At Gateway Church in South Austin, we began a new series called Hope for the Nations.
The holiday season often includes us celebrating the birth of Jesus. But when we celebrate Jesus, we don’t just celebrate a great teacher or a person who did good deeds—we celebrate the One who rescued humanity and brought hope to all the nations. And because of who Jesus was, our world has seen great leaders who were influenced by His story, like Gandhi. How can we see Jesus’ influence through Gandhi’s legacy, and how can we make sure that others see Jesus’ influence through our lives, too?
Work through the following questions and Scriptures on your own, and get together with your running partner, life group, or friends and family to talk through what you are learning.
Message Notes from the Teaching Team:
Have you ever struggled with the question: “why do good?”
Doing good isn’t without cost, but it can feel good.
But Why do good?
Even if it doesn’t do anything for us?
• Why go out of my way to help a co-worker?
• Why take the time to help a neighbor?
• Why buy a meal for a homeless person?
• Why should I do good to other people?
• What good does that do me?
That’s the question we’re going to answer today as we look at Jesus’ teachings through the life of Mother Teresa.
If you ask your neighbors of coworkers who they most admire from the last 100 years, Gandhi, MLK, and Mother Teresa are most named. As we head into Christmas, we’re looking at how the things culture admires most about them is the very areas where they lived out what Jesus taught.
Jesus came to bring Hope to the Nations—he did that through Mother Teresa and he will do the same thing through you if you let him.
Mother Teresa’s Early Years
Mother Teresa was born in 1910 to Albanian parents
• Her given name is Agnes Bojaxhiu (bo-hack-yoo).
• She grew up in Macedonia where her father was a business man and outspoken advocate for Macedonian independence.
• He died of poisoning, some think by political enemies, when Agnes was only 8.
• They were devout Catholics, and her mother had a huge heart of compassion.
• Agnes would often eat with people in need that her mother invited in to their home.
• It was at a retreat at age 12 that Agnes faith became her own.
• At age 18, she left home to join the sisters of Loreto in Dublin Ireland.
• There she took the name, Sister Mary Teresa.
• A year later, in 1929, Sister Teresa moved to India, where she was assigned to teach in a High School in Calcutta, teaching the poorest Bengali girls.
• Teresa learned both Bengali and Hindi and became fluent in both languages to serve and teach these girls.
• After 7 years of teaching, Teresa took her final vows as a nun.
• To her the vows were less about poverty, chastity, and obedience, and more about a love relationship with God.
A Personal Relationship with God: Our Motivation
You see, that is what God wants – an actual and personal relationship with you.
We can have a real relationship with God – the Creator of the Universe because He has revealed Himself to us! That’s what we celebrate at Christmas—God reveals himself in human form to demonstrate His love to win your heart.
Mother Teresa said:
“Why must we give ourselves fully to God? Because God has given Himself to us. If God who owes nothing to us is ready to impart to us no less than Himself, shall we answer with just a fraction of ourselves.”
Her vows were all about wanting to show love to Jesus for His love for her.
Love was her motivation—and that’s important—because all other motivations would not have sustained her faithful service.
And by the way, no other motivation will sustain your faithful service—not guilt, not trying to prove you’re good, not fear of punishment—only God’s love will sustain a life of doing good.
So after her vows, she was called Mother Teresa.
On Sundays, she would go to the slums to visit the families of girls she taught.
In her private writings “Come Be My Light” she says:
“Every Sunday I visit the poor in Calcutta’s slums. I cannot help them, because I do not have anything, but I go to give them joy. Last time about 20 little ones were eagerly expecting “Ma.” When they saw me they ran to meet me.”
She notes that 12 families were living in one house, every family had only 1 room, 6×4 feet.
As she left, the Indian mother said
“Oh Ma, come again! Your smile brought sun into this house!”
Her prayer that day in her Journal was: “Oh God, how easily I make them happy. Give me strength to always be the light of their lives and so lead them to You!”
Less than a decade later, her prayer would be answered.
“D0 Small Things With Great Love”
These conditions still exist for millions today in the areas we partner.
