Two Reasons Why I Struggle with Serving
This month in Serve Thursday we are exploring some of the challenges of serving. Last week Jerry Worrell, who has led 40 mission trips (how’s that for experience?), did a great job sharing about some of the struggles he’s faced while serving with teams regionally and globally. Travel detours, unmet expectations, and judgmental attitudes are real, Jerry said, but in the end it’s more than worth it.
This week I want to address on a personal level two of the greatest struggles we face in serving others. These heart issues are relevant for wherever you are living life, whether in the comfy confines of your home or in a not-so-comfy part of the world that you never dreamed you’d be in. These principles apply to racial reconciliation, being sensitive to others during Covid, and almost any other situation you’ll find yourself in while living in a broken world.
The first struggle in serving others that I’d like to address is flexibility. Ouch! I’m almost off-the-charts when it comes to desiring order in my life. I want to know what to expect, and how I can best prepare for it. But life doesn’t always go as planned, does it? A flexible, trusting mindset allows us to serve others well. Jesus is a good example for us here. We know that he withdrew to lonely places to pray in the morning (Mk. 1:35), but after his resurrection we see a delightful example of how he fixed some of his disciples breakfast at daybreak (Jn. 21:1-14). You mean Jesus altered his quiet time? Is it possible he didn’t even have one that morning? Tell me it isn’t so! If you thumb through the pages of the gospels you will be amazed at how often his ministry was the result of an interruption.
Many of us will have a great opportunity to be flexible in just a few days with our Return to Church Sunday! For those of us who like routine and predictability at church, we will need to humbly lay aside our expectations and preferences and put on an “it’s not about me” attitude. I don’t know about you, but I’m not used to wearing a mask or not shaking hands on Sunday morning. But I am confident that the Holy Spirit can produce his desired fruit of patience, kindness, and self-control in my heart. I am confident he will do the same for you!
My second battleground for serving others well is the struggle of self-importance. I continue to be convicted by this quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his short classic, Life Together:
More often than I’d like to admit I miss an opportunity to serve others because I hesitate in my decision. I don’t want to put aside what I’m doing! I have to meet my reading goal, or finish my current project. I have important things to do–great work for the kingdom! And by the time I decide to help someone out, the opportunity in its sweetness has passed, or someone else had to jump in because I didn’t. It’s hard for the self-important person to consistently live out the upside-down kingdom truth of Mt. 23:11, “the greatest among you will be your servant.” May the Lord continue to teach us how to be quick to wash feet, touch lepers, hold children, and prepare breakfast for those who have let us down (menial tasks that Jesus specialized in that everyone else tried to avoid—Rick Warren, Purpose Driven Life).
Next week we will hear from a high school youth and her dad (Sarah and Pat Rundall) about some of the challenges they have experienced in serving others who are different from them (in the context of short-term missions). Until then, enjoy serving others with increasing flexibility and self-forgetfulness in these great days of opportunity!