SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES

SERVICE (PART 2)

CALLED TO SERVE GOD BY SERVING OTHERS

 

A NEW BEGINNING

On this anniversary of Palm Sunday – the day that Jesus entered Jerusalem “gentle and riding on a donkey” (Matthew 21:6 and Zech 9:9) – we remember that Jesus was proclaiming a new beginning, a new Kingdom of God where He was the King (riding on a donkey) but ruling in a new way – not dictatorial but humble, gentle, lowly – that He was the “Servant King”. His act was one of public declaration that God’s way was a way of love and care and service. An example for them and an example – and challenge – for us.

For today we declare a “New Beginning” for our church family. Today we proclaim a “Renewed Focus” to bring the Good News of Jesus to our community by opening ourselves up to serve them in the same way that Jesus served the people. Today we choose to state “I am here to worship God and to be His servant by serving my community in His Name”.

Now, if there is any doubt as to whether this is what we are called to do then out of the countless Bible passages that direct us to do this just focus on these:

In Matthew 20:28 Jesus declared that He “did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”. He is talking about serving ALL.

Then, in Matthew 22:37-40 Jesus answers the question of the greatest commandment with the words:  ‘“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’ When asked to explain who one’s “neighbour” is, He answered with the parable of the Good Samaritan where care was shown to someone by a complete stranger. This is true service in the Name of God.

How are we to do this?

We will take our example from the way the early church served their community as first told us in Acts 3:

 

ACTS 3:1-10

One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer – at three in the afternoon. Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, ‘Look at us!’ So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.

Then Peter said, ‘Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.’ Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 they recognised him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

 

LESSONS FROM THIS STORY ABOUT SERVICE

  1. It all begins with our service to God in worship:

Peter and John were going up to the Temple at the time of prayer. They started with focusing on their joyful and personal relationship with God Himself. The more we focus on God so the more we will be placed in the way of opportunity to serve our community.

  1. Be aware and be available:

That crippled man was at the Temple begging every day – who ever really noticed him? Just put a couple of coins in his hand and walk away – or turn your head and don’t even notice him at all. But, close to God, and full of the Holy Spirit, Peter and John were now aware of the need that was right in front of them.

As we enter a new phase in our church life let us ask God, through His Spirit, to make us aware of the needs that are there, right in front of us – with our family, our friends, our neighbours, our work colleagues, people that we walk past in the street.

Notice that Peter and John made themselves available. They had an agenda. It was 3 o’clock, time for their prayer. But they let go of their wants in order to meet the needs of one who was there. Our new agenda must be the same – to be available, willing to let go of our agenda to show love to the needy in our community when we see it.

  1. Don’t worry about what you haven’t got to offer:

The crippled man wanted money and Peter and John didn’t have any. Don‘t worry about what you haven’t got. Don’t be stopped from serving your community with such thoughts as “I’m too old, too poor, too stupid, not skilled enough, I haven’t got much time or much energy, I’m too nervous – let others do it!”

  1. Rather, have the attitude of “what I do have I give you”:

Notice two things in this story. First: it’s important to know what you have and don’t have. ‘Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you.”’ You must become comfortable in your own skin and confident in your calling. Paul writes: ‘Let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without…trying to be something we aren’t. If you preach, just preach God’s Message, nothing else; if you help, just help, don’t take over; if you teach, stick to your teaching; if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don’t get bossy; if you’re put in charge, don’t manipulate; if you’re called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don’t let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face. Love from the centre of who you are; don’t fake it’ (Romans 12:6-9 MSG). (Quote taken from “Word for today” by UCB – 19th March 2018)

Focus on serving the community with what you CAN do. If you can pray for people, then pray. If you can go round and befriend lonely people, then befriend them. If you can chat to them over the garden fence, then chat. If you can get some shopping in for your neighbour, then shop. If you can babysit their child, then babysit. And so it goes on. What you DO have is what calls you to SERVE with.

  1. Be sensitive to what your community REALLY needs you to do for them:

The UCB “Word for Today” goes on to say: Second: learn to recognise the difference between what people want and what they truly need. Sometimes they need to be strengthened; other times they need to be stretched. Sometimes they need comfort, not correction; other times they need correction, not comfort. This lame man didn’t need a handout – he needed a hand up. And that’s what Peter gave him. ‘He took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength’ (Acts 3:7 NKJV). So, in order to help people you must love them, recognise what they need, know what you have to offer, and connect with them at the point of their need.

 

IT’S AN AWESOME CALLING TO SERVE

I remember what I said in my first talk on “service”. There is nothing that is going to give us more joy than to hear Jesus cry out to us on the day that we go to be with Him “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:21).

And that there is no greater privilege on earth than to be described as “Peter, the servant of God”.

I WANT to be His servant. To have this purpose, this “high calling” in life. To know that I am considered worthy to be doing His will.

However, I have acutely recognised that there is another side to the coin of service – and that is the accusation of inadequacy.

Night time is the time when I am most likely to be “under attack” from the evil one – the devil, Satan. The Bible does clearly declare that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12). Our Bible reading today from Ephesians 6:10-18 tells us to put on the whole armour of God in this battle – which, in my experience, largely takes place in the mind.

Since being here I have regularly been woken up with a “start” in the early hours of the morning, immediately feeling under a weight of oppression that has taken the form of “you cannot do this work – it is too much for you – give it up – you’re not spiritual enough – who are you to think you are able to lead this church – you’re not up to the job – it is all going to fall apart around you!”

Now, why should I be surprised at such accusations?

However, what has been so good is for the Spirit to say to me in return: “God is your Master. You ARE His servant. A servant’s role is to listen to their Master and to do what they say. It is the Master who is responsible for what happens. It is God’s church and not yours – so you don’t have to worry anymore”.

Has this stopped the night-time attacks? No. But, I know where they come from and I know the truth.

My job as servant? It is to listen and obey. That’s it. And how do I listen? Through the Word and through the Spirit and through the opportunities that I am led into. Look at Philip. He was servant of God and servant of the church (deacon) and he was open to God’s leading and was literally taken into the desert to meet with the Ethiopian eunuch.

 

CONCLUSION AND CHALLENGE

Acts 3:6 what I do have I give you

What has God given you that you can use to be His servant in the community?

Early one morning God gave me a picture of a ship – one of the “ships of the line” in the early 19th C. I saw this ship ploughing through the water, the wind filling the sails. But the decks were empty – apart from me, who was running around trying to do it all, at the wheel, on the rigging, swabbing the decks. And God clearly told me that this was wrong and that I must stop this. For I am to do what He has given me. And I realised that on the quarter deck should be standing Jesus as Captain of the ship. That, from the bowels of the ship should come all the many people of the church to work hard on deck. My role? To stand behind the wheel and steer the ship to the command of the captain.

The ship is our church – our Ashford Community Church. The sea is the community in which we live. The wind filling the sails must be the Holy Spirit. Jesus, our Captain, is the one who tells us – His servants – what to do. My job? To listen to the Captain – Jesus – and steer the church in the way that it should go. Your job? To, like Peter, be always available to say “what I do have I give you”.#

So….what about YOU?