February 24, 2016

Selfless service?

Serving the Lord might sound lofty and idealistic in the sense that ‘if I do this, I will be a far better person’ or even ‘I might change the world,’ but I’ve realized that serving God so I can be exalted is not serving God at all. However, I remember the first time I read this verse . . .

And I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I am loved. (2 Corinthians 12:15, NKJV)

How noble! I imagined selfless service and great love for people and being spent for their sake without any reward. But that is a wrong motive. For one thing, serving others is for Jesus, not for me. It also considers the cost without any foolish idea that this activity is going to make a hero out of me.

Paul scolds the Corinthian church because they were idolizing Christian service and attributes of the faith as if doing good deeds and having those gifts made them superior. In 1 Corinthians, he points out that genuine love is not like that and chastens them for thinking that what they are doing makes them more favored.

Instead, when God’s Spirit fills our hearts with the love of God, we begin to feel and treat others as being far more important than ourselves. The others include all people, not merely those we feel comfortable with, or those who fawn over us for what we are doing.

Paul’s purpose was to win people to Jesus Christ. He pointed them to the Lord, not drawing attention to himself. He was also willing to identify with anyone . . .

For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. (1 Corinthians 9:19–23)

The part of Chambers’ devotional that most convicts is his statement that a holy life with God is not developed alone. If I put myself away from people to ‘be with God’ (like a monk?) without doing anything for the people around me, I am of no use to anyone. I’m to be like Paul whose life was so yielded that wherever he went, Jesus Christ helped Himself to his life and used it in whatever way He wanted. If I have my own agenda, then Jesus cannot help Himself to my life. If I am abandoned to Jesus, I have no plans or agenda of my own to serve.

Part of the reason for seclusion can be the possible pain of rejection, being misunderstood or mocked, all of the things that Jesus endured for my sake. While I am not Jesus, He lives in me. Certainly He is able to ‘roll with the punches’ so that I am able to endure for the sake of others.

I know these things. Life’s experiences prove to me the adequacy of Christ in serving others. Yet He takes me deeper. In my own home where I used to think I was somewhat shielded from the demands of meeting needs, I’m not safe. He has brought needy people to me, even to live here so I could do as Jesus asks. And He says if I cannot take care of those who are close and those whom I love, what about the multitudes outside the door that I’ve no particular affinity with?

All service for others is supposed to be a joy because it is serving Jesus. Many Christians have given themselves to serve without pity parties and regrets. Again, I’m not there yet.

About ten years ago, my husband had a heart attack. He’d felt some odd symptoms and a co-worker drove him to the nearest ER. The attack happened in the hospital, he was given a shunt, and has been fine every since. This morning he had chest pains that lasted many minutes. I was still sleeping so wasn’t there to be in a panic. He looked it up on the Internet and was calm and in control when he told me. My first thought after the concern for him was ‘what next?’ Again, God isn’t finished teaching me about being selfless.

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