Service changed my life

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Most of us Christians want to serve God. We acknowledge that the Bible teaches that serving others is an important part of our being a Christian but when it comes to the crunch, sometimes we want to serve in an advisory position from the comfort of our armchair. Some of us Christians click the “serving others ‘like’” button and then proceed on our self-centred day; unchanged, unchallenged and unfulfilled. If we are not spending our lives looking for opportunities to serve others then I suggest our Christianity is off mission.

Though Jesus speaks surprisingly little on the topic of serving others, a powerful and confronting insight on how He views serving is found in Matthew 25:31, 34-36. (Read the following text with your name inserted in the blanks). 

In the iWorld we live in, when the Holy Spirit impresses us with an idea to serve someone, we have an opportunity to move from iFocus to other focus, from iWorld to a world beyond, from iTake to iServe.

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, _________ who is blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and __________ gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and __________ gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and ___________ invited me in, I needed clothes and __________ clothed me, I was sick and ____________ looked after me, I was in prison and ____________ came to visit me’.”

Jesus intentionally modelled unrelenting service to others when His sandals walked the dusty paths of planet Earth. Since Jesus the Christ-man spent His life orientated around serving others, maybe we need to get serious about serving. And just let me pause and say that I am not talking about saying ‘yes’ to everything the nominating committee asks you to do.1 Let’s redefine serving: ‘Spirit-led assistance to do whatever God directs us to’.

Serving changes lives. When you served me, you changed my life. The years we volunteered and studied full-time were difficult years. Each and every time you served us, it was a direct hug from God. I vividly remember standing at the fuel station—our fuel tanks were empty and so was our bank account and wallet. My husband was checking the exact bank balance on the internet as I stood with the fuel pump nozzle in hand, so I would know whether to put in $10 or $20. As I stood at the fuel pump, it was faith changing to discover an anonymous deposit of $270 that would buy us food and fuel for the entire week. I remember, too, when our fridge died and six of us began living out of an esky and tiny bar fridge. Within 24 hours friends, who heard of our dilemma, had a brand new fridge delivered (thanks Matt and Carly and friends). When we had to move out of our house because we simply could not pay the rent, friends opened their home to the five of us and embraced us with kindness that allowed us dignity during the toughest financial situation we have had to face (thanks Lea-Anne and Col).

Serving someone in little ways isn’t little to someone who is struggling: the home-cooked meal delivered the day we moved house (thanks Gladys) was a banquet. The stranger who pushed your grocery trolley for you the day your little one started vomiting in the shopping centre, is an angel of mercy. The kind words encouraging you as a parent after you have disciplined your child in public, reconstitutes a weary soul. Waking up in the middle of the night and praying for someone unleashes heaven. Washing your neighbour’s car the day before the funeral, may be more meaningful than words. Being served when your faith is trembling is powerfully faith-confirming and is one of the most powerful witnesses any individual can have.

Every time our family has had needs, whether it was money, support or a physical need, and we asked God, God sent people. Did you get that? He didn’t send an angel or materialise cash out of thin air, though I know in His infinite power He is able to do that. God chose instead, every time, to send people our way.

Heaven [is] Mission Central. God is not sitting back while the centuries tick by, merely listening to angel choirs. Instead He is focused on dispatching miracle-missions on Earth. Sometimes He sends angels. But for face-to-face work in the physical realm, God looks for people who will say yes.2 

I believe God sends people because people need an opportunity to grow, nurture, get uncomfortable, stay humble, stop hiding behind theology and study of the scriptures, and put the Word of God into practice. People who serve aren’t richer, more educated, less busy or holier than you or me. They don’t have less hang-ups, perfect families or more talents than us. What they did was grasp the fact that love is a verb best expressed by serving and they gave up their daily busyness to do the Lord’s business.

For me, being a direct answer to someone’s prayer for help has been astonishingly powerful. I get filled with awe that the God of the Universe took time to listen to a prayer and then whisper to me an idea so I can be part of a supernatural, life-changing event. I have sat in church several times now and heard a powerful testimony of answered prayer and become awestruck that my seemingly small, anonymous (sometimes reluctant) act of service was part of a giant miracle God performed; redefining faith, healing hurt or financially restabilising a family. Serving others grows my faith.

In the iWorld we live in, when the Holy Spirit impresses us with an idea to serve someone, we have an opportunity to move from iFocus to other focus, from iWorld to a world beyond, from iTake to iServe.

What impact would we have if whole churches began focusing on the needs of their local community and getting off their pews and serving there instead of focusing on how they can draw people into their church building? Scott Wilkins puts it this way:

While not all churches are called to be large, we are all called to be growing. We are all called to have a dynamic relationship with our surrounding community . . . Sadly few churches are doing anything to impact those outside the walls of the church. What a tragedy—especially when you consider the vast number of unchurched people who respond favourably to random acts of kindness and hospitality. One of the easiest and most rewarding outreach efforts the church can perform is community acts of hospitality.3

Unexpected acts of serving kindness usually have the receivers asking why we are doing such an unselfish act. What a great opportunity to say, “I am a Christian and I am doing this because the God I serve is full of love and kindness and I want to be like Him”. Serving others is a tangible way for people who have never stepped foot in a church building to encounter the hands and heart of Jesus.

Serving others changes lives and not just the people you serve. Patch Adams writes in his book Gesundheit! “Service is one of the greatest medicines ever discovered. It is the great fatigue killer, the destroyer of depression and boredom, the way to end immobility caused by fear.”4 

Serving also makes God real because when we approach a service opportunity with an open heart, the Spirit never fails to show up. I stand convinced that every Spirit-led act of service moves God’s kingdom forwards whether we hear later of a spectacular story or not. Service is at the heart of being a Christ follower and even though I give time, money or physical exertion, I always receive the greater blessing. Serving others is a great way to recalibrate your heart back to Christ. Serving changed my life.                                 

1. Christians are called to use their gifts, strengths and passions to serve within the church body, but that serving is not the focus of this article (see 1 Peter 2:9, Galatians 5:13-17).
2. Wilkinson, Bruce. You Were Born for This (The Doubleday Religious Publishing Group, 2009), p58.
3. Wilkins, Scott G. Reach; A Team Approach to Evangelism and Assimilation (Baker Books, Grand Rapids, 2005), p79.
4. Patch, Adams MD; Gesundheit! (Healing Arts Press, Vermont, 1993), p11.

Rochelle Melville is a homeschooling mum-of-three who lives in Brisbane, Queensland.
 

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