I didn’t know if my granddaughter had learned her colors yet, so I decided to test her. I would point out something and ask what color it was. She would tell me, and always she was correct. But it was fun for me, so I continued. At last she headed for the door, saying sagely, “Grandma, I think you should try to figure out some of these yourself!”
We all want our lives to matter. It’s the reason we do much of what we do. We chase promotions and want leadership positions because we want to make a difference according to how we see things. We encourage our kids to study hard and do what they love in hopes that they will be someone who can be out front. But hopefully somewhere along the line we learn something better and deeper: The greatest leaders are the greatest servers. Those who make the best impact are those who consider how to improve and change the lives of other people.
The best people don’t feel they’re losing when someone else is gaining. John the Baptizer said it for all when he said Christ must increase and I must decrease. To be a servant means you’re not singing so people will tell you how wonderful you are. I don’t preach so that people will come up to me later to tell me good stuff about my message. That’s not serving. That’s boasting.
Scripture says pride goes before the fall. We hurt ourselves eventually when we make too much of ourselves. Service goes before victory, or rather being a servant leads to victories. The servant can only go up. The proud can only go down. The Lord looks to bless those who wait upon him to turn things in your favor. So, train yourself to see yourself as a servant. Keep humility close by your heart and you will restrain yourself from saying and doing things you would have soon regretted. Let God be your cheering section.
A lot of people get stuck on the idea that having a servant mentality means they’re to serve someone else. There’s nothing wrong with it but it’s not the truth. We’re to serve the Lord. Or, we’re to serve the situation so the Lord’s will prevails. Put your skills and time at God’s disposal, and let the Lord decide whose life will be changed. Offer to God your service and let the Lord apportion to whom and to what is in God’s mind to give.
This is also why we don’t have to have it all together or to be great or in the prime of our lives to be God’s servants for good. Did you know that
dead trees are essential to forest ecosystems? In fact, when timber is harvested, logging contracts often require that a certain number of dead trees are left standing on each acre of land. Why? Those snags provide habitat for all kinds of wildlife. Birds, squirrels, honeybees, raccoons, skunks, foxes, opossums, and even black bears may live in them. Although no longer flourishing as they once did, those trees still nurture life.
Sometimes, we may feel that our usefulness to God has run its course. For whatever reason, we find ourselves unable to serve as we did in the past, in ways that are meaningful to us.
However, God is not limited by our abilities. The Lord has often worked through people in surprising ways. When there was a terrible drought in Israel, God didn’t send Elijah to a wealthy family with a well-stocked pantry. Elijah went to a widow down to her last meal for herself and her son. God provided for all three of them until the drought ended.God decreased the size of Gideon’s army twice before they were sent to fight the Midianites.
Sometimes God uses our strength and sometimes our weakness. Scripture says, “Keep busy always in your work for the Lord, since you know that nothing you do in the Lord’s service is ever useless.” This doesn’t mean busy in the terms of strength but in terms of what is still yours.
I know someone who builds me up almost each Sunday after worship when she talks to me. She can’t do as much for the church as she used to be able to do but her words encourage and give me strength. She gives me life through her words.
The best relationships are not always equal relationships, but they are serving relationships. One helps another, and the other helps in return. We do not always know how we may be profit from what we do, but we serve anyway. Believing God will make the most of our good works, Christians are willing to serve a higher good.
Find your avenues of service. Make your life reach into a larger sphere. The Lord can always find a good use out of a good heart.
The truth is, too many make all sorts of explanations for not serving. I don’t have time. I don’t know what I would do. I don’t have any special skills to contribute. They don’t need me. But the reality is the Lord doesn’t call the equipped; God equips the called. Just get the heart necessary.
One person remembered… “It was a bitter cold day in December. The temperature was below freezing, and the windchill was dangerously low. I had just picked up my daughter, Jocelyn, from preschool when I spotted an
elderly lady walking along the sidewalk. All bundled up in a parka, she was doing her best to shield herself from a fierce headwind. She was tiny and couldn’t have weighed more than one hundred pounds.
As I drove past her, I sensed the Lord saying, “You should stop.” I kept driving. I’m too busy, I thought. It’s inconvenient. I just want to get home for lunch. After about thirty seconds, though, my desire to obey the prompting of the Holy Spirit was greater than the selfishness of my flesh. I turned the car around. I headed toward the woman and pulled up beside her.
“It’s too cold for anyone to be out in this weather. Can I give you a ride?” I asked. “Yes, that would be nice,” she said quietly. Her nose was dripping, so I quickly handed her a tissue and helped her into the front seat. Once she got settled, I introduced myself and my daughter. When I asked her name, she said, “Georgia.”
Georgia was on her way to the bank, which was more than a mile away.
As I drove in that direction, I found out She’d never married or had children but had worked for many years as a kindergarten teacher. Judging by her kind disposition and warm personality, I was sure she was an excellent one.
After we left the bank, I took Georgia home. I was surprised to learn she lived in our neighborhood. Georgia invited us to come inside her house. In the middle of Georgia’s living room were at least fifty stuffed animals, all placed neatly in rows, facing a small television, much like a classroom setting. Georgia introduced me to her “babies” and took great pride in showing them off. Most of the animals were battery-powered, and they would sing or talk at the push of a button. It made me sad to think the voices of those animals were probably the only sounds that broke the silence in Georgia’s world.
Next, she led us into her kitchen. I saw she didn’t have a refrigerator. “Georgia, what do you do for food? You do eat, don’t you?” I asked. “Yes, when I’m out walking.” Georgia told me that she would grab something at a restaurant or grocery store if she got hungry. “If,” I thought.
Georgia then showed us her sunroom. Thick black plastic covered the windows. She pulled aside one “curtain” to reveal what was behind it. Two cans of fruit cocktail and one can of mandarin oranges sat on the windowsill. It was her pantry. As Georgia wrapped up the tour of her house, I told her I’d come to see her again. After giving Georgia a hug, I said
goodbye, and Jocelyn and I left. On our way home, I called my husband at work to tell him what had happened.
“Justin, we have to do something,” I said. God had put this precious lady in my path for a reason, and I knew it wasn’t just to give her a ride. That night, the Feola family had a very special guest for dinner.
God will put someone in our path whom we can serve today. Let’s consider their needs and serve them gladly.
Serving is good for your soul. Volunteering is so good for the mind and body that it can ease symptoms of stress and depression. Tapping into our gifts and passions builds self-confidence, energy, and strength. Serving others can also be the best distraction from our own worries.
Some people have the misconception that being “called” by God is something only missionaries, pastors, nuns, and other church leaders experience. But the Bible says everyone is called to serve God by serving others: “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.”
We are free to serve or not to serve. But someone who truly has the Lord in her heart and loves Christ seeks to serve others. Our salvation reveals itself in our serving. As someone said, “We are not saved by serving, but we are saved for serving.” Let the urge to be more like Christ take hold of you. Be willing to lay down selfish concerns and lift up Christ’s life in you instead. In John 2, Jesus was at a wedding and the family was running out of wine for its guests. He tells the servants to fill several huge water jars to the brim. When they served the drink to the guests, it was wine! The guests never knew what happened; only the servants were the ones who witnessed the miracle. The same is true for us when we serve because serving allows us to experience the joy and peace that comes from seeing God do good in our world.
Don’t take such an eternal pleasure on earth for granted. Nothing is better than participating in God blessing lives. Be willing to serve. Make yourself available for whatever God has called you to do.
Can the church say Amen?