CHILDREN HAVE A HEART TO SERVE!
My son, Levi, is about four and a half years old and the little guy has a heart to serve. For example, if during Awana time someone falls and hurts himself, the first thing he wants to do is get his favorite blanket and give it to him to make him feel better. During supper time his inclination, his nature, what he wants to do, is to take the water cups or juice or whatever it is, and take them to the table. He wants to serve. He has the inward desire to serve others and it is really, really neat.
LESSONS THROUGH EVERYDAY INCIDENTS
Recently, when I was mowing the lawn something happened that taught me a lesson. God has a way of doing that. He uses everyday incidents to teach us life lessons, if we are willing to listen. When I mow, it's like, "Get out of my way, I've got to mow! I want to get this thing done." But Levi loves to serve. He has a little toy mower and he will literally walk the whole yard with me. We will be mowing and he will stop and wait and I will go past and he will start mowing. He will mow every inch of that yard with me and I know there is going to come a time when he is going to be walking along mowing and he is going to slip between the mower and me and he is going to move my hands out of the way. He is going to grab my mower and he is going to try to push it! On those days that I get real concerned about trying to get the yard done, I am going to have to make a decision, am I going to say, "Get out of my way, kid!"
I can see it now. He is going to have a hold of the mower and I am going to have to come up around him and put my hands on and open my legs and straddle and push the mower. I know if I let go, it's not going to get done. God showed me that our relationship with Him is like my relationship with my son. We want to come alongside of Him and be about the business of the kingdom. We often mess things up, we delay successful outcomes. He does not need us to get the task done. He is about seeking and saving, transforming lost lives. But He is also interested in shaping us. Although God does not need us to fulfill His work, He enjoys co-laboring with us. I want my son to grow up to be a kind, responsible adult. With this goal in mind, I have to be more concerned with his development than I am with 'getting the job done'. God feels the same way about us!
GOD WANTS TO SUPPORT OUR WORK FOR HIM!
Isaiah 42:1-9 are powerful verses that directly tell us that God wants to support our work for Him. The basic theme of Isaiah is found in his name. Isaiah means "salvation is of the Lord." In fact, the book of Isaiah has the word "salvation" in it 26 times. Isaiah is concerned with the theme of salvation beyond the other prophecy books combined. Salvation is a major theme in the book of Isaiah. Isaiah does not view salvation as just something spiritual that will occur in the distant future. Salvation in Isaiah also concerns social, political, and spiritual conditions that are against His truth and ways. Conditions that corrupt. God wants to save His people from the consequences of sin, of an unholy, unrighteous lifestyle. In Isaiah 42:1-9, we see this theme of salvation. We also see the nature of a godly servant.
Here's my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight. I put my spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or cry out or raise his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice and he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth and in his lull the islands will put their hope. This is what God, the Lord says, he who created the heavens and stretched them out and spread out the earth and all that comes out of it. Who gives breath to his people and life to those who walk on it. This is what God says. I, the Lord, I have called you in righteousness and I will take your hand, I will keep you and I will make you to be a covenant, a covenant for the people and the light for the Gentiles. To open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness. I am the Lord. That is my name and I will not give my glory to anyone or my praise to idols. See, the former things have taken place and now things I declare before they spring into being I announce them to you.
GODLY SERVANT'S CHARACTER: THREE THINGS
- This passage in Isaiah 42 teaches us three things about being a godly servant. First, you must portray a servant's character. Look at verses 1-4. He is talking about the coming Messiah and he shows us very clearly the character that the coming Messiah will have. "Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight and I will put my spirit on him." Gods' part is very important for us to understand. He is the one that lifts us up in times of difficulty. God said, "I will uphold, I will hold up, my anointed one." Before God set Himself to create everything, He had a plan that Jesus Christ would come. He would step from out of eternity and into time. His plan also included us, all who will receive His Son as Savior and Lord. Scripture is clear that He chose us before we chose Him. So, if you want to have the character of a godly servant you must be willing to be upheld and supported by God. You must be willing to give God praise and honor above everything and everyone else. You must realize that you cannot do it yourself!
- Secondly, the godly servant must focus on the world around him or her. The godly servant in verse 2 (Christ) will promote justice and comfort the weak and hurting. Verse 3 says, "A bruised reed he will not break and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out." In gentleness He will comfort and promote justice. He will not falter or be discouraged until he establishes justice on earth. He will persistently pursue justice and deliverance for all who are hurting and willing to listen to His voice. If we want to be godly servants, we will have to follow Jesus' example. We will have to be concerned about others, especially the hurting and downtrodden. The godly servant brings light where there is darkness. The godly servant attempts to open the eyes of the spiritually blind. To free the captives from sin, death, and hell.