• In India, Burundi Africa, Haiti. John took this footage right near the Hospital we helped build with Jaya in Rajamundhry India from our Year end giving a few years ago.
• Our year-end giving will help fund 10 pastors to meet physical and spiritual needs in 10 villages poorer than this.
• We are selling scarves made by woman in India. Your purchase is helping them start their own sewing business to care for their families.
Many times it feels like the need is overwhelming, but Mother Teresa would say:
“Don’t look for big things, just do small things with great love.”
That’s how God brings hope to the nations—through each of us doing the small things He prompts us to do out of great love for God.
Mother Teresa found such joy in loving God, that she made it her ambition to hold back nothing from Him.
She was later quoted as saying:
“Many people mistake our work for our vocation. Our vocation is the love of Jesus.”
For her, all of life was lived as an act of loving surrender and trust in Jesus.
Hers was not a life of religious ritual—that can happen for nuns, priest, pastors, ordinary Christians. We can lose our first love and just do the motions.
But Mother Teresa understood that spending time alone, quietly reading the scriptures, seeking to listen to God’s inner promptings (the very things included in Soul Revolution – the book we give away when you turn in your Connect Card. These disciplines help us abide in Christ.
Connecting with God daily, that was Mother Teresa’s life’s practice.
Mother Teresa would often say:
“In the silence of the heart God speaks”
The conviction came from trying to live constantly attune to God’s voice within—not an audible voice—a quiet prompting thought that required being willing to say: “Yes, I will. I love you.”
“I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world.” Mother Teresa
That was her attitude—I just allow God to write his love letter to others through me.
“We are all pencils in the hand of God.”
What are you allowing Him to write through you in the small acts of kindness you do for others?
That’s why we do good.
It’s important to remember: Mother Teresa had nothing great to offer the world, but she offered herself to God, and God took her small acts of love and multiplied them.
God doesn’t need you to do great things or feed every starving kid. He wants you to love Him enough to respond to whatever He’s asking—great or small.
Mother Teresa’s Second Calling
So it was September 10, 1946, she was in the Himalayas for a retreat, listening for God’s leading when she had a profound encounter with Jesus she called her “2nd Calling.”
• She felt Jesus was saying to her, “My own little one…come, come and carry Me into the holes of the poor. Come, be My light.”
• It was the beginning of the Missionaries of Charity she would form a year later—giving up teaching to move into the slums with the Dalits (the untouchables).
• Of the mission, she wrote: “The Particular End is to carry Christ into the homes and streets of the slums, among the sick, dying, the beggars and the little street children…to labour at the salvation and sanctification (spiritual growth) of the poorest of the poor.”
• During that time, Mother Teresa felt Jesus asking her to leave the look of a nun to identify with the poor of India.
• She wrote in her journal the message she felt she was hearing from Jesus:
• “You will dress in simple Indian clothes…your sari will become…My Symbol…the poor I want you to bring to Me. Do not fear, I will be with you always—Trust Me lovingly.”
• She felt Jesus wanted her relatable to the people she was serving.
This is how all of us who follow Jesus should be. We are not to hide from the world or act better than the world, but we are to go into the world as a light. This is an important thing to realize as this is why we do so much of what we do here at Gateway
With that clear call, a year later, Mother Teresa moved into the slums of Calcutta wearing a simple, poor Indian Sari.
• She had very little to offer, some basic medical training, not much money, but a big love from a big God.
• Today she is known all over the Globe.
• How did that happen?
• This was not her plan, she said:
“I don’t know what the success will be—but if [we] have brought joy to one unhappy home—made one innocent street child keep pure for Jesus—one dying person to die in peace with God—it would be worthwhile offering everything, because that one would bring great joy to the Heart of Jesus.”
Jesus’ Plan to Change the World
One Life—Loving Everyone Life by Life as we say it—is Jesus plan to change the world.
Is that your plan for greatness—to love and serve one life at a time?
All other greatness will fade, but that greatness will last forever.
That’s what motivated Mother Teresa.
