Saturday, March 18, 2006

40-Days to Servanthood: Day 14

You can cultivate servanthood as a way of life.

If you’ve gotten this far in these readings, you’ve become aware of a paradox. A paradox, according to one dictionary, is a “seemingly contradictory statement that may nonetheless be true: [for example:] the paradox that standing is more tiring than walking.”

The servanthood paradox is this: Servanthood is an involuntary response to Jesus Christ. Servanthood is also the chosen lifestyle of those who want to follow Christ.

In spite of the seeming contradiction, most Christians would affirm both of the preceding statements. We take no credit for the good we do; that’s Christ living in us. But without daily decisions to give our lives to Christ--to say, “Yes” to Him, He wouldn’t live in us.

So, how do we say, “Yes” to Christ’s call to servanthood? Richard Foster says we do this when, not for the sake of looking good, but for the love of Christ, we choose each day to serve others in Christ’s Name and do so in hidden ways. Foster uses the New Testament word for our sinful human impulses, the flesh, to describe the war that all who surrender to Christ wage in order to crucify the old sinful self and to rise as a true servants of God:
“The flesh whines against service but screams against hidden service. It strains and pulls for honor and recognition. It will devise subtle, religiously acceptable means to call attention to the service rendered. If we stoutly refuse to give in to this lust of the flesh, we crucify it. Every time we crucify the flesh, we crucify our pride and arrogance.”
If you’re intent on taking the hard and God-blessed path of servanthood, you might want to pray this prayer each day, “Jesus, help me serve not for the compliments of others, but to glorify You and to help others.” Then, do more than pray about it; work at it! This is how you can cultivate servanthood as a way of life!

Bible Passage to Ponder: “Practically everything that goes on in the world--wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important--has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out--but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity.” (First John 2:16, The Message)


Exalted_Flesh said...

Will you elaborate on “each day to serve others in Christ’s Name and do so in hidden ways”? This seems like another contradiction. Does this refer to us not being boastful in our deeds? How can we use our servanthood as an example to others of the wonderful things God does and yet not proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ while doing so, giving all credits to God?

Mark Daniels said...

As I see it, hidden service may mean several things:

(1) Sometimes, it will entail actual anonymous service. For people hardened by life, there are few things more stunning than an act of service in which there is no agenda and, more importantly, no seeming self-aggrandizement. It has the potential of beginning to change their "spiritual temperatures," increasing their receptivity to Christ at an opportune time.

Servanthood entails having the humility to accept that we won't always be the one privileged to tell people the Good News. (We won't always make the Gospel sale, so to speak.) But God can use as the good news in people's lives that opens their hearts and wills to THE Good News of Jesus Christ.

(2) Often, it will mean no overt witnessing for Jesus Christ. This doesn't mean that we're ashamed of Christ. It means that we allow a lifestyle of servanthood with no expectation of reward to have its effect on others.

We can expect that often, people will ask us why we serve. This is when I think Peter's advice to "be prepared always to give a defense for the hope that is in you, but do so with gentleness and reverence," comes into play.

(3) Always, hidden service will mean not calling attention to one's self. If our attitude is one of trying to seem great or godly by taking time out of our busy schedules to do this humble thing, our motives are all wrong. We'll be like the Pharisees Jesus excoriated for loving to say long, pious prayers in public.

In fact, motive is central when it comes to this issue of "hiddenness." Jesus' portrayal of the judgment in Matthew 25:31-46 has a sort of hidden parable on hiddenness within it: The story of all these people who were the hidden Christ serving the hidden Christ.

The sheep in Jesus' story serve because the Christ living in their lives recognizes the Christ in the vulnerable and hurting people around them and so, serves them.

Here, we see too, that service is an act of worship, more than anything else. When we worship, we aren't calling attention to ourselves, we're declaring the "worth-ship" of our great and good Savior-God.

Do you remember the place early in Acts when Peter and John were dragged before the religious authorities for healing a man? Peter's defense included him saying, "...if we are questioned today because of a good deed done to someone who was sick and are asked how this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that this man is standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead." (Acts 4)

Peter hadn't gone out of his way to call attention to himself. But when asked why he had done this good deed, he wasn't mush-mouthed about saying Who really had done the good deed. Like all servants of God, Peter acknowledged that without Christ, he could do nothing (John 15:5) and told everybody that was the case.

I believe that such hidden service earns Christians the opportunity to share Christ. Again, as I mentioned earlier, we may not be the servants who do the overt evangelizing, but if we are humble enough to be part of the process and pray that God will use our service in Christ's Name to convey the Good News of nw life in Christ, God will answer that prayer, I'm certain!

I hope that this responds to your very good question!


Exalted_Flesh said...

Exactly what I was looking for, thanks for the insight. I get that in "hidden ways" there may be an opportunity presented for the Holy Spirit to intercede.

Mark Daniels said...