- Third, a godly servant must respond to His call. Apart from responding to His call, we are shackled to our own weaknesses and spiritual inadequacies. We must possess the call of God in our lives. We must realize that unless God is in something, mere human effort will not yield eternal results. The successful Christian life is not based on mere human effort. It is a partnership. Without the Christian being conscious of God's call in his or her life that Christian will flounder and struggle. God's call involves His general call to a righteous and godly life, behavior that is set apart toward Him, and a specific call to be involved in some activity or profession. Awareness of both calls gives direction and guidance to our lives.
GIVE GLORY TO GOD!
If we want to be godly servants, we need to give God the glory for anything that is accomplished spiritually. Our allegiance is to Him. Yea, it's nice to get accolades, "Nice job, nice job," but never forget, a godly servant reflects and portrays the image of the Son. He or she responds to the call, but it is all about Him. We often have our own agenda rather than consider what God wants. The nature of a servant is that the servant is where he is in order to do the will of his master. A servant serves. That is the way it is!
Margaret Fankster Thippen writes about her dad who had a muscular disorder that caused muscular atrophy. Knowing that he was withering away and would not be able to move or even swallow soon, he threw himself into his work as a British minister working with foreign mission homes. At Easter, two weeks before he died, he wrote a letter to his daughter. In the letter he said: "It would be terrible to wake up one Easter morning and have no voice to shout, 'He is risen.' But it would be more terrible to have a voice and not want to shout." He wrote many letters, many books. He believed that because of the disease that afflicted him, he was able to contribute more time to writing and prayer. His work sparked prayer cells all over Europe. Before his death, he was more focused on serving God and working for His kingdom than at any other time in his life. It was then that he bore much fruit.
RESPOND TO HIS CALL, AND GET INVOLVED IN HIS WORK!
God has gifted every one of us to do something unique and special. He has created you to work alongside of Him in some special way. To repeat, the first step in following God is developing godly character. Maybe you have responded to His call for godly behavior and you are developing that character. The next step is involving yourself in some ministry or service that glorifies God. He has gifted you to bring Him glory and honor. If we will use those gifts in service to Him, we will bear fruit. We will grow and mature spiritually and others will be benefited as God ministers to them through us.
WHAT IS SUCCESSFUL EVANGELISM?
Successful evangelism isn't leading someone to the Lord. Successful evangelism is being obedient at scattering the seed. I do not want you to think that you have to be a Billy Graham. You just have to be an obedient servant. Let me tell you about a flashlight I found recently. It was in one of my cabinets. It is a large one. I found it the other day after several months of not using it and when I tried to shine it I discovered it did not work. The light did not come on, not even a faint glow, nothing. I knew that I had put new batteries in it, so I figured the batteries had run out of power. I unscrewed the lid and tried to take out the batteries but they would not come out. I started shaking and shaking and shaking. What a mess! I had battery acid all over the place. Those batteries that I put in were new when I put them in, but now they were badly corroded.
Batteries are not designed to be idle. They are designed to be used. I opened up that flashlight and inside it was terribly corroded. There was stuff all over on the inside, the walls, the switches, the springs, the lightbulb, were covered with battery acid and corrosion. The flashlight became useless. Isn't that how we are? God has designed us to be the light of the world. We were not created to be in a safe environment, warm and snuggly. We were designed to cast light amid the darkness.
WE ARE CREATED TO SHARE GOD'S MESSAGE
You and I were created to share God's message of good news to the world.
Isaiah 40:1-11 describe that good news centuries before Jesus Christ was born into this world. "Comfort, comfort my people," says God. "Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for. That she has received from the Lord's hand double for all her sins."
Verse 3: "A voice of one calling in the desert, prepare the way for the Lord. Make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up and every mountain and hill made low. A rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken."
Verse 6: "A voice says cry out and I said, what shall I cry? All men are like grass and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall but, because the breath of the Lord blows on them, surely the people are grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord, our God, stands forever."
Verse 9: "You who bring tidings to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout. Lift it up and do not be afraid. Say to the towns of Judah, here is your God. See the sovereign Lord comes with power and his arm rules for him. See his reward is with him and his recompense accompanies him."
Verse 11: "He tends his flock like a shepherd. He gathers the lambs in his arms. He carries them close to his heart. He gently leads those that have young."
Look at verses 3-5. In the desert there is dryness, aridness because of a lack of water. Spiritually, there are people in our community who are dry and thirsty who need to be watered. In the wilderness there is aloneness. Many people suffer daily with loneliness. We, like the prophet, can bring God's words of encouragement to them, maybe even bring them some companionship.