She lived her life by the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25:31-46) She wrote:
“When Christ said, ‘I was hungry and you fed me,’ he didn’t mean only hunger of bread and for food; he also meant hunger to be loved.”
Let’s look at what Jesus taught in Matthew 25:31
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne.”
I don’t want to just gloss over this: Have you ever heard someone say Jesus never claimed to be God ?
Well, throughout his ministry, Jesus referred to Himself as the Son of Man as in this passage. This is a reference to the prophet Daniel, a Jewish Prophet writing around 500 BC, has a vision:
“In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him.” Daniel 7:13-14
Understand, in a Monotheistic Jewish culture whose creed was, “There is Only One God, worship God only”—yet the prophet Daniel says Ancient of Days (God) gives his authority, glory, and power to a Son of Man that all nations will worship?
This is the mystery of God the Father, revealed in the Son written 500 years before Jesus came that first Christmas. 61 times, God foretold that first Christmas.
The Son of Man reference means Jesus was proclaiming He was the One who the prophets foretold, the hope of all nations. Jesus affirms this:
32 All the nations will be gathered before him
The Son of Man, Jesus, is for all nations.
Did you know that the word “hope” in the Hebrew Scriptures was always connected to a person?
• It’s not empty hope, it is hope based on the trustworthiness of God.
• We have hope that He will rescue us, restore us, use us to bring His life and freedom to others (to bring heaven to earth through us), and ultimately make all things right.
Ok, let’s keep going. Jesus says:
32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:31-40
This was how Mother Teresa could care for smelly, flesh-rotting lepers most would run from—yet she cared for them like a mother cares for her child. How? How can we care for people that others discard, or mock, or despise, or avoid?
Jesus in Disguise
Mother Teresa said:
“Each one of them is Jesus in disguise.”
Each person is Jesus in disguise. That’s a great motto for us to adopt.
• When you love and build into kids in Next Gen, you love Jesus in disguise;
• when you serve hungry people through our food pantry, you feed Jesus in disguise.
• When you greet new people every Sunday, you greet Jesus in disguise.
• When God prompts you to help a person in need, you help Jesus in disguise.
• When you visit someone in the hospital, you visit Jesus in disguise.
• When you take soup to a sick family, you take soup to Jesus in disguise.
• When your in-laws or relatives come for Christmas…[pause] the ones you can’t stand…when you are kind or loving to them, you are kind to Jesus in disguise (and let’s be honest, He can get really, really well disguised—right!?)
This isn’t just an imaginary exercise—this IS what Jesus said.
Mother Teresa preached Matthew 25 whenever she could.
• She would hold up her hand with the five fingers extended she would say these five words while closing each finger: “You-did-it-to-me.”
• This was her secret that can become your secret “You-did-it-to-me.”
• Everything she did she viewed as an opportunity to love Jesus—the smaller the thing, the harder the task, the smellier or dirtier or more difficult the person, the greater the love she could express to Jesus – You-did-it-to-me [do hand gesture].
But Jesus didn’t stop there…He continues in Matthew 25 saying,
41 “Then he [the King] will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’” – Matthew 25:31-45.
It’s important that we interpret the Scriptures with the Scriptures.
This passage seems to make it sound like eternal salvation comes only through our good works. Something must be going on here because that is not consistent with other things Jesus said, like:
God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:16-17
Belief or trust/faith in Jesus is all God needs to make us eternally right with God.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith [belief or trust]—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. Ephesians 2:8-9
So salvation, right standing with God for eternity is a gift. Like every Christmas gift, you don’t earn it or work for it, you just receive it with Gratitude.
Have you received God’s Christmas gift of forgiveness and eternal relationship with God?
All you need is to receive the gift—tell you want it—that’s salvation.
So what did Jesus mean to those who refused the help the least of these when He said,
“Depart from me, I never knew you?”
Well that’s the key—He never knew them–they never truly gave their hearts or lives to him.
In other words, an authentic love for God, when you accept his gift of forgiveness and right-relatedness that Jesus purchased for us on the cross—that authentic faith-relationship produces loving actions more and more with time.
James, Jesus’ half-brother, said it this way:
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. James 2:18
Authentic faith is a relationship with God.
