GALATIANS 5:13 (Part 2)
Serve Like Jesus
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Galatians 5:13 (Holman) For you are called to freedom, brothers; only don’t use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but serve one another through love.
Four passages in the New Testament relate to spiritual gifts (Romans 12:3; 1 Cor. 12:11; Eph. 4:7; 1 Peter 4:10). The passages make one truth crystal clear. No Christian has the right to be a spectator in a local church. Each believer is given a spiritual gift to be used in ministering to the body in the context of a local church.
Eighty percent of the work being done by twenty percent of the people may be the norm in a local church, but is unacceptable. One hundred percent must be done by one hundred percent. Each individual must contribute.
Coach John Wooden, legendary UCLA basketball coach, who won 10 national championships in 12 years (7 in a row), often reminded his players, “The guy who puts the ball through the hoop has 10 hands.” If we are to be a champion church for Christ, our whole team will have to be playing.
For a church to succeed at its highest potential, its members must serve in their areas of passion. When church members serve in the areas of their passion, tapping into the joyful essence out of which God means for us to do ministry, Pastors can spend less time trying to motivate people, to badger them into serving.
It is tragic when church leaders have to spend much of their time in spiritual cheerleading. Many Pastors feel their main message is “Rah! Rah! Rally the troops. Hey! Hey! Get on board.” “One, two, three, four, got one teacher, get some more.” “You! You! You’re our man. If you can’t do it, nobody can.”
Gary Taylor, when Pastor at First Baptist in O’Fallon, Missouri, told a group of us preachers he occasionally went to the airport to watch planes taxi down the runway, to see something moving and taking off he wasn’t pushing.
God has a better servant enlistment plan. Church leaders are to encourage, not to motivate. The two are not one and the same. Encourage implies people already in motion. Motivate implies moving someone off dead center.
The difference was illustrated in my high school 440-relay team. I ran third leg in the relay. Our anchorman, David, who ran the last leg, sprinted like a wild man. I was a disciplined runner, using proper techniques, but David was crazy.
When I watched him run, my eyes ached. His whole body flailed and churned. It seemed any moment an arm or leg could fly off his body. He ran with reckless abandon, loving every step of the race. When I handed the baton to him, all I had to do was encourage him, “Go, David, Go!” He was already in motion, highly passionate. All he needed was encouragement.
Ben, on the other hand, had to be motivated. At a district meet, when our relay team’s first leg runner, Richard, was injured, we needed a substitute. Coach said Ben was free at the time of the race and could fill in.
We found Ben, who immediately began making excuses. He was tired and hot, had never run a relay, didn’t know how to pass a baton, blah, blah, blah. We begged. We pleaded. We cajoled. We threatened. Finally, our motivation worked. Ben relented and ran. He didn’t do well. We were in last place when he passed the baton. Fortunately, wild man David pulled us to a second place finish.
Our churches need more wild man Davids and fewer whining ninny Bens. We leaders are called to encourage, not motivate. This can happen only when people have already decided they should serve in their areas of passion.
Even this method of finding our places of service is not foolproof. Many of us in our past tried to serve in our area of passion, but had a bad experience. We floated a trial balloon. Someone shot it down. We are not the first to be scorned.
Many have had to overcome opposition. Read the histories of these wonderful mission agencies: Wycliffe, Trans World Radio, New Tribes Mission, Youth With a Mission. All their stories share in common many details, including a person who dared to dream passionately, who was humiliated and ridiculed, who failed miserably at a certain point, but who re-embraced their original passion.
On the Lord’s behalf, and for the benefit of others and our beloved church, please dream again, try once more. Re-up your long forgotten effort. Dust off your old dream and memory. Shrug off wounded pride, and try again.
Maybe all of us need to try again, to make doubly sure we are serving in the right place. Finding God’s perfect will for our lives, knowing our precise role of service in a local church, is a life-long process, not a once in a lifetime decision.
We must constantly re-test the waters to see if we are still serving exactly where we should. It is easy to begin serving the Lord more from habit than from constantly sensing what He is currently directing us to do. Let our church, through its many ministry opportunities, help you take a fresh new look at yourself.
As a believer, you have been given a specific spiritual gift. Our duty is to acknowledge this fact, find our gift through trial and error, unwrap it, and then return it to God as a gift to benefit His church.
Fable says in Heaven there is a room filled with presents, the spiritual gifts people never opened on Earth. Don’t let your spiritual gift be one of the unopened ones. Quit warming the bench, leave the sideline, get in the trial-and-error game.
Right now, our church seems to need an extra portion of three of the spiritual gifts: helps, mercy, and hospitality. This lesson will focus on helps.
The gift of helps, listed in Romans 12:7a, is the practical act of serving others. Since our Lord said, “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve” (Matthew 20:28), it is no surprise that helps is one of the spiritual gifts most commonly claimed by His followers.
Anyone with the gift of helps is drawn to service, to people and projects needing assistance. Helpers don’t have to be asked to serve. Their antennas are always up, looking for ways to pitch in. They see what needs to be done and do it.
If a classroom is in shambles at class time, a person with discernment says, “Someone missed an assignment.” An administrator says, “Find a custodian.” A person with wisdom would say, “We should check our room earlier each week.” The church member with the gift of helps starts rearranging chairs and picking up trash, and has the room in order in about two minutes, finding as much satisfaction in doing it as the teacher will later find in teaching the lesson to the class.
Helpers find it hard to say no to any need. They gladly serve to the point of exhaustion, regretting there isn’t more they can do. People with this gift do dishes, take out garbage, clean floors, set up tables, visit the homebound, take food to the sick, care for the poor, greet strangers at the door, help older adults navigate stairs, pat children on the head, serve in the nursery, run cameras, work with children, etc.
Helpers seek ways to minister a kindness to others, to let Jesus’ love humbly shine through them. As they enact their gift of helps, being in the limelight is unnecessary, often a detriment. Quietly working behind the scenes is okay.
Helpers like sincere appreciation, a personal thank you, but are embarrassed by public recognition. This is one reason I know I do not have the gift of helps. I never met a camera I didn’t like and never regretted seeing my name in lights or in big letters on a program. Folks like me desperately need the example of helpers.
People with the gift of helps set the standard for the rest of us. This spiritual gift is vital, not peripheral, to what we are about as a church. We may not all share the exuberance of the helpers, but none of us should ever feel too good to stoop. We should all serve and help in every situation that presents itself to us.
If we ever feel hesitant to serve, remember, our Master washed feet. When Christ humbled Himself, He dignified humility, and honored it. Christian behavior is based on His example. Put little faith in anyone else as a role model. Even the best saints are imperfect. Don’t blindly follow them. Keep our eyes on Jesus.
Our Lord washed feet; we should be willing to do the same, to be ready to perform the lowliest service for others. If a church position requires hard work, but offers little reward and praise, take it. Be glad to have a position few want.
There is no rush after humble jobs. By taking one we hurt no one’s feelings, escape envy from others, relieve someone’s suffering, gain a peaceful conscience, and avoid the pharisaic spirit which craves the applause of people.
Be a servant. Too often we are standing on our pride when we ought to be kneeling in humility at each other’s feet. The desire for prominence, and being unwilling to take a subordinate place, damages the fellowship.
Thank you, dear helpers, for demonstrating again and again the spirit of our precious Savior. Thank you for showing us how to serve like Jesus