” …Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be the slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:43-44-45
Christianity was never meant to be a spectator sport. Many view church leaders as the only ones responsible to carry out the ministry of the Church. This mindset often leads to passivity and critical attitudes. Theodore Roosevelt said it well:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done it better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”
Up in the stands, it’s easy to spot what’s wrong with the church. It’s up in this perch that we clearly see how things could be done better. What should be done, but isn’t. The ways the Church should be serving, but isn’t. I believe the message that the LORD has for His Church today is that it’s time to engage in serving. It’s time to set our popcorn down, get suited up and take our place as servants in the arena. Before we can do that, we may need to address the reason why we haven’t been serving. Let’s take a look at a few of those reasons:
Having a consumer mindset. The person with this mindset looks for the church that will meet their needs. Instead of going to church to serve, this person attends church to have their own needs met. This often leads to disappointment and hurt. The solution is to keep our eyes outward, not on ourselves. Be more concerned with loving those we encounter rather than being loved. The ironic thing is, when we keep our eyes off of our own needs, they are more likely to be met. Luke 6 says,
“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
Fear of inadequacy. If we’re going to get up out of the stands and engage in the work of God’s kingdom, it takes courage. It means facing our fear that those still in the stands will judge us when we stumble. Proverbs 29:25 says,
“Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.”
People may criticise us, but that doesn’t make them right. We’re safe when we put our hope in God for adequacy. Fear has the potential to keep us from our destinies. The good news is that God has not given us a spirit of fear! We don’t have to allow fear to dictate our actions. Fear of criticism loses it’s strength as we push past it and engage in the arena. This means doing the hard thing even if we’re afraid.
Emotional pain can also keep us from serving. This can be both a good thing and a bad thing. If we wait until our hearts are completely whole before we serve, we never will. A story is told of soldiers who had just been through a fierce battle. The officer in charge told one of his men to get in the truck and drive. The soldier responded, “But sir, I’m bleeding.” The officer replied, “We’re all bleeding. Get in the truck and drive.” Serving in God’s kingdom can feel that way. We get battered and bruised. Sometimes we feel like we’ve endured so much that we just want to stop. There’s a time to persevere even when serving is hard. It’s in this place that we are wholely dependant on God to give us the strength to keep going. It’s easy to overlook, but we need to ask for His help. This is so obvious, yet easy to overlook.
Having said all this, there is also a time when emotional pain does call for a break from serving. There’s a time for everything; a time to persevere through the pain, and a time to take an extended break from serving. I remember one time when my husband and I had been through such a devastating life event that serving needed to be suspended. For about 2 years we attended a different church specifically with the intention of healing in mind. We allowed the body of Christ to minister to us. We took the time to process the pain.
You may be in a place like this. Perhaps you’re grieving, or suffering the aftermath of abuse or suffering from a long term illness. Whatever the life altering event, your right now your “job” is to take time to heal. This might look like rest, forgiving, seeking wise counsel or allowing yourself time to grieve. The important thing is to say connected to the LORD. Invite Him into your healing process.
Distraction is another reason that some don’t serve. This might not sound like a big deal, but distraction can have serious consequences. Those who achieve great goals have learned the need for sustained focus. They resist the urge to chase every squirrel that runs by. If we allow distraction to steal our focus, we’ll be settling for lesser things. Sustained focus takes sacrifice. Sometimes it means letting opportunities pass us by. It can also mean that we won’t be able to meet everyone else’s expectations. Sustained focus also means pushing through and finishing a job even when we don’t feel like it.
This morning, I got up with the intention of finishing this blog post. I’m just going to be honest. I didn’t feel like doing it. It wasn’t even that there was some super tempting distraction luring me away from writing. It was just insignificant distractions that I felt pulling me in another direction. I’m so thankful that I pressed on past that lure. Once I started writing, I was reminded that I really do love what I do.
Getting caught up in civilian life is another way we can become distracted. This could mean over emphasis on things that matter, but don’t require as much focus as we’re giving it. The story of Mary and Martha is a good example of this. Instead of keeping the meal simple so she could focus on what was important, Martha put more into a meal than was needed. Her distraction cost her a precious gift. God Himself sat in her livingroom, yet she missed it.
Lack of understanding where we fit in the body of Christ can also keep us from serving. We may have preconceived ideas of what it looks like for us to serve that simply aren’t true. Serving may stir images of working in the nursery or vacuming the sanctuary. Although some are called to these tasks, they aren’t for everyone. The good news is that God knows how He wired us. He knows those areas of serving that will satisfy our souls. He leads us into areas of service that are well suited for us…areas that will actually energize us!
A good place to start is taking a spiritual gifts assessment. Investigate how God wired you to serve. Then seek to get plugged in where your spiritual gifts will be used. If you’re a gifted evangelist, then serve God through sharing the gospel. If you’re wired to express yourself artisticly, then serve the kingdom of God with your art. If you’re a teacher, serve through teaching. If you’re wired as a connector, then serve in the Church by connecting people with one another, etc.
Pride is another thing that can keep us from serving. Joy is a reward we recieve when we serve God. Pride is a thief. If we allow it to, pride can steal that joy.
Humility says, “I’ll serve wherever you ask me to, Lord.” Pride says, “You want me to do what??? Do you know who I am?” Jesus Himself demonstrated humility when He washed His disiples’ feet. If Jesus isn’t above taking the position of a lowly servant, who are we to say we’re above it?
Another thing that can keep us from serving is lazyness. Proverbs 21:25 says,
“Despite their desires, the lazy will come to ruin, for their hands refuse to work.”
The diligent aren’t diligent because they feel like it. They press past the temptation to chill out when there’s work to be done. If we’ve been given to lazyiness, repentance is called for.
“A curse on anyone who is lax in doing the LORD’s work!Jeremiah 48:10
Sobering, isn’t it? If we’re lax in doing the LORD’s work, we’ll experience the opposite of blessing on our lives. Why would God allow a curse to fall upon those who are lax in their work? It’s because there are eternal issues at stake. There are lost to be reached. I’m so glad that the man who shared the gospel message with my family didn’t decide to chill that day.
So, what’s the big deal? Why is it so important that we serve? We’ve each been given gifts/talents by God. Jesus tells a parable about the different ways people steward their gifts in Matthew 25. To those who were faithful to put their talents to work, Jesus commended them. He invited them to share in His happiness. As a reward for faithfully stewarding their gifts, they were given more to steward.
The one who didn’t use their talent to bring increase to God’s kingdom was reprimanded:
“You wicked and lazy servant!…Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Strong words, I know. Yet if this is what Jesus warns us will happen if we choose not to serve with our gifts, wouldn’t we want to be warned?
The good news is that today, we get to choose. Will we serve God? Will we use the gifts/talents that He’s given us to build His kingdom? If we do, we’ll enter into our Master’s happiness. What a precious promise!
May you find your delight in serving our Savior,