Surprised by A Heart of Service

Have you ever done something nice for somebody that is a perfect stranger, something unexpected, and watched his or her reaction?  It is a very interesting experiment and a slightly sad one too.  Interesting because it shocks people that you would take the time to do something nice and sad because it shocks people that you would take the time to do something nice. 

Let me give you a few illustrations, not to toot my own horn but to make my point. 

On the way home from work today, I went by the ultimate holiday fun house which I will call Wal-Mart.  I needed to get some liquid sinus medicine for my son because he has a cold.  While I was on that aisle there was an older gentleman in one of the store scooters.  He was on his phone talking to his wife asking, rather loudly, what that medicine was that he was supposed to get so he would stop coughing.  She replied Mucinex D, which he repeated for me and half of Wal-Mart to hear.  He then proceeded to scoot down that aisle and head for the pharmacy counter to ask them for help.  I decided to do my Momma proud and find what he needed and bring it to him.  So after locating the right brand, right strength, right quantity and right flavor, I grabbed a box that was on the upper shelf and went on my mission.  I turned the corner and he was still on the phone so I held out the box in front of his face until it caught his attention.  When he looked up, I said “Is this what you were looking for?”  His startled reply was “Yes” and then he began telling his wife about the nice young man who found it for him.  I said you’re welcome and went on my way.  All told it took me about 47 seconds, but I believe it meant a lot to him. 

My second example happened last week when the uncommon cold temperatures and gusty winds blew into town.  I was driving home from work and cutting through a store parking lot when I noticed a lady standing by her car with a flat rear tire, the trunk open and on a cell phone.  I called my wife and told her what I was going to do and then swung back around to see if I could help.  She was on the phone with her dad who was but a short distance away but it was literally about 32 degrees out and windy so I jumped out to help.  Her dad showed up and together he and I got the tire changed in about 10 minutes.   When I stood up she had a $20 bill in her hand to attempt to pay me.  I said that I didn’t need any money and that I would hope someone would do the same for my wife or mom.  Away I drove. 

The last example is one my wife told me about.  She and a friend went shopping on Black Friday for reasons I know not of.  They were at Target at about 6 am, which I am told is a madhouse.  They came across an elderly lady in a store scooter that was broken down.  (At this point I immediately thought of a car stuck in the middle lane of I-285 that runs around Atlanta with traffic flying by on either side.)  Anyway, my wife asked if she could help the lady.  She said that she didn’t know much about the scooters but was having trouble walking.  So my wife determined that the scooter was out of battery and then went to the service desk to let someone know so the lady wouldn’t try walking in the store and fall.  When my wife went back to tell the lady that the customer service manager was bringing a different scooter to her, she was amazed and thankful.  The two women began to talk about how nice it was for a young person to take time and help two old ladies.  My wife went on her way. 

The point to all that is this: when did we as a society get so busy that we lost our sense of kindness and selflessness?  I believe as Christians that these little moments are what shape us and mark us as believers.  They are opportunities to live out our faith in a very real way and in a way that impacts others.  It may not be as dramatic as sinking a well in a remote village in Africa or taking a mission trip to the Amazon, but it is something that each of us can do every day.  It is something that we can do at very little cost to ourselves and the benefits are great.

It felt good to help that lady with her tire and I hope that she told someone about it.  It made me happy to help that old man with his medicine and I hope that he and his wife had it a little easier tonight.  It made my wife feel good to be able to help that elderly lady and it made an impression on them that morning. 

I hope that in some small way by being kind and gentle and giving to others they can go on with their lives and realize that there are some people out there who care about others and maybe they will go and do the same things. 

 

 

“Have You Opened Your Gift Yet?

Often the gift we receive is never unwrapped and sits idle in our lives.

My wife is a fantastic gift giver.  She can remember some obscure thing that I have said and many months later at a birthday or anniversary surprise me with something that is exactly right for me.  This goes for our friends and family as well, she has a way of listening to people and remembering what they say.  This always makes people feel special.

It would make my wife feel terrible and unappreciated if I didn’t react appropriately to a gift she has put so much thought and time into.

This must be how God feels when we don’t use the gift that he has given us.  1 Peter 4:9 states, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.”  There are many reasons that we may not use our gift: ignorance, indifference, or insecurity come to mind.  But the fact is that we have a God-given gift and we ought to be using it for his glory.

Some of us never even take the time to unwrap our gift.  Do you know that the skills and abilities that come naturally to you are a reflection of the gift God has placed within you?  I often pray each morning that God would allow me to use the gifts and talents he has given me not for my own glory and honor, but for His glory.  Some of us haven’t even explored what our gifts might be and so we walk along ignorant to the fact that they should be used to further God’s kingdom.

Perhaps even worse than ignorance is indifference.  We may know what our gift is, but we go along from day to day not at all caring if we use it for God’s glory.  We are simply too busy to be bothered with our gift.  One thing to note is that in the New American Standard version the verse above says we are to “employ” our gift.  We are to put that gift to work.  Indifference clearly is not an option.

