"Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?" (Matt. 19:16)
The man wanted to do a "good thing" so that he could have eternal life. He was looking for something "good" to do. Isn't this human nature?
It reminds me of Naaman, the Syrian official who had leprosy. He was an important man and 2 Kings 5 tells us that he went to the prophet Elijah to be cured of his leprosy. He arrived at Elijah's doorstep with his horses and chariots, probably looking quite distinguished. Naaman was enraged when Elijah himself didn't even come out to meet him. Naaman had pictured that the man of God would come and wave his hand over the leprosy, doing some showy important-looking ceremony, maybe chanting something mystical.... but nothing like that happened. Elijah didn't make a grand appearance. In fact, he didn't even make an appearance at all! He simply sent a messenger and told Naaman to wash in the Jordan River. By the way, the Jordan was much dirtier than many other rivers in Naaman's homeland.
Naaman was not happy. He wanted something big to happen. He didn't want something as lowly as a bath in a dirty river. Fortunately for Naaman, one of his officers said, "if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, 'Wash and be cleansed'!"
Naaman was looking for a "great thing" to do, but he really needed to humble himself and follow what GOD wanted him to do. Similarly, the rich man from Matthew 19 wanted a "good thing" to do, but Jesus just wanted him to become humble (get rid of all of his earthly richness and important status, selling all he had) and come follow the homeless Son of God.
Many times what God wants US--you and me--to do is something very basic, very unimportant.... at least to our eyes. Sometimes we find ourselves asking, "what does God want me to do today?" The answer is often so simple that it escapes our attention. What God wants from us is often something that seems insignificant or unimportant. While we are looking for a "good thing" or a "great thing" to do, we miss the truly important things.
The disciples did this too. They rebuked those who were bringing little children to Jesus (Matt. 19:13). They probably figured that Jesus had more important things to do. But Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me; the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to them." Remember, "Whatever you do to the LEAST of these you do it for me!!!!" Many times it is the "little" things we do for the "least" that matter the MOST to God.
OK, so how can we apply this to US? Well, I think if we don't understand these things then we will be prone to sitting around and not doing anything for God because there is nothing "great" enough to do. Sometimes people get paralyzed because they are thinking of a "ministry" that they can do for God. Their ideas may include helping out at a nursing home, feeding people at a soup kitchen, writing checks for charity, going on a "mission trip", sharing a Bible verse with someone, "witnessing", etc, etc. These are some "great things" to do and people don't end up doing them very often.
God SIMPLY wants us to CARE about the things he cares about. He wants us to LOVE as he loves. There is great simplicity in Christ. He simply wants us to lower ourselves and become the servant of all. If we want to be great in God's eyes (and we should want to have his approval!), then we need to become the servant of all--that's what Jesus taught.
Can we stop looking for the big important things to do? That limits our vision incredibly. Can we simply be real people who want to help in real ways? The believers in Acts devoted themselves to fellowship. Fellowship, by the way, means "the sharing of life". It doesn't always mean "the sharing of Bible studies" or "the sharing of church services". Maybe we can endeavor to "share real life" more? Not big, important "meetings" or monumental tasks to undertake. But maybe we (Believers) can buy groceries together, work in our gardens together, shovel snow together, wash cars together, change oil together, go to the hardware store together, play with our children TOGETHER, eat dinner together, etc, etc.... If we are together more (i.e. if we are devoted to fellowship--sharing life) then we will be around when we are needed at some grass roots level. We'll be around to help out when someone else's child falls and gets a skinned knee. And there'll be many other things too.
But don't be tempted to say, "nothing really important happened today; all we did is go grocery shopping together."
More probably happened than you realized.... you just need to stop looking for a "great river" to wash in and look at all the miracles that happen in the dirty Jordan River. :-)