, because she didn’t have the strength either.

After an eternity, they heard the sound of their father’s motorboat in the distance. Father had the boat, father knew where the rocks were, father had the strength and the equipment to help. And his father saved everyone.  

Some of you may be struggling with the fact that you saw someone in need, and you couldn’t help. You were too young, or you didn’t have the strength, or you didn’t have the wisdom. And every time you hear the story of the Good Samaritan, you are reminded of your “failure”, and the devil is tormenting you with that memory. 

God who sees all things, sees your heart. The Lord recognizes your desire to do good. He also knows that you didn’t have the strength, the wisdom and the resources to help.  

Let go of that toxic memory; leave it on the Cross.

// Prayer //

I command the accuser of the brethren to leave; you will no longer condemn those who couldn’t help because they were too young, they didn’t have the strength, the knowledge, the wisdom to help someone in need; Lord, will you remove the poison of those accusations, restore their soul and give them peace. Grant them insight and knowledge of Your true heart towards them. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Mary and Eve

Mary and Eve, created by Sr. Grace Remington

Two vulnerable women, separated by centuries; the first, newly created, freshly made to enjoy Eden and not quite knowing the subtleties of the serpent. Young, innocent and separated from her husband for a while, the snake struck. “Is God really good?” it asked. “Has He really your good in mind? Or is He keeping His best from you?” Each word was a smoky tentacle reaching into the recesses of Eve’s brain, manipulating her thoughts, convincing her of the rightness of the serpent’s reasoning. Within her, something was saying, ‘No, no, no! That’s not right!”

But her mind was slowly convinced, controlled by the subtle lies of the serpent, agreeing with him that God was holding out His best from her. And so, she took the fruit, and ate. And Adam, coming in the last minute and watching the subtle deception that was taking place, drawn into the strangely hypnotic scene, took the fruit from Eve, and ate. Then the spell was broken. And God’s heart was broken.

Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”

The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” (Gen 3:13, NIV)

But God had a plan.

“I will put enmity
    between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
    and you will strike his heel.”
(Gen 3:15, NIV)

The serpent used an innocent woman to spring his evil plan of destruction of the human race. God would also use an innocent woman, a virgin, to spring His plan of redemption of the human race.

The battlefield is in the mind. Whom are you going to believe, this Christmas?

Dealing with Life’s Disappointments

It’s the time of the year when many of us look back at our goals and desires — and we may return from that self-imposed inventory with an empty feeling, a sense of desolation and abandonment and the eternal question, “Why, God? Why, when I’ve prayed so hard, and tried so hard?”

Therapeutic Garden, Bishan Park, Singapore

When I was a new Christian freshly baptized in the Spirit, I was asking God for many things, and it seemed like He was indulging me quite a bit! Among the many things, I asked for my dream job — a certain position in a magazine, a certain pay — and the owners were willing to accommodate! I was excited. But I also had an uneasy feeling as there was a sense of disapproval coming from Him. It was as if he was saying, “I’m giving it to you because you asked for it, but it won’t do you good.” I backed out.

Then, God gave me His Plan A. He led me into full-time ministry — it took nine years altogether from being a new Christian hearing His call, then working my way into theological college and into a full-time position as a church worker. I was in charge of the prayer ministry — He had the perfect position for me, and it has been a rich, fulfilling 21 years on which I look back with no regret and much satisfaction. He knew exactly what He made me for, and He put me into the right path.

Then, there was another prayer request: I was still single. There were a few relationships I had as a pre-Christian, but I had no peace in any of them. When the Lord became a more constant factor in my life, He made it crystal clear I had to let go of the current boyfriend. And it was easy, because I loved God so much more.

So, my prayers for a life partner were answered with a “No”. Was I upset? Yes. Was I disappointed? Yes. But after expressing my deep disappointment with Him — not once, but many times — there gradually came a peace and rest in my spirit. I didn’t get what I wanted, but He gave me what I needed — His peace and rest, His presence, love and guidance, and so much more revelation of Him and His Creation than I’d ever dreamed of or imagined.

My experience has been that when we’re willing to trust Him, He will lead us into the more abundant life. God may sometimes deny us our requests, but He always fulfills His promises.

So my question is, are you willing to trust His much greater wisdom?

A Little Piece of Heaven

She stands in the midst of all the glory of the worship and praise of God in heaven surrounded by innumerable numbers of heavenly beings, and there’s a sudden hush and all eyes turn on her as the Lord beckons her forth. And she’s eager, excited, eyes shining in anticipation; she has been waiting since the beginning of time for this assignment on Earth… And as the Lord beckons, the silence deepens. And He looks into her eyes right into the very core of her. 

And she’s liquid and yet solid, she’s malleable like gold and tougher than diamond; fragile, beautiful and complex like a cobweb laced with morning dew sparkling in the sun and yet… stronger than titanium. And then she is sent forth with nothing but a little piece of heaven in her tiny hand and with the admonition, “Never let that go”. That’s all she has, but that’s all she needs.  

And in all the ensuing battles on earth, she has held on, and held on, and held on. When the winds were howling and darkness was assailing, that little piece of heaven held her, sustained her, healed her. That faint memory of how it was, how it is, and how it will be. A steadfast, stubborn faithfulness to the call of God in the midst of everything telling her to give up, get out, compromise, turn your back… 

The movies tell us heroes are tough guys with amazing weapons, physical strength and extraterrestrial power that will knock out all their enemies. That’s a lie. The real heroine is one who knocks out all her enemies by staying faithful to His call in spite of… everything.  And that is so stunningly beautiful.