This week, we are continuing our series entitled We Are The Church. Last week, we talked about our spiritual gifts, and the fact that we have been given those gifts for a purpose. This week, we’re going to talk about what that purpose is, which is by serving.
Did you take your spiritual gifts test? If so, hopefully it gave you some idea of what your strengths and weaknesses are. Today, we will talk some about how and why we serve, as well as some truths about service.
How many of you have ever been on a mission trip? When I was in the youth group at the church I grew up at, we went every year to a little town in New Mexico called Sanostee. It was a small community that consisted mostly of Native Americans, and we went and held Vacation Bible School for them. I only went once, but the memories I made will stay with me forever. Being there for a week, seeing the way those people lived made me appreciate the things that we so often take for granted, and I can promise you that, wherever you choose to serve (if you feel called to do so), you will gain the same perspective. Sanostee was not the most attractive place geographically that I’ve ever been, and when we weren’t hosting VBS for the kids on the reservation, we spent the majority of our time climbing the small mountain that was about half a mile from the church we were staying at.
I have to say, my favorite memory of the whole trip came on the last evening we were there. We took a trip up a mountain, and for the first time, the sun was fully out. It was the middle of July, but the sky looked much like it does in mid-October in North Texas. When we got to the top of the mountain, we sat in a circle, and our youth minister spoke about Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. When he finished talking, we went around the group and washed each other’s feet. It was something I had never experienced before, and have never experienced again in the time since, but it is definitely something I will never forget: giving and receiving that love. After having washed the disciples feet, after having demonstrated that service of love, Jesus advises the disciples to do the same: “A new commandment I give to you that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35 ESV)
In Phillipians 2:5-8 (The Message), Paul, to the church in Philippi gives a vivid image of the service Christ gave to us. At the time he writes this letter, he is under house arrest in Rome, and yet, this is Paul’s happiest letter. Starting in v.5, he writes “Think of yourselves the way Christ thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and the died a selfless, obedient death – and the worst kind of death at that – a crucifixion.”
When Jesus became man, He could have easily lived His life as the king that He is, but instead, He came to be a servant. In Matthew 20:25-28 (NIV), Jesus says it like this; “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” This brings me to my first point.
1. We Are Called And Equipped to Serve
Because of Jesus, we not only have the example of service, but we have the power, the authority, the position and the filling to love as he loved us. In 1 Peter 2, Peter proclaims our identity in Christ. “You are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you – from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted.” It is the priest’s calling to serve the people, to connect them to God, to “offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (vs5 NIV) The Message refers to this as “vibrant lives”. The Matthew West song, “Do Something” gives a poignant example of the empowered calling.
Well, I just couldn’t bear the thought of
People living in poverty
Children sold into slavery
The thought disgusted me
So, I shook my fist at Heaven
Said, “ God why don’t You do something?”
He said, “I did, yeah, I created you”
Jesus sacrifice and God’s gift of the Holy Spirit places us in a position of great leadership, full of His Power. This power beckons us to greatness.
2. Service Requires Our Humility
God does not define greatness as we do. Jesus made Himself a servant despite the fact that He was the Son of God, and He called us to do the same. There is a story about George Washington that I think illustrates this point quite well. One cold, winter day, when the American Revolution had an abundance, General Washington came upon a group of soldiers fortifying their camp. He had his collar turned up and his hat pulled down, so he wouldn’t be recognized while he watched the men do their jobs. The soldiers pulled together on a heavy log while their corporal just stood by and yelled orders to them. The man gave everything they had, but the log slipped away from them. Again, the corporal shouted at them, and the men tried again, but to no avail. The third time, Washington ran forward to help them, and this time, the log fell into it’s place. General Washington asked the corporal why he did not help his men, to which he replied “Because I am a corporal.” Washington responded by saying “I am the Commander In Chief. Next time you’ve got a log that’s too heavy for your men to lift, send for me.” What Washington is essentially saying is that no one is above doing any job. Galatians 6:9 (ESV) says “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap if we do not give up.” We should always be willing to serve those in need. This is the reason we were all given our spiritual gifts, which brings me to my next point.
