By Elaine Baldwin | @elainehbaldwin
Serve one another. Galatians 5:13 For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
I would venture to say that most born-again believers want to serve God faithfully and want to serve each other as often and as best as we can. So why is it that many disciples of Christ live with unmet needs and feel isolated and alone? And why is it that those believers who do serve others are quickly burned out and also feel isolated and alone?
Just this week I’ve heard a radio broadcast from Dr. Charles Stanley which answers these questions. The sermon was first preached in 1989 and to seminary students, but I believe his premise is just as pertinent today. You can hear the entire series (here).
Dr. Stanley said there were 7 steps leading to frustration and regret in service to God and others. I want to summarize this particular section through a personal lens. Dr. Stanley started with the first step, but I’m going to start with the final result and work back to the very first thing that starts us down the path of disappointment in serving others.
Step #7: Disaster!
Have you ever stood over a mess of human emotions and program failures and wondered; maybe even said aloud, “How did all this turn into a disaster?” I have! And more times than I care to confess here.
In each and every occurrence I had the best of intentions. I had the right people in place. I had every detail taken care of. Those within my circle of influence were excited and supportive of the service project; large or small
Sometimes the objectives of the service were met thoroughly and even above expectations. But, it didn’t matter because there I stood in the middle of some sort of disaster directly related to the service being provided. Sadly, I was usually clueless as to why said disaster occurred.
(I no longer have the excuse of cluelessness now that I’ve heard this teaching from Dr. Stanley. If you want to remain clueless, don’t keep reading. But if you’re tired of being tired in your service for God to others then read on!)
Step #6: Disobedience!
This is so hard to admit. And trust me. I’ve used every argument and every twist of Scripture to explain the disasters in step number seven. It had to be anything except my own disobedience.
But, alas! In every disaster of ministry to others; serving the one anothers around me, there was an area of disobedience in my life. It used to be I was horribly blinded to these sins. The result was repeating step number six and repeating step number seven over and over.
I am so thankful there is now some level of maturity and the blinders are quickly removed. My service to others is not perfect, but I am avoiding this step more often which means I am avoiding more disasters.
Step #5: Disillusionment
God is so honest in his Word, the Bible. He tells us all about the human condition. So why is it I wear rose colored glasses when it comes to serving others?
Why am I surprised when someone doesn’t seem to be genuinely thankful for my service? Why am I hurt when half the volunteers don’t show to set up and the other half don’t stay to clean up?
Why am I not prepared to deal effectively and decisively with the “Woe is me” feelings that often permeate my soul? Why am I not ready for the barrage of questions and even whining that is sure to come from some of the one anothers I am serving with?
Maybe I have taken on too much. Or my own expectations are too high. Or maybe my pride is bruised or puffed up. Whatever the reason, once I am disillusioned it’s not rose colored glasses I have on. It is the dismal dark glasses of despair that cloud my judgment and my heart.
Step #4: Discouragement
Over time and under continued stress it is easy to replace the obvious blessings of God with twisted opinions of our reality. The result is discouragement.
There is no doubt that when I’ve stood in the middle of my ministry disaster (step seven), discouragement was not far away. Maybe it was even as close as a few moments or drawn out for as long as months and even years.
Most likely my self-interests were not being met. Or my need for affirmation was not as “sparkling” as I would have liked. Or me, myself and I were feeling overused and under appreciated. Or _________________ just fill in the blank.
Step #3: Weariness
(You thought I was going to use all “D” words, didn’t you? I thought the preacher, Dr. Stanley, would too, but there just weren’t applicable “D” words to use for the last three steps. That’s probably a good thing.)
The very serving opportunity that used to excite me and be the catalyst for getting out of bed, now keeps me reaching for the snooze button. I’m just plain tired. Maybe you are too.
We’re tired of greeting the same people at the same door each and every Sunday morning. We’re tired of telling little Johnny for the umpteenth time to stop leaning his chair back on two legs. We’re tired of taking a lunch meal every Thursday to the crusty old gentlemen in 12B.
We know we shouldn’t be tired of serving others; of doing the Lord’s work. But we are and it just makes us more discouraged.
What’s happened? How did we get so tired? Why has the joy of serving Jesus gone?
Step #2: Burden Bearing
This is an interesting step because it seems so spiritual to bear one another’s burdens. In fact there is a command to do so. (Galatians 6:2)
But, the defining truth here is feeling the weight, the heaviness, of your service. It feels like you are being buried or crushed or at the very least bent over by all you are doing in the Lord’s name for others
I know this feeling and so do you. There is one reason and one reason only why we feel this crushing weight. And that is Step Number One!
Step #1: Prayerlessness
The ultimate, foundational reason I have stood in the middle of disaster after disaster in my service to Jesus for others is because I was too busy to pray. That’s it!
I am too busy to pray so I try and bear other’s burdens in my own strength and I am crushed underneath the weight. (Step #2)
I am too busy to pray so I work really, really hard but it is in my own strength and I become tired and oh so weary. (Step #3)
I am too busy to pray so I keep pulling myself up by my bootstraps, but the straps keep breaking and I keep falling and discouragement creeps into my heart, mind and soul. (Step #4)
I am too busy to pray so I raise the expectations for myself and for others only to find my rose colored glasses shattered on the all over my service mess. (Step #5)
I am too busy to pray so I disobey just a little, then a little more and more until I am blinded to my own sin. (Step #6)
I am too busy to pray so I stand in the middle of a service disaster and shake my head and wonder what in the world happened. (Step #7)
The bottom line is this: If I am too busy to pray…I am too busy to serve.
Are you too busy today?
Photo By: Margaret Richards | http://richardsandcompany.smugmug.com/