This relationship produces a growing love and desire to serve people over time. It doesn’t mean we don’t struggle, stumble or fail to do good, even with an authentic love for God. But if your heart is really to love God first, over the years, you will grow to love people better.
So 1948, Mother Teresa moved into the slums of Calcutta and cared for two dying people.
• She writes, “the woman was dying more of starvation than TB I think. What poverty. What actual suffering. I gave her something to help her sleep…I felt my own poverty too—for I had nothing to give that poor woman.”
• And yet, she continued to give what she could—as love and care for Jesus, and that multiplied. Some people mocked her, they called her “The slum sister.”
• But as God spread her reputation, others joined, and by 1950 12 women, mostly former Indian students or teachers, had joined her in the work, some Indian doctors volunteered.
• They provided medical care, did Sunday school for 26 street children, it grew to 350 in 6 months.
• They took the abandoned on the streets to the hospital.
• She began an open-air school and established a home for the dying destitute in a dilapidated donated building.
• As the ranks of her congregation swelled, donations poured in from around India and across the globe, the scope of Mother Teresa’s work expanded exponentially.
All the while, Mother Teresa struggled with depression as she writes about in Come Be My Light.
All of us suffer, all struggle, even those who do the most good. If we wait to do good until we have no struggles, we will never do good.
“I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish that He didn’t trust me so much.”
It wasn’t her feelings that sustained her good deeds, it was her love for God and her assurance that Jesus’ words were true: in every Kind Act—”You did it to me.”
Over the course of the 1950s and 1960s, she established a leper colony, an orphanage, a nursing home, a family clinic and a string of mobile health clinics.
• Her work spread to other countries, and in 1979 she was given the Nobel Peace Prize for bringing Hope to many nations.
• Today the Missionaries of Charity have over 5,500 sisters active in 139 countries, caring for refugees, former prostitutes, the mentally ill, sick children, abandoned children, lepers, people with AIDS, the aged and convalescent.
• When she died in 1997, Gallup Poll found Mother Teresa was the most admired person of the century.
The Path to Greatness
But I want you to think about her path to Greatness.
She didn’t set out to do great things, and she didn’t have anything to offer.
Maybe you feel you have nothing to offer—what can I do, you see what you don’t have, or what you’re lacking, but it wasn’t what Mother Teresa had that changed our world—it was living out a simple truth, in small ways, with great love: “You-did-it-to-me.”
You have a chance to minister to people as “Jesus in disguise” –they’re all around us.
Yes, there is still horrible physical poverty in the world, and as a Church Community, we’re doing something as we partner with those on the ground in India, Haiti, Burundi…but Mother Teresa thought there was a worse kind of poverty than physical poverty. Listen carefully to what she said:
“Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.”
You can help alleviate physical poverty with us this Christmas—as we give generously above our normal giving, we can give $100,000 to our partners.
As you do remember Who you’re giving to “You-did-it-to-Me”, but in many ways, that’s the least sacrificial love for us to give in the land of plenty.
Mother Teresa said:
“It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us…Bring love into your home for this is where our love for each other must start…be concerned about your next door neighbor. Do you know your next-door neighbor?”
Give generously, but also give your time to serve others–that’s the path to greatness in God’s Kingdom.
• It’s not the big things, but the little things done with great love that make the greatest difference.
• Those are the Great Ones in God’s Economy.
We have many Great Ones around here you’d never know about, because they’ve done small things with great love for a long time—God has used their faithfulness to make a great difference for people.
As we near Christmas, I want to leave you with the question of Mother Teresa:
“Do you really know the living Jesus – not from books but from being with Him in your heart? Have you heard the loving words He speaks to you?… The devil may try to use the hurts of life, and sometimes our own mistakes – to make you feel it is impossible that Jesus really loves you, is really cleaving to you. This is a danger for all of us. And so sad, because it is completely the opposite of what Jesus is really wanting, waiting to tell you. Not only that He loves you, but even more – He longs for you.”
This Christmas, let’s love him back in every small act, remembering, “You-Did-It-To-Me”