Finally a third reason we may not open our gift is insecurity.  If your gift is evangelism, it means you are going to have to go out and start telling people about Christ.  You may face rejection and criticism.  If your gift is teaching, you may be called to teach a Sunday school class or small group.  This will take up some of your time.  If your gift is intercessory prayer you may spend countless hours on your knees each week interceding on behalf of others. Sometimes we feel inadequate for the task at hand and so we simply ignore our gift. 

For all these things I would point out that God knows you so well that he will not give you a gift that you are unsuited for.  He tailor made your gift to fit you.  He alone knows that you are not only able to use your gift but that if you use it for His glory you will be blessed as you seek to bless others. 

So find your gift.  Your Maker has given it to you.  It is a joy to use it for others and you won’t be disappointed that you did.

Father thank you for giving me a gift that is perfectly my own.  Thank you for the diversity within the church and the wonderful tapestry of servants you have woven together.  Help me to be acutely aware of my gift and help me to look for opportunities to use it each day—not for my glory, but for yours.  In Jesus name, Amen.

 

The Heart of Service

Be hospitable to one another without complaint.  1 Peter 4:9

Is service really service if it is done begrudgingly? Is it really service if it done boastfully?  Is service an action of the hands and feet or an attitude of the heart?

This verse says that we are to be hospitable to one another without complaint.  The NIV says to offer hospitality without grumbling.  The Living Bible says to cheerfully share with those in need.  What is the attitude of your heart toward serving?

Perhaps the greatest illustration in the Bible of serving is when Jesus washed the disciples feet before the last supper.  If ever there was someone who had a good excuse not to serve, it was Jesus.  John says, “Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father.  Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.”  What a great verse!  You see service shows others that we love them. 

What if Jesus had grumbled loudly about washing the disciples feet.  After all, who would want to get on their hands and knees with the prospect of washing twenty-two feet (that’s 220 grimy toes, but who’s counting?) to get all of the dust and dirt off of them?  Jesus could have groaned loudly:  “Well, I guess I will wash all of your feet…since no one else is going to do it.”  “Man, Peter, you still smell like fish!”  “I always get stuck washing the feet!” “This is the last time I do this for you…” 

What if Jesus had boasted arrogantly about his service?  “Attention everyone!  I Jesus, the Son of God, who knows the number of hairs on your head, will now stoop to the level of a servant and wash your feet.”  “Yes, I know it is far beneath me, but I am glad to do it for you!”

Instead, he didn’t have to say a word.  He simply saw a need, took the necessary steps, and served his disciples. As John said, he showed them the full extent of his love.

This picture is a beautiful example of the way we ought to serve: 

Instead of making excuses, we should serve with joy.

Instead of complaining about serving, we should serve quietly.

Instead of boasting about our service, we should boast in the one who showed us how to serve.

We must serve others as an outpouring of the love that He showed us.

Father, give me a heart of service.  Instead of being so focused on my needs, and myself help me to see others around me.  Give me opportunities to serve you with the gifts you have blessed me with. Bless me with a heart to serve others as you served us by laying down your life for us.  In Jesus name, Amen.

Do You See What God Sees?

Are you living up to your potential?  I would venture a guess that the large majority of us would have to say that we are not.  Potential is defined as “qualities or abilities that may be developed and lead to future success or usefulness.”  Another definition is “having or showing the capacity to become or develop into something in the future.”  Very few of us set out to be unsuccessful or unable to attain that which God has for us.  Yet somehow we have an incorrect view of ourselves.  We have allowed others to paint a picture of ourselves that taints our potential.

We have allowed ourselves to settle for good enough, when God wants to give us the extraordinary.  He has promised us that He has plans for each of us.  (Jeremiah 29:11)  The last part of this verse states that these plans are for a “hope and a future.”

This must mean that God sees us as worthwhile.  By that I mean that He sees something in us worth planning and preparing for.  If something has no future, it is discarded and cast aside.  We are far from cast aside by God; in fact quite the opposite is true.  God sees value and worth in us.   He sees us as capable and important.  He has chosen us for a purpose.  Most importantly, He sees us as unique individuals perfectly created and cast for our role in His drama.

So the question becomes, do you see yourself as God sees you?

If not, you are going to continue to live below your potential.  Good enough will continue to be good enough.  It will be sufficient to just get by with our minimum duty as Christians, because when we don’t see ourselves the way God sees us, just getting by is all right.  Furthermore, the world only expects us to be successful in worldly ways; it knows nothing of obedience to God and success as a Christian.

I have it written in my Bible, “Success in God’s eyes is obedience.”

When we see ourselves as God sees us, we strongly desire to obey Him.  We want to follow Him down the adventure He leads us on.  Following Him, we know we are capable and filled with His power and Spirit.   Going where He sends us, although sometimes fraught with spiritual danger, is always worth it in the long run.  And when we take the path that He puts us on, there is no doubt that He will place us exactly where we ought to be.

Father, create in me a clear vision of myself.  Help me to strip off the lenses that hinder my vision of myself.  Help me to realize that in You, I am a new creation.  In you, I have power and strength.  I have been created for a purpose.  I am made for a reason.  Help me see the talents and abilities that I have been given as the gift from you that they are. Help me use them for your glory and your honor so that I reach my full potential in this world as I prepare for the next.