This month, our meditation has been excerpted from the book entitled, Bound to Be Free compiled by Jan Pit. In the following short quotation from the heart of Pastor Zhu's wife (from China, described as a "pillar of God in China"), there is fodder for reflection and perhaps application:
The greatest amongst you will be your servant. (Matthew 23:11)
This is not an easy command. Normally, people like to be served instead of serving others.
Jesus Himself set the example 'Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve' (Matthew 20:28). The disciples of Christ should follow in His footsteps.
During the 1950s I was studying at Beijing University. I loved to attend the meetings of the Christian Students' Association. This association did not have full time staff members--no, those who served the Christian students were fellow Christians. Not because they wanted to be great or important, but because they were important, because they served other people. When the government clamped down on the Church they arrested many of our 'brothers and sisters'. We could not meet openly anymore. We had to meet secretly--in homes. But we had learned an important lesson from our 'brothers and sisters'--how to serve others. That's how we continued: serving one another. You want to be a blessing to other people? Then serve them maybe in a small way, a smile, a letter, a visit...
'Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven' (Matthew 5:16).
A moment of introspection: "May I be of service to you?" Often heard, and just as often expressed. In each of our lives, opportunities come in which we may provide a service to others--e.g., within our family, as part of our occupation or job, in a volunteer capacity, providing tangible goods, offering information, playing music, bringing hope to the suffering or dying, offering encouragement to the timid or hesitant, helping one to overcome an obstacle in life, showing the way to someone lost, visiting shut-ins, running errands for those who cannot, etc. Pastor Zhu's wife adds other ideas of service including "a smile, a letter, a visit". In each of these ways, we have the opportunity to be a blessing to other people, just as our Lord came to serve others, instead of being served Himself. An unknown mother wrote to her child in the child's album, "Small service is true service while it lasts. Of humblest friends, bright creature! scorn not one: the daisy, by the shadow that it casts, protects the lingering dewdrop from the sun." We can serve God through serving people; we can raise our children to serve others as well. The apostle Peter in his first letter to the churches, and to us, urged that "As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves as one who serves by the strength that God supplies--in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To Him belong glory and dominion forever and ever." (1 Peter 4:10-11) We are to use our talents and our gifts to serve others. Many of us do this either consciously or without much thought. We try to serve God in ways and places that we can. Oswald Chambers (quoted in "Men of Integrity", Vol. 3, no. 5) added to this in saying, "Never allow the thought, 'I am of no use where I am.' You certainly can be of no use where you are not." Ruth Harms Calkin (in her book, Tell Me Again, Lord, I Forget, 1986, Tyndale House Publishers) penned the following poem that gives us insight into unrewarded service, or gratuitous love for others:
You know, Lord, how I serve You
With great emotional fervor
In the limelight.
You know how eagerly I speak for You
At the women’s club.
You know how I effervesce when I promote
A fellowship group.
You know my genuine enthusiasm
At a Bible study.
But how would I react, I wonder
If You pointed to a basin of water
And asked me to wash the calloused feet
Of a bent and wrinkled old woman
Day after day
Month after month
In a room where nobody saw
And nobody knew.
A good statement heard over the years, is that "There is no limit to the amount of good that can be done, if nobody cares who gets the credit." Ruth H. Calkin understood this servant attitude, as she wrote her poem. Gordon MacDonald (at a "Mastering Ministry" Conference in January of 1993. "Christianity Today", Vol. 37, no. 5) added depth to Ruth's writings, when he said, "You can tell whether you are becoming a servant by how you act when people treat you like one." Though speaking on the subject of prayer, Jesus warned His followers to refrain from praying: to make an impression on others, for accolades from others, for the approval of others, for gratuities from others. (Matthew 6:5-6) In similar fashion, He might have also warned His disciples not to do miracles or evangelize "for show"; but to do everything as to the Lord, who sees what is done in private and in public. The apostle Paul instructed the Romans "For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s." (Romans 14:8) If we serve others, we serve others to the Lord. In this, may He find us faithful when He comes to call His church to Him. (Luke 12:35-38)
Let us be trustworthy servants, in the big and little things. Dwight L. Moody (quoted in "Men of Integrity", Vol. 3, no. 5) wrote "There are many of us who are willing to do great things for the Lord, but few of us are willing to do the little things." Sometimes a smile, a letter, or a visit, and other means is all that it takes to help others. Pastor Zhu's wife asks, "You want to be a blessing to other people? Then serve them in a small way." In big or small deeds, a servant's heart seeks no recompense or repayment. In all ways, a servant's heart serves to the Lord. Let us seek to serve Him well; faithful until He comes, and if many witness our service or none do, may all give praise to God!