Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Developing a Heart for Service

In Shepherding a Child’s Heart, author Tedd Tripp writes that any activity should be a means to the end of knowing God, and not an end in itself.  We shouldn’t have family worship time, for example, in order to check it off our list of “good and proper things to do,” but as a means of bringing our family closer to God.

In the same way, rather than participating in service activities as an end in itself, we can link these experiences to our role as members of God’s family acting as the hands and feet of Christ in the world.

When I talk to my daughters about the Great Shoulds—things like loving our enemies and obeying our parents and being nice to our sisters—one daughter often responds with a plaintive cry of, “But it’s too ha-aa-ard!” 

And, really, she is expressing with great honesty a cry that many adults might wish to voice when asked to go against the grain of society; to seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8); to serve God by serving others. 

It IS hard. 

But Jesus spoke a very comforting truth when he told his disciples, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).  We find the strength and power to work for God’s glory in Christ.  In fact, we are reminded in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians that “we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10). 

In The Ministry of Motherhood, author Sally Clarkson reminds us that we can ask for the Holy Spirit to help us be aware of what people need most and how we can help.  As we practice looking at other people through Jesus’ eyes, and responding to their real needs as He did, our children will learn to do the same.  It pretty much always requires compassion, often requires humility, and more often than not is a little bit inconvenient, but there is no greater obedience than being part of God’s work in the world. 

Our service is an expression of our gratitude to God—for giving us life, for freeing us from sin, for making us alive in Christ.

In Mind Renewal in Mindless Age:  Preparing to Think and Act Biblically, author James Montgomery Boice spends an entire book “unpacking” Romans 12:1-2, word by word, phrase by phrase.  Take a moment to read this passage, which has so much to offer:
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.  Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing, and perfect will.”
When Boice comes to the phrase “your spiritual act of worship,” he points out that the Greek word for “worship”—latreia—can also mean service, and that the Greek word for “spiritual”—logikos—can also mean rational or reasonable.  So that means that offering ourselves as a living sacrifice—giving ourselves over to God and His purposes, rather than to sin and its consequences—is the logical thing to do “in view of God’s mercy” (Romans 12:1).  God is worthy of our very best efforts!
Jesus washed the dusty feet of his disciples in part to show us that simple daily tasks that require us to sacrifice our pride and perceived positions in society fulfill God’s call to service.  His act IS God’s call to service.  We are to see Christ’s example, and follow Him. 

Serving is investing in eternity, even when we feel like we are helping out in the most mundane of ways.  “The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever” (I John 2:17).

Driving a few bags of children’s clothing to a women’s shelter?  Investing in eternity! 

Delivering groceries to the homebound?  Investing in eternity! 

Cleaning house for a new mom?  Investing in eternity! 

We are made in God’s image; we are, as Sally Clarkson tells us, “designed to reach out to others”!  We were made to be a blessing in the lives of the people around us; we just have to set aside the distractions, temptations, and self-absorbed tendencies that threaten to sidetrack us from our purpose.

To adapt one of Sally Clarkson’s prayers:  “Lord, give us hearts that are open to serve You by serving others.”  Let this be our prayer today!

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