February 23, 2016

Reaching for greatness . . .

Over the years, I’ve come up with several answers to those who ask me, “And do you work?” I used to fumble because I never had a 9 to 5 paying job. Then I thought it clever to say things like “You bet I do” or “No, I’m a kept woman.” Now I’ve reached a certain age, I’m not asked that question very often, but I’ve regrets that I could not think of a more appropriate answer. Even needing to have one indicates the problem many have of needing to identify ourselves by the status of our occupation.

Jesus called (His disciples) to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25–28)

While being a servant holds little status in most parts of the world, an accurate reply to the job question could be, “I am a servant of my Lord Jesus Christ” But to say that, it has to be more than a title, more than mere theological correctness, a real answer instead of an ideal. Most of the time, I’d have to say, “I’ve been accepted into the position as a servant of Jesus Christ, but I’m not particularly noted for consistently doing my job.”

To complicate matters, like many people, I’ve had this idea that greatness has trappings. Status means being respected and praised, being able to tell others what to do, being thanked for my leadership, and so on. Yet this is not even close to a biblical description of being great or even of being a servant.

Jesus described greatness as giving your life to serve others, and identified Himself as doing just that. The disciples argued who was greater, but He said, “For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.” (Luke 22:27)

Paul’s idea of service was the same. He also said, “I know how to be abased . . . .” His words continually suggest his view of greatness: ‘I will spend myself to the last ebb for you; you may give me praise or give me blame, it will make no difference. So long as there is a human being who does not know Jesus Christ, I am his debtor to serve him until he does.’

Chambers says that Paul’s motivation was never a love for men, but love for Jesus Christ. Devotion to the cause or causes of humanity is prone to crush us and break our hearts. People are not grateful. They often curse the hands that help them, but if my motive is love for God, then it does not matter how people respond to what I do to serve them.

Paul was also motivated by Christ’s treatment of Him. He had been “a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent” but received mercy (1 Timothy 1:13) and realized that the grace of God was far greater than anything people could do to him. Chambers resonates with, “When we realize that Jesus Christ has served us to the end of our meanness, our selfishness, and sin, nothing that we meet with from others can exhaust our determination to serve men for His sake.”

I know all this, yet I also know that being “poured out” for others brings exhaustion and often a sense of being a doormat. To keep going means to abide in Christ continually. There is no me-time unless He grants it, and to serve under that condition also requires deep faith. I must not only trust Him regarding His purposes for those I serve, but also trust Him to take care of me.

Even though I know in my head that He will do all this and more, something in me protests. “I want . . . .” interrupts my dedication. I have to conclude that I’m not there yet.

Today Bob had an appointment with a lung specialist. She was excited to show him the lung CT scan and tell him while evidence of viral pneumonia is still there, he has recovered better than many younger people she has examined. She also told him that his MRI from Friday was normal, meaning that there is no cause there for the two times he has lost consciousness. We are grateful for many prayers and God’s merciful answers!

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