Category  |  Serving Others

God’s Retirement Plan

Archaeologist Dr. Warwick Rodwell was preparing to retire when he made an extraordinary discovery at Lichfield Cathedral in England. As builders carefully excavated part of the floor of the church to make way for a retractable base, they discovered a sculpture of the Archangel Gabriel, thought to be 1200 years old. Dr. Rodwell’s retirement plans were put on hold as his find launched him into an exciting and busy new season.

Moses was eighty years old when he made a fiery discovery that would forever alter his life. As the adopted son of an Egyptian princess, he never forgot his Hebrew lineage and raged at the injustice he witnessed against his kinsmen (Exodus 2:11–12). When Pharaoh learned that Moses had killed an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew, he planned to have him killed, forcing Moses to flee to Midian, where he settled (vv. 13–15).

Forty years later, when he was 80, Moses was tending his father-in-law’s flock when “the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up” (3:2). In that moment, God called Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egyptian slavery (vv. 3–22).

At this moment in your life, what might God be calling you to do for His greater purpose? What new plans has he placed in your path?

Serving the Smallest

The video showed a man kneeling beside a busy freeway during an out of control brush fire. He was clapping his hands and pleading with something to come. What was it? A dog? Moments later a bunny hopped into the picture. The man scooped up the scared rabbit and scampered to safety.

How did the rescue of such a small thing make national news? That is why. There is something endearing about compassion shown to the least of these. It takes a big heart to make room for the smallest creature.

Jesus said the kingdom of God is like a man who gave a banquet and made room for everyone who was willing to come. Not just the movers and shakers but also “the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame” (Luke 14:21). I’m thankful that God targets the weak and the seemingly insignificant, because otherwise I’d have no shot. Paul said, “God chose the weak things of this world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things . . . so that no one may boast before him” (1 Corinthians 1:27–29).

How big must God’s heart be to save a small person like me! In response, how large has my heart grown to be? I can easily tell, not by how I please the “important people,” but by how I serve the ones society might deem the least important.

The Blessing Is Coming

A friend and I went for a walk with her grandkids. While pushing the stroller, she commented that her steps were being wasted—they weren’t being counted on the activity tracker she wore on her wrist because she wasn’t swinging her arm. I reminded her that those steps were still helping her physical health. “Yeah,” she laughed. “But I really want that electronic gold star!”

I understand how she feels! Working toward something without immediate results is disheartening. But rewards aren’t always immediate or immediately visible.

When that’s the case, it’s easy to feel that the good things we do are useless, even helping a friend or being kind to a stranger. However, Paul explained to the church in Galatia that “a man reaps what he sows” (Galatians 6:7). But we must “not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest” (v. 9). Doing good isn’t the way to gain salvation, and the text doesn’t specify whether what we reap will be now or in heaven, but we can be assured that there will be a harvest of blessing (6:9 nlt).

Doing good is difficult, especially when we don’t see or know what the “harvest” will be. But as with my friend who still gained the physical benefit from walking, it’s worth continuing to do good because the blessing is coming!

Living Sacrifice

My great aunt had an exciting job in advertising, and traveled between Chicago and New York City. But she chose to give up that career out of love for her parents. They lived in Minnesota and needed to be cared for. Both of her brothers had died young in tragic circumstances and she was her mom and dad’s only remaining child. For her, serving her parents was an expression of her faith.

The apostle Paul’s writing to the church at Rome urged Christian believers to be “a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God” (Romans 12:1). He hoped they would extend Christ’s sacrificial love to each other. And he asked them not to think of themselves more highly than they should (v. 3). When they fell into disagreements and division, he called them to lay down their pride, because “in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others” (v. 5). He yearned that they would show each other sacrificial love.

Each day we have the opportunity to serve others. For instance, we might let someone go ahead of us in a line or we might, like my great aunt, care for someone who is ill. Or maybe we share from our experience as we give another advice and direction. When we offer ourselves as living sacrifices, we honor God.

