"What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us." -Emerson

Sunday, March 29, 2009

At your service...

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. The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbor as yourself."
Galatians 5:13-14

It is just so funny how God makes sure we hear Him. His method for me to make sure I get what He is saying to me has been constant repetition of concepts and things I need to be doing through our time together, Sunday School, church lessons, and sermons I've been listening to. This week, His theme for me has been service.

Why do I have to serve? may be the first thought that comes to your mind. This really isn't the focus of this post, but I'll give you the cliffs notes on it. First, we serve to bring glory to God and to imitate His character. God is a serving God. Jesus Christ washed the feet of His disciples to offer to us the example of how our Christian walk should be lived. This is a major spiritual habit we need to get into. Second, we serve because He commands us to do it in His word over and over again. Look at the verse above and some of the others we are going to explore. He tells us we are to serve, period. Third, service gets us out of a primary focus on ourselves. I've had a rough couple of months and one thing God keeps whispering to me is, how are you serving other people? Sometimes, I'd respond with such shock, wondering why would God ask me such a question in the midst of my own suffering. But, He asks me because He knows that service will move me from that place of being engulfed in my own tragedies and sharing love with others who may be hurting as well. So, serving is just as much for our own benefit as it is for those of whom we serve.

The next question that usually arises is where do I serve? After some Biblical research, I want to suggest that there are three ways God is going to tell you exactly where He wants you to serve:

1.) Serve in areas where He has gifted you:
Here are some verses that God tells us where we are to serve in areas we are gifted in:
"Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ."
1 Peter 4: 9-11 NIV
You want to know where God wants you to get down and start washing some feet? Figure out where He has gifted you. Are you great with kids? Is there a skill you have that others could be blessed by? Do you have a heart for certain "groups" of people (women, military, pregnant teens, homeless, etc.)? Figuring out how He has blessed you, is the first key to figuring out where He wants you! Try finding a spiritual gifts assessment if you aren't sure what your giftings are or make a list of the things you really enjoy or are good at. You are bound to find a clue as to where God is calling for you to come and serve!
Another verse says:
"We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully."
Romans 12:6-8 NIV
The Greek word for gifts in this passage is charisma. Charisma is, "grace or gifts denoting extraordinary powers, distinguishing certain Christians and enabling them to serve the church of Christ, the reception of which is due to the power of divine grace operating on their souls by the Holy Spirit." (Strong's Concordance) This is something you need to understand about your giftings. They aren't something to be looked at lightly, they are extraordinary powers that distinguish you. If you feel like you are nothing special, I got news for you, YOU ARE!! You are made in such a way that is completely different from every other living creature on this planet, there is only ONE of you with your unique makeup! If you feel anything less than special, you need to have a reality check right here and right now...

2.) Serve in areas where you are completely lacking:
God calls us to service in the areas of our strengths, but I want to show you another way He has called you to serve... in your areas of greatest weakness.
His word says:
"To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my POWER is made PERFECT in WEAKNESS." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."
2 Corinthians 12:7-10
I want to look at three very important words in this passage and their definitions in the Greek:
The word power translates to dynamis, which means, "power for performing miracles." (Strong's Concordance)
Perfect translates to teleioĊ, which is, "to make perfect, complete, to carry through completely, to accomplish, finish, bring to an end." (Strong's Concordance)
Astheneia is the word for weakness, or the, "want of strength and capacity requisite" (Strong's Concordance).
You think God doesn't perform miracles any more in this day and age? Watch when you obey Him to try and do something that is completely out of your comfort zone. You want to see him accomplish something in you? Try and jump in head first to something you can't do on your own strength while relying on Him alone. Don't think you have what it takes to lead a Bible study, teach God's word, become a missionary or ____________? Do that thing with an utter knowledge that if this thing happens, it ain't gonna be because you made it so!
I've been listening to a lot of Beth Moore sermons as of late and one of them has stuck with me. She was talking about Jesus' first miracle, in which He turned the water into wine. She said it was such an appropriate miracle to "start things off with" because we serve a God who makes something out of nothing. This is so applicable in terms of our service. God can make something with you or do something through you, when there is nothing inside of yourself that can make it happen. He is the God of something from nothing. Why is He like this? How else can He show His true power? Anyone can make something from something that is there, but how much more power does it require to make something from absolutely nothing?

3.) Serve where you have been served:
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort."
2 Corinthians 1:3-7 NIV

We all know pain, some sort of shadow or storm that God has pulled us through. A lot of times it is those experiences that He has allowed so that you may serve another down the road. Think about your experiences and what He has brought you through and how those things can be turned in to ways you can serve. Find a group in your community that works with the same kind of people you once were and get involved. Start your own group or just be on the lookout for those who cross your path with the same troubles that you once had. You will be amazed by how many people God will put in your life who suffer from the things that once burdened and bound you that need you to serve them.

I am not quite sure who God wanted to hear this. Someone might need to start figuring out how He has gifted you and how He can use you in that area. Someone might need to step out in a huge leap of faith to that one thing He has been pushing in your direction, but you have felt too inadequate to take on. And someone might need to start serving up a big platter of comfort to the ones who are going through a place you've already been. Could I be talking about you?

Until next time,


Your turn: (I'd love to hear your thoughts...leave a comment, PLEASE!)
1.) Do you feel like you are serving where He wants you? If not, where do you think He is leading you to go? If so, which of the three areas are you serving in: your gifting, your not-gifting, or your area of past comfort?
2.) What keeps us from serving others in the capacity God calls us to?
3.) Is there a such thing as too much service? Why or why not?

1 comment:

Amanda said...

Service is so hard a lesson to learn. As children's ministry director at my church, I and the people I serve with, suffer when others don't serve as God has called. We do kids ministry, not childcare, and for that we need people to help! Didn't Jesus tell the disciples to let the children come to him? I love children, and no work done for him is in vain. Whether scrubbing toilets, holding babies, or teaching preschoolers - it is to be done in light of eternity.

That said... I think there is such a thing as 'too much'. And I say this because I've taken on one too many projects, I think. I know it's the cyclical nature of things, and that it will calm down enough for me to not cry myself to sleep at night, but right now... it's a ton. So, I must be selective as to what I do add to a full-time job, a part time job (that could easily be full time), reaching out to others, and caring for my own home and family. We must remember, that Jesus sought out alone time with God even though needy crowds were all around him. That speaks volumes to me about knowing when enough is enough.

Thanks for your words.