Pressing On In Serving Others
By Rich Carmicheal
Have you ever noticed how willing Jesus was during His three years of public ministry to be interrupted and inconvenienced by those in need, and even willing to face criticism in order to help them? Here are just a few such examples:
• In the midst of teaching to a wall-to-wall crowd in a home, Jesus took time to forgive and heal a paralytic lowered right in front of Him, though it caused some present to criticize Him (Mark 2:1-12).
• He spent time with tax collectors and "sinners" and showed them mercy, though the religious leaders criticized Him for doing so (Matt. 9:9-13; Luke 15:1-2).
• While speaking to a large crowd, Jesus was willing to leave at the request of Jairus in order to go and help his daughter who was dying. While on the way to deal with this pressing matter, Jesus took time to interact with a woman who had pressed through the crowd and touched Him for healing (Mark 5:21-43).
• On one occasion when so many people were coming and going that Jesus and His disciples did not even have time to eat, they tried to get away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. However, many people ran on foot and got there ahead of them. When Jesus landed, He had compassion on the large crowd and began teaching them many things (Mark 6:30-34). Later that day He took time to feed them through a miraculous provision of fish and bread (Mark 6:35-44), and then the next morning, after crossing over into Gennesaret, He was again mobbed by people and He took time to teach them and heal their sick (Mark 6:56; John 6:25-40).
• When Jesus entered the vicinity of Tyre, He entered a house not wanting anyone to know where He was. However, He could not keep His presence a secret, and a Canaanite woman came to Him and begged for mercy because her daughter suffered from demon possession. Although Jesus wanted to be alone with His disciples, and although the disciples urged Him to send her away because she kept crying out, and although Jesus was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel, He still took time to speak to the woman and to deliver her daughter from the demon (Mark 7:24-30; Matt. 15:23-24).
• Even though His disciples tried to discourage people from bringing little children to Him, Jesus told them to let the children come to Him and "He took the children in His arms, put His hands on them and blessed them" (Mark 10:13-16).
• When interrupted by a rich young man, Jesus did not push him away, but felt compassion for him and took time to talk with him about what the young man really needed (Mark 10:17-22).
• When Jesus and His disciples, along with a large crowd, were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus shouted for Jesus to have mercy on him. Although many people rebuked Bartimaeus and told him to be quiet, Jesus stopped, took time to ask him what he wanted, and then restored his sight (Mark 10:46-52).
• While passing through Jericho, He took time to go to the home of Zacchaeus the tax collector, and as a result of the time Jesus spent visiting with him, Zacchaeus received salvation (Luke 19:1-9).
• He took time to discuss spiritual birth with a Pharisee named Nicodemus who came to Him at night (John 3:1-21).
• After spending time visiting with a Samaritan woman whom others would have avoided, Jesus stayed for two days with the people of her village as they urged Him to stay and share with them (John 4:1-42).
Why was Jesus so willing to be interrupted, inconvenienced and criticized in order to meet the needs of others? One reason is because He came to earth as a servant: "…the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many" (Matt. 20:28). He willingly set His own rights aside and "…made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant…" (Phil. 2:7). Therefore, when He encountered people who needed His help, He willingly gave them His time, energy, love, and ultimately His very life. He realized that as a servant, His calling was to give of Himself so that others might receive physical and spiritual blessings. He became poor so that through His poverty others might become rich (2 Cor. 8:9).
Another important reason why Jesus so willingly adjusted to the needs of those around Him is because He sensed His Father leading Him to do so. As He shared, "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by Himself; He can do only what He sees the Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows Him all He does…" (John 5:19-20). Jesus was not a man-pleaser who was pulled here and there at random by the whims of those around Him. Instead, He was fully in control, and His service was always very intentional. He simply joined in what He saw His Father doing.
Jesus was able to discern the opportunities His Father placed before Him because He was completely devoted to His Father and His Father’s will, and because He often spent time in prayer with His Father (see Mark 1:35; 6:45-46; Luke 5:15-16; 6:12; 9:18; 22:41-42). In other words, His service to others was the natural outflow of His relationship with His Father. From that relationship Jesus received direction, strength, wisdom and power for ministry, and was prepared for every encounter with others.
I recently heard someone say that "Jesus never went out of His way to help others…" I was taken aback by this until I heard the rest of the statement: "…because helping others was never out of Jesus’ way." Helping others was not out of Jesus’ way because the course of His life was set toward serving needy people. He did not view such people as interruptions and inconveniences, but as the very people His Father sent Him to serve. He took these many encounters in stride because of His servant’s heart and because of His desire to walk in loving obedience to His Father.
We Are Called to Serve
As in all things related to our Christian walk, Jesus serves as our perfect model of servanthood. We are called to serve just as He did:
"…whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve…" (Matt. 20:26-28).
"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interest of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who…made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant…" (Phil. 2:3-7).
Just as we are called to serve as Jesus did, we can also expect challenges similar to those He faced. Serving others will often mean interruptions and inconveniences to our schedule, as well as the possibilities of criticism. As in the case of the Good Samaritan that Jesus used as an example of one who loved his neighbor, service requires self-sacrifice and costs us time, energy, and our resources (Luke 10:30-37). It means that we must lay selfish ambitions aside, and look to the interests of others, considering others better than ourselves (Phil. 2:3-4).
Because it is often very demanding to serve others, the Word of God encourages us to persevere:
"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers" (Gal. 6:9-10).
"God…will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him as you have helped His people and continue to help them. We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end…" (Heb. 6:10-11).
Of course, to develop and maintain such a servant’s heart, we must follow Jesus’ example and spend much time with our Father seeking direction, strength, love, encouragement and power for ministry. "…If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides…" (1 Pet. 4:11). It is the time we spend with Him that prepares us to serve the people He sends our way. "…If a man remains in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit" (John 15:5).
The Christians in Macedonia modeled this as they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to others in keeping with God’s will. As a result, they were able, even in the midst of severe trial and poverty, to serve other saints by giving "as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability" (2 Cor. 8:1-5). Likewise, the Apostle Paul sought first to please God (1 Thess. 2:4) and out of this relationship was able to delight in sharing not only the Gospel with others, but his life as well, being willing to make significant personal sacrifices in order to serve others (1 Thess. 2:7-9).
Joining in Our Father’s Work
Friend, press on in serving others. Just as God worked through Jesus’ ministry to bless others physically and spiritually, so will He work through you to touch the lives of those around you. As you serve others you are indeed "faithfully administering God’s grace" (1 Pet. 4:10). Through your service you will be able to do such things as lead others to salvation (1 Cor. 3:5), supply needs (Rom. 15:26), refresh (1 Cor. 16:15-18), build up (Eph. 4:12-13), encourage (Eph. 6:21-22), sustain through prayer (Col. 4:12-13), instruct (2 Tim. 2:24-25), and provide a good example for others (1 Pet. 5:2-3).
Our Heavenly Father is at work all around us. He has people, both near and in far off places, whose physical and spiritual needs He wants us to help meet. He desires that we maintain close communion with Him so that we might enter into His work more deeply. He longs to give us strength, direction and wisdom, and to fill our hearts with His love so that we may be instruments of His grace toward others. Through us, He wants to impact other people’s lives both now and for eternity.
"Lord, I offer my life to You today for Your service. Guide my steps according to Your perfect will. Lead me to those You want me to serve. Help me join You today in Your work. Give me Your heart and strength for service, and allow Your grace and love to flow through me. Help me take advantage of every opportunity You provide, even if it seems like an interruption or inconvenience. My life and my time belong to You."