Serving As Christ Served

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Philippians 1:27-30

A beggar at a street corner, with bony hands and pallid lips, asked for alms.
The passerby searched his pockets and found that he was without money. Then he took the beggar’s hand in his and said: “I’m sorry, my brother, but I have nothing with me.” The worn face lighted up, and the beggar said: “But you called me brother – that is a great gift.” That is what humankind needs most of all, a love that extends the heart to another and calls him brother or sister.

Without love, almsgiving is no more important an action than brushing our hair or washing our hands. The Pharisees had an elaborate ritual for those things because all these things were prescribed by law. But love does not give money, it gives itself. If it gives itself first and a lot of money too, that is all the better. But first it must sacrifice itself.

God has three sorts of servants in the world: Some are slaves, and serve Him from fear; Others are hirelings, and serve for wages; And the last are sons, who serve because they love.”

My roommate from college worked a number of years with the Wycliffe Bible Translators. He shared with me a time some translators were endeavoring to translate the New Testament in the Cakchiquel language in Guatemala.
They were spending seven and eight hours a day on translation. “We feel like hurrying,” he wrote home, “but then we realize that the work must be done well, and so we plod on.” The Cakchiquel preacher Trinidad Bac was Cam’s most helpful critic. If a meaning wasn’t clear to Bac, he didn’t hesitate to say so or to suggest an alternative. He knew the colorful Cakchiquel idioms better than anyone and would explain them in vivid detail. For example, he told Cam that the expression for “neighbor,” when broken down, meant, “your companion in cootie cracking.” A good neighbor, Bac explained, is one “who will pick your cooties without pulling your hair.”

Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.” (Mark 9:35) A man was watching his 80-year-old neighbor planting a small peach tree. He inquired of him as follows: “You don’t expect to eat peaches from that tree, do you?” The old man rested on his spade. He said, “No, at my age I know I won’t. But all my life I’ve enjoyed peaches — never from a tree I planted myself. I’m just trying to payback the other fellows who planted the trees for me.”

True servanthood is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever the cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever the cost. It is a pleasant thought that when you help a fellow wayfarer up a mountain side, you get nearer the top yourself.

During hard times in the darkness of winter in an Alaskan Eskimo village a young man of unequaled courage would go out into the bitter cold in search of food for his people. Armed only with a pointed stick and his compassion for his starving village, he would wander, anticipating the attack of a polar bear. Having no natural fear of humans, a polar bear will stalk and eat a man. In the event of an attack the Eskimo hunter waves his hands and spear to anger the bear and make him rise up on his hind legs to over ten feet in height; and then, with the spear braced to his foot, the hunter aims for the heart as the weight of the bear comes down upon his spear. With heart pierced, the bear lives long enough to maim or kill this noble hunter. But loving family and friends follow his tracks out of the village to find food for their survival and evidence of profound courage. Early missionaries proclaimed to attentive ears that Jesus Christ is the “Good Hunter” who lays down his life for the world.

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. We must all use the gifts that we have. The woods would be silent if only the best birds sing.

Our Christian faith is giving God what He wants. Peter Lord’s definition of religion invokes a sobering question – “Am I giving God what He wants?” If not, my religion is worthless. Elders and Diaconate are to be servant leaders, not rulers or dictators. God doesn’t want His people to be used by petty, self-serving tyrants. Servant leaders have chosen a life of service on behalf of others. In the Book of Acts, the Diaconate was the “wait the tables” to care for the widowed and the orphaned. Like the servant Christ, they sacrifice their time and energy for the good of others. Only leaders who are loving, humble servants can genuinely manifest the incomparable life of Jesus Christ to their congregations and a watching world.

Everybody can be great. Because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve…. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.

Moses initially had some big reservations about serving God. He ran an entire list of excuses by God. In response, God simply told Moses His name. Moses said, “I am not able to speak very well.” God replied, “I know, but I AM.” Moses worried, “I am not believable.” God remarked, “I understand, but I AM.” Moses suggested, “I am not capable.” God declared, “You’re right, but I AM.”

Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.
Servanthood comes at a cost. If we continue to buy what we want, drive what we want, eat what we want and live where we want, then we have not submitted to the lordship of Jesus Christ and God can’t do with us and through us what he wants to do.” I must personally confess that too often I want convenience and commitment to be synonymous.

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