Verse 4 says, "Every valley shall be raised and every mountain and hill made low. The rough ground shall become level and the rugged place a plain." For those who are arrogant and haughty this is a warning. God is saying, "I am the sovereign Lord, you are only a human whose heart can stop beating at any time, trust in Me. For those who are lowly in this world, entering into My purposes and plans can give a significance and satisfaction that will last beyond this temporal world."
DO NOT LOSE YOUR SPIRITUAL FOCUS! YOU WERE CREATED TO SHARE!
I was reminded the other day of a basketball game I saw in 1987. LSU was playing Indiana. It was the regional semi-finals in the NCAA tournament and LSU was ahead by 8 points. They were milking the clock, focusing on the clock. But what got them 8 points ahead had nothing to do with focusing on the clock, but playing wholeheartedly. One of the announcers saw this and said, "Look, they are no longer playing like they are trying to beat Indiana. They are trying to beat the clock." As they lost their focus, concentrating on the clock, Indiana crept closer and closer. Indiana won the game. Indiana went on to win the national championship. Brothers and sisters, do not lose your spiritual focus. You are in an important 'game', do not focus on the clock. Jesus is coming with justice for the downtrodden and abused. You were created to share. Echo the voice of the prophet.
The second voice in this passage is the voice of God. The Lord cries out, "All men are like grass and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall because the breath of the Lord falls on them. Surely the people are like grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever." As you are sharing with others, communicate this truth--that we are temporal and weak. The things that we focus on, the houses, the cars, the bank accounts, whatever it is, are temporal and destined for destruction. We are all subject to death and judgment. We are powerless to prevent either!
WHAT ARE YOU CRYING OUT AGAINST?
Chuck Colson wrote in his book, The Loving God, about a 4th century Christian monk who lived in a remote village and as he was praying he heard the word of the Lord. He heard God's voice and it said, "Go to Rome." The monk spent weeks traveling to Rome. He arrives just as a festival was starting and follows the crowd into the Coliseum. His heart was full of Christ's love and concern for others. When he saw the gladiators killing each other for the pleasure of the crowd and their own glory, he was grieved and horrified. He went down into the fighting arena and walked over to the gladiators and said, "In the name of Christ, Stop!" As he said this, one of the gladiators drove his sword into the little man's body. As he collapsed on the Coliseum floor, he shouted again, "In the name of Christ, Stop!" A hush fell over the crowd. One person in the stands got up and made his way to the exit. He was followed by another, then another, and then another. Colson writes, "That day was the last day that people died in that Coliseum for pure entertainment." What are you crying out against? What grieves your heart? That little man made a huge impact because he stood with Christ against injustice and brutality. What are you willing to side with Christ to oppose? Anything?
"You who bring good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout. Lift up your voice, do not be afraid. Say to the towns of Judah, here is your God. See the sovereign Lord comes with power and his arm rules for him" (verses 9-10).
We should do the same thing for our community. We were created to share. If that little monk can look those huge gladiators in the eye and say, "Stop!" then surely you can speak to those God puts in your path.
PROTECTOR AND NURTURER
Verse 11 likens God's role of protector and nurturer to that of a shepherd. It says, "He tends his flock like a shepherd and He gathers them in his arms and carries them close to his heart. He gently leads those who have young." Does that sound familiar? Psalm 23 comes to my mind. Look at Psalm 23. Let me read the first couple of verses. "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures and he leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul." What did we say would happen? Revival would break out. "He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake and even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me. Your rod and your staff will comfort me." It's a beautiful picture of the shepherd with his rod and his staff gently guiding and protecting his beloved sheep. This Shepherd is worthy of our trust!
BE CALM! AND ALLOW GOD!
I was reminded recently about a race boat driver who had a racing accident. The racer was traveling at top speed and catches a wave at the right angle and spins out of control. He was thrown out of the boat. In fact, he was going so fast and the angle of trajectory was so steep that he was thrown deep into the ocean water. It threw him down so far that he had no idea which direction he was facing. He said he calmly waited for a few moments so that the buoyancy in his vest could begin to move him in the correct direction. He followed that buoyancy and swam to the surface. Some of us have our lives filled with so many things that when we emotionally and spiritually spin out of control we lose our bearings. We do not know how to escape. We need to learn how to be calm and allow God to protect and direct us.
You were created to share. Echo the words of the prophet and the words of our Lord. Echo the voice of the people. Tell others that their Savior has died and been raised to new life for them. Tell them that forgiveness is available for all who receive the redemptive work of Jesus Christ at Calvary as their own. Tell them and some will believe!