3. Serving Does Not Always Have To Be A Grand Gesture
When I moved away from the Rockwall area after a breakup, I left everything I had known behind. My job, my church, friends. I had honestly seen myself spending the rest of my life in that area, but I ended up in a place where I knew no one, and hours away from anyone other than family who knew my name or story. One night, I got a phone call from my friend Michael. Michael and I had never spent any time together outside of at the drag races, but he still cared enough to reach out to a friend who was hurting. That random phone call late on a Sunday night reminded me that, even though I was far away from the people and places that I loved, I wasn’t completely alone. Matthew 25:34-40 (ESV) says “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” Jesus paints a wonderful picture here of the simplest acts being of great importance. Today, Michael is one of my great friends, and it’s partly because he cared enough to reach out to a friend who was hurting. Something as simple as an encouraging phone call can completely change the course of someone’s day, month, or even life. Helen Keller once said “I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but my chief duty is to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.” In whatever you’re doing, serve with gladness, and you will be amazed at the difference you can make, not only in someone else’s life, but also in your own.
4. Serving Others Helps Us To Put Things In Perspective
When I was in high school, I would spend a few days every Christmas working at the Salvation Army warehouse. My mom has worked for the Army for 20+ years, it was something that got me out of the house for a couple of days (I’ve never been very good with downtime), and there were always pretty girls there (bonus for a teenage boy). My job on those days was to take a shopping cart, and go around to all the aisles loading it with the gifts that were on a list for a particular family who couldn’t afford Christmas presents that year. Often, we take things like Christmas gifts for granted, but there are so many people who can’t afford them, and it really changed the way I see people. Pastor Greg Bradford at Lake Pointe Church put it this way in a sermon he gave a few weeks ago when he said “If we don’t make serving a big deal in the lives of our kids, we may unintentionally reinforce the belief that the world revolves around them.” To those families who were having to go through the Salvation Army for their Christmas presents, what we did for them every year meant everything, but I can honestly say that it has meant more to me over the years because it taught me to not take things for granted and not take joy in material things.
5. When We Serve Others, We Benefit As Well
Proverbs 11:25 (NLT) says “The generous will prosper, those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.” Pouring yourself into doing something for someone else will always benefit you. As a kid, we spent a few years living in Denton, TX. My dad was going to school full time and working two jobs, and my mother worked at the University of North Texas, so during the summer, my brother and I would go to a day camp run by the local Baptist church. One of my best friends there was a kid named Chris Walker. Chris was one of those people who gave me a lot of my better childhood stories. Every day (except Friday’s), they would either take us swimming, or to the park. One of the days we went to the park, Chris noticed that there was a lot of trash on the ground. He decided that day that we should spend the first few minutes of our time at the park by picking up trash (this was NOT a popular decision in our circle of friends). Every time we went to the park, instead of playing on the playground, we spent the first few minutes we were there picking up trash. At the time, it really wasn’t a fun experience, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that those days spent picking up trash have given me an appreciation for God’s amazing creations in nature that I likely would not have had were it not for those days.
If you took the spiritual gifts test that was attached to last week’s message, I would encourage you to look at what your strengths are, and then research some ways for you to plug in and serve using those gifts. It doesn’t necessarily have to even be at a church (though I would recommend that), but it’s always a good thing to serve others. I would also encourage you to always be in prayer about where God would have you serve. Remember, it doesn’t take a huge grand gesture to make a huge difference in someone’s life, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t go on an international mission trip, or move to another country for long term mission work. If God calls you to go, the worst thing you could do is stay in the boat. Step out on faith, or you’ll never walk on water. Let’s pray.
We thank You that You sent Jesus to be a servant, and to show us how to serve as well. We pray that You would show us ways that we can serve, so that we can show the love that You have for us to others. Father, we have been given so much, and so often, we take it for granted when there are so many in this world who do without. I pray that we no longer simply walk or drive by the hungry and not feed them, or the thirsty and not give them drink, or the sick and in prison and not visit, but that we would pour into those who the world would call the least among us. I pray that, when that judgment day comes, that we would be able to hear the words “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” I pray that You would open our eyes to opportunities all around us to feed Your sheep. It’s in Your Holy Name we pray
Next week, we will wrap our Connect series and we will talk about community and doing life together. I hope you all have a wonderful weekend and Spring Break (for all those who are students or who have kids in school). God bless!!!!