Since the beginning of January, we have been working through a sermon series called “Spiritual Habits for Ordinary People” which is loosely based on Richard Foster’s classic book, “Celebration of Discipline.” Having grown up in the church I usually think that I have a good grasp on the basics of walking out the Christian faith. However, this series has been a good challenge for me, and I hope for many others as well.
As I prepare to share tomorrow’s message about service, I am again challenged more than I anticipated (this seems to be a pattern). Service is one of the basic ways we share our faith. James reminded us that our faith is hardly anything meaningful if our actions do not quickly follow our mouths. Paul spoke of being a “love slave,” willingly surrendering our personal desires to serve one another. And one can never forget King Jesus, Rabbi Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. In a single act of humility, the Master showed us exactly what it means to be a true servant.
One of the challenging concepts for me is the difference between acts of service versus a lifestyle of service. In the words of Foster, “It is one thing to act like a servant; it is quite another to be a servant. As in all the Disciplines, it is possible to master the mechanics of service without experiencing the Discipline.” I paused when I first read this statement. Have I mastered the mechanics but missed Jesus?
“It is one thing to act like a servant; it is quite another to be a servant. As in all the Disciplines, it is possible to master the mechanics of service without experiencing the Discipline.”
— Richard Foster
It occurred to me how easy it is to be Martha, diligently working away on something urgent while fuming about the lack of commitment of others. This could happen anywhere – in the church, at home, at the workplace, in a marriage, as a parent or even as a son or daughter. A selfishness can arise in the flurry of activity under the guise of selflessness.
The goal of any service or discipline is not perfection of that skill or activity. Of course, excellence is good and worthwhile. Pursue excellence. However, if the act of service causes us to miss the Messiah, then we’ve missed the point.
On the other hand, not serving others at all is equally risky. Jesus explained in Matthew 25 how important it is to serve “the least of these.” King Jesus called the least of these his brothers and sisters. The least of these had no way of reciprocating the kindness and generosity of service – what a picture of the sacrifice Jesus paid for us on the cross!
Paul said so bluntly in 2 Corinthians 4:11, “Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies.” While most of us reading this don’t face persecution today, the sacrifice of service to Jesus requires our whole selves. Our bodies are decaying in this world, but amongst the death and decay, let it be known that we serve Jesus. Let it be evident that the Spirit of Christ is in us. Let our lives be evidence that Jesus lives.
(Update: Here is a link to the message I shared on the following Sunday morning. https://youtu.be/V-l-kyRSQTU)