This weekend as the Church leaves the building it gives us the opportunity to take a look as to why we serve. Our friend, Rick Warren founding pastor of Saddleback Church has some great thoughts to share:
We Serve God by Serving Others
Many 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, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.” (Galatians 5:13)
We are not saved by serving, but we are saved for serving. The Apostle Paul gives three insights related to this:
First, the basis for serving others is salvation. Paul says, “You were called to be free.” You cannot serve God until you’ve been set free by Jesus. It’s the prerequisite for serving.
Until you experience the transforming power of God’s grace in your life, you’re too enslaved by your own hurts, habits, and hang-ups to think much about others. [Editor’s Note: Read that again, great statement]
Without the freedom of forgiveness, you’ll end up serving for the wrong reasons: trying to earn the approval of others, trying to run away from your pain, trying to remedy your guilt, trying to impress God. Service motivated by these illegitimate reasons is bound to leave you burned out and bitter in the end.
Second, the barrier to serving others is selfishness. Paul warns, “Do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature.” The number one reason we don’t have the time or energy to serve others is that we’re preoccupied with our own agendas, dreams, and pleasures.
Only a small minority of people use their lives to serve others, but Jesus said, “If you insist on saving your life, you will lose it. Only those who throw away their lives for my sake and for the sake of the Good News will ever know what it means to really live.” (Mark 8:35, LB)
Third, the motive for serving is love. Paul says, “Serve one another in love.” This is an important key to building community: 1 Corinthians 13:3 records, “No matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.” (MSG)
God is far more interested in why you serve others than in how well you serve them. He’s always looking at your heart, serving willingly and eagerly out of love for Jesus and gratitude for all he’s done for you.
You are most like Jesus when you’re serving others. After washing his disciples’ feet, Jesus said, “I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you.” (John 13:14–15 NLT)
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We know many of you have already been participating in Serve Your City, but as we approach this weekend when the Church leaves the Building, here are a few steps to actively serve others like Jesus.
Six Semi-Inconvenient Steps to Serve Like Jesus
1. Check Your Position
We can only serve others well when we actively decide to take on the role of a servant. This seems obvious, but missing this step can lead to doing more harm than good. In the life of Jesus, we find countless examples where he took on the role of servant. From choosing to wash the feet of his disciples to living among us as an ordinary man, Christ continually humbled himself for the sake of others and serve people.
It’s easy to unconsciously view ourselves as the “saviors” of those that we serve. This is a slippery slope. If we are truly to model ourselves after Jesus, we really have to believe that everyone is just as important as us. That is how God sees it. We are all equal. And, we are called to serve His other children. By positioning ourselves in this way, we set aside our personal agenda and elevate the importance of each person we are serving.
We must enter the situation with a pure heart to serve. Nothing more, nothing less.
2. Take The Time
I learned this from my sister. I actually learned everything in this blog from my sister. Not by her words, but by her actions.
It’s easy to assume we know what’s best for others and to simply give them that material thing or write a check. But, if we seek to serve others well, the best thing we can do is take the time to get to know people and honor them with a listening ear. If we skip this step, we make it a lot more about the good feeling we get from helping than we do about actually serving them. We make it about us instead of them.
If we show up to build a shed, paint a wall, or landscape a field but don’t take the time to look into the resident’s eyes or learn their name, what impact have we really made? There is so much power in being intentional with the relationships we build. While the project is important, sometimes sitting down with someone and listening to their story does a lot more than a fresh coat of paint.
3. Lessons from My Sister
Every person deserves to be seen and heard. It is what gives us life. Years ago, my sister was a project manager on a project where landscaping, painting, cabinetry and other items were done. Instead of just performing tasks, executing the project and calling it a day, my sister looked in the eyes of the residents. She learned their names, asked their stories, and shared her own. With each story, a face was put to the circumstances, situation or condition. It made it real. It also build relationship(s).
The world needs change. We all know this. When we have the opportunity to hear other’s stories, we have the opportunity to share and shed light on the things of this world that need change.
I absolutely love what my sister had to say, “When someone in an unfortunate situation shares their story and I am there to receive it, I am so often blown away. They share the most tragic, heart-wrenching circumstances, yet they are still there. They have victory over their story. They are still standing. They still exhibit grace, and mercy and love. Where the world showed them no love, they still have love to give. It is the power of the “Holy Spirit.”
It is why we cannot judge others. Only God knows their heart. Only God knows that person intimately. God can see what I can’t. God declares this person of value. It is the thread that runs through all of mankind. God calls us worthy, and He decides.”
When we serve, it is for the people, the residents, the clients, yet given the opportunity go for the stories, it’ll change you.
4. Be Inconvenienced
When we listen to others, their needs might surprise us. By simply making the statement, “Let me know how I can help,” we’re opening ourselves up to a world of needs, not just the ones that are convenient or fit nicely into the time we’ve arranged. This often requires us to change our plans, and it may cause us to serve in ways that stretch us beyond simply where we see ourselves as “gifted.” It may also challenge our comfort level.
But the act of caring might not always require big, dramatic action. It may be simple. Caring for another person might mean going against what was originally planned. It may mean going back to the store for a specific shade of paint, or picking up new towels or some cans of food. In my sister’s case, it was helping some residents get to the bank or the grocery store. Years later, it’s still trips to doctors’ appointments, Starbucks outings, shopping trips, and help with paperwork snafus. Not always convenient, but she always rearranged her schedule to make it work – still does.
5. Recognize You Might Not Be the Whole Solution
When we’ve listened to the full magnitude of someone’s brokenness, it can often be incredibly discouraging. We all have a natural inclination to want to either fix everything or create distance from what we can’t fix. But when we seek to serve others in light of how Christ served us, we can take comfort in knowing we are rarely the whole solution, that we may be one small part of a much grander plan, and that’s okay.
To serve others well, we need to have faith that we are ultimately serving someone greater. God is the one who will bring true change to people’s lives and circumstances. It is our job to love people where they are at. We can never fix it all. Quite simply, it’s not our job. But we are called to step forward.
6. Allow Yourself to Be Changed
Be open to being influenced and changed by the people you seek to serve. This creates avenues for mutual respect and, ultimately, mutual change. When you listen and share, it levels the playing field and communicates to the person you’re serving that they have value, and that they matter.
The more time we spend examining what it means to serve others well, it comes down to allowing our lives to be interrupted. Serving others means making space for their existence and seeing them as valuable and worthy to serve and be served, simply because God views them that way.
When we’re struggling to make sense of how we could ever live out a life of service to others, I hope we’ll remember the words of Jesus:
“Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.”
– Matthew 10:39
In Service to God and You,