Paul’s newsletter article – 02/11/22
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. (Phil. 2:3-4 – NASB95)
I remember as a small child talking to other children about what we wanted to be when we grew up. Our answers would often be doctor, lawyer, fireman, famous athlete, President of the United States, etc. But I can’t remember any of us ever saying that we wanted to grow up to be a “servant.” Part of the problem is that most of us from our earliest childhood have spent a lot of time thinking about serving ourselves, not others. In the book, “Improving Your Serve,” Charles Swindoll applies this same concept to our relationship with God. He quotes a poem entitled, “$3 Worth of God.”
“I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please. Not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep, but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk or a snooze in the sunshine. I don’t want enough of Him to make me love a black man or pick beets with a migrant. I want ecstasy, not transformation; I want the warmth of the womb, not a new birth. I want a pound of the Eternal in a paper sack. I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please.”
Sound familiar? Do we ever want to keep God at a comfortable distance? Are we ever afraid to reach out because we might get hurt (or because we got hurt in the past)? C.S. Lewis addresses this issue when he talks about love:
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable… The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers… of love is Hell.”
Has our love for self ever gone that far? Do we avoid uncomfortable situations even when someone has a need because we’re looking out for Number One? Do we choose not to get involved serving in the church because we had a bad experience in the past? Or do we only serve if we can get recognition or praise? The Lord Jesus had something profoundly different to say about the way life should be lived:
Calling them to Himself, Jesus said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them. But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42-45)
Wow! Most of the examples we have around us are people that are seeking to elevate themselves. What does a true servant look like? How does a servant give? Read 2 Cor. 8:1-5, then look at the principles below that we can apply to our own lives: 1Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia, 2 that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality. 3 For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord, 4 begging us with much urging for the favor of participation in the support of the saints, 5 and this, not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God.
- A Servant Gives Anonymously – v. 1-2. Note how Paul simply calls them the “churches of Macedonia.” Nobody is named! How fun it is to give / serve when nobody knows about it. There are times when people in the church may be struggling financially and in need of basics like food. It is difficult for them to acknowledge their need because most people have a hard time “receiving.” A truly fun thing to do at a moment like that is to put together several bags of food, take it to their doorstep, ring the doorbell, and RUN!
- A Servant Gives Generously – v. 2-3. These people gave generously (sacrificially) even when they had needs of their own! These folks were experiencing personal affliction and poverty, but their lives had abundant joy. They knew the Lord had provided for them beyond what their poor brothers & sisters were experiencing elsewhere so they gave what little they had to meet a need (see 1 John 3:16-18). To give generously when we don’t have much will require a heart that gives creatively. I can almost imagine these people having a garage sale so they could participate in meeting this need (some of us could pay the national debt by having a garage sale ☺). What do possessions matter anyway?!? Have you ever seen a hearse pulling a U-Haul?
- A Servant Gives Voluntarily – v. 3-4. They gave of their own free-will and even begged to participate! What if we applied that to other areas of service? It would be great if we simply mentioned opportunities for service in the church (i.e., nursery, children’s ministry, youth ministry, Bridge Café, etc.) and immediately had a whole host of people calling to get involved. How much better would it be if we didn’t even have to mention it??? What if people saw a need in the church and just stepped forward and took care of it? What if people were just calling the pastoral staff pleading for an opportunity to serve? The men would think they had died and gone to heaven!
- A Servant Gives Personally – v. 5. Notice that they first gave “themselves” to the Lord and to the Apostles by the will of God. True servanthood starts with our relationship to Jesus. Do we see him as Lord & Master or as our Servant? Does He give authoritative commands or suggestions? If we are sold out to Jesus, we certainly will have no problem being sold out to His Church and to His people (see Mt. 25:34-40).
How do we overcome our selfishness and become servants of our Lord Jesus? By renewing our minds (Rom. 12:1-2). By having the attitude of Jesus (Phil. 2:5-8). By becoming doers of the Word and not merely hearers (James 1:22-25). By looking to future rewards (Heb. 6:10; Eph. 6:7-8; Col. 3:23-24).
APPLICATION: Memorize Phil. 2:3-4 and/or Mark 10:45. Then take some time to think of practical things you could do to serve others (family, neighbors, co-workers, church members). Write them down then start to do them anonymously, generously, voluntarily, personally, and JOYFULLY!