Last week, I had something to do that was worthy every.single.day. Because everything was related in one way or another to serving Jesus by serving others, I felt like it was my God-given commandment to save the world in one week.
OK, just my little portion of it. But my tense shoulders felt like it was the whole wide world. I had -- scratch that -- I took very little time to actually be in the Word. I studied and planned my lesson for Sunday, I outlined a couple blog posts, but I did not meet Christ over coffee and allow His Word to sink in to me.
I was too busy filling others' cups and not realizing my cup needed to be filled, and Christ is the Only One Who can do that.
Sometimes, Christians believe that serving Jesus means we have to say "yes" to every opportunity that darts in front of us, like spiritual squirrels. We say we're in ministry, and we are, but the Great Commission was not about service. It was about salvation.
"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age," Matthew 28:19-20, emphasis added.
It is through our actions that we non-verbally witness to people. Service is a by-product of a Christ-centered, Commission-filled life. When we are filled with His Spirit we cannot wait to serve Him by serving others -- and sharing the Gospel with them.
But we have to minster without being miserable. What does it say to non-believers if Jesus' followers are frowny-faced and exhausted in His Service? We have to use the spiritual gifts God has given us and work in and among those gifts He has given us. Some are teachers; some are not. There is nothing more miserable than a Christian who answers the pulpit call to teach 4th Grade who does not have the spiritual gift of teaching.
Equally, there is nothing more miserable than a Christian who does not heed the still, small voice of God in a season in which it's time to move on. Being director of Vacation Bible School for seven years straight is draining and doesn't allow for someone fresh, who has new ideas, who has a current call from the Lord about leading VBS, to take the reins.
We must stop worshiping the position in church and, instead, serving Christ in it.
We're familiar with the story of Mary and Martha. Martha was buzzing around, trying madly to get a King-worthy supper on the table and take care of all the little details. You know: she was in the kitchen on the Bethany wi-fi, using Pinterest to download the latest burlap-and-hydrangea centerpiece with "Welcome, Jesus" in the most flowing Aramaic script -- and running around trying to do it all, including make the centerpiece. Meanwhile, her little sister Mary was ignoring Martha's shrill yells that were calling her name and something called a hydrangea...and she was at the feet of Jesus.
Mary figured out that Jesus was the only detail in that room that needed her rapt attention. Everything else was just not important in that moment. It would get done. There was time to make supper -- maybe without Pinterest -- but it would happen. There was time to make the house nice, but the focus of her attention was right there, looking down at her and teaching...her. In a room full of men, with her sister raving, Mary's focus was on Jesus. Jesus turned His attention to Martha, and suddenly her sister sat down. Martha never sat. Jesus put His arm around her, said, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed — or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” He smiled and squeezed Martha, and went back to teaching," [Luke 10:41].
We tend to think that to serve Christ is to serve everyone who has a problem. Sometimes, the people who have the problems don't need you to solve them; they need to work it out or they won't ever learn how to do for themselves...and will come to rely more and more on you to the point that helping them takes away from your time with the Lord, family, worship, personal care... The problem well-meaning, service-minded Christians face is this: they can be used by not-so-well-meaning people who will take advantage of their large hearts.
It is okay to say "no" once in a while. It is also okay to write down columns in which your time needs to be dedicated: Personal Devotions, Family, Home, Teaching Sunday School, Caregiving of ___________. If something extra does not fit one of those five columns, for a season, a polite "No, I am sorry, but I cannot do that right now," is perfectly acceptable.
If we skim the Gospels, we will see that Jesus taught and healed before large crowds, then moved back and went off by Himself to rest and have time with His Father. Jesus made communication with God the Father paramount to everything else. Even though He was fully God, He allowed Himself the fully-human necessity of rest. It is okay to say no, beloved. It is okay to pull back, circle the wagons, and understand where God would have you in this season. "Be still and know that I am God," [Psalm 46:10]....how can we know that He is God if we are too frantic in our serving to hear Him?
If we don't rest and recuperate in our serving, then we tend to lose our joy. We cannot lose the joy of our salvation or we have nothing with which to celebrate the Risen Lord. Service is a by-product of Christ's love for us. 1 John 4:19 says that "We love because he first loved us." We love others because of Christ loving us first -- and that should give us joy in abundance to allow us to minister without misery...if we have the courage to say, "no."
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