Sharing More Than Stuff

“But I don’t want to share!” wailed my youngest child, broken-hearted that he would have to part with even one of his many LEGO pieces. I rolled my eyes at his immaturity, but truthfully, this attitude is not limited to children. How much of my own life, and really all of human experience, is marked by a stubborn resistance to freely and generously give to others?

As believers in Jesus, we’re called to share our very lives with one another. Ruth did just that with her mother-in-law, Naomi. As a destitute widow, Naomi had little to offer Ruth. And yet Ruth connected her own life to her mother-in-law’s, vowing that they would press on together and that not even death would separate them.  She said to Naomi, “Your people will be my people and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16). She freely and generously gave to the older woman—showing love and compassion.

While sharing our lives in this way can be difficult, we should remember the fruit of such generosity. Ruth shared her life with Naomi, but later she bore a son, the grandfather of King David. Jesus shared His very life with us, but was then exalted and now reigns at the right hand of the Father in heaven. As we generously share with one another, we can be confident that we will experience greater life still!

Jesus Is Right Behind You

My daughter was ready for school a little earlier than usual, so she asked if we could stop by the coffee shop on our way. I agreed. As we approached the drive-thru lane, I said, “Do you feel like spreading some joy this morning?” She said, “Sure.”

We placed our order, then pulled up to the window where the barista told us what we owed. I said, “We’d like to pay for the young woman’s order behind us too.” My daughter had a huge smile on her face.

In the grand scheme of things, a cup of coffee may not seem like a big deal. Or is it? I wonder, could this be one way we carry out Jesus’s desire for us to care for those He called “the least of these”? (Matthew 25:40). Here’s a thought: How about simply considering the person behind us or next in line a worthy candidate? And then do “whatever”—maybe it’s a cup of coffee, maybe it’s something more, maybe something less. But when Jesus said “whatever you did” (v.40) that gives us a great deal of freedom in serving Him while serving others.

As we drove away we caught the faces of the young woman behind us and the barista as she handed over the coffee. They were both grinning from ear to ear.

Transformed & Transforming

Tani and Modupe grew up in Nigeria and went to the UK to study in the 1970s. Having been personally transformed by God’s grace, they never imagined that they would be used to transform one of the most deprived and segregated communities in England—Anfield in Liverpool. As Drs. Tani and Modupe Omideyi faithfully sought God and served their community, He restored hope to many. They lead a vibrant church and continue to run numerous community projects that have led to the transformation of countless lives.

Manasseh changed his community, first for evil and then for good. Crowned king of Judah at the age of twelve, he led his people astray and they did great evil for many years (2 Chronicles 33:1–9). They paid no attention to God’s warnings and so He allowed Manasseh to be taken prisoner to Babylon (vv. 10–11).

In his distress, the king humbly cried out to God who heard his plea and restored him to his kingdom (vv. 12–13). The now reformed king rebuilt the city walls and got rid of the foreign gods (vv. 14–15). “He restored the altar of the Lord and . . . told Judah to serve the Lord, the God of Israel” (v. 16). As the people observed the radical transformation of Manasseh, so too were they transformed (v. 17).

 As we seek God, may He transform us and so impact our communities through us.

New Year, New Priorities

I’ve always wanted to learn how to play the cello. But I’ve never found the time to enroll in a class. Or, perhaps more accurately, I haven’t made the time for it. I had thought that in heaven I could probably master that instrument. In the meantime, I wanted to focus on using my time in the particular ways God has called me to serve Him now.

Life is short, and we often feel the pressure to make the most of our time on Earth before it slips away. But what does that really mean? 

As King Solomon contemplated the meaning of life, he offered two recommendations. First, we’re to live in the most meaningful way we can, which includes fully enjoying the good things God allows us to experience in life, such as food and drink (Ecclesiastes 9:7), clothing and perfume (v. 8 nlt), marriage (v. 9), and all of God’s good gifts—which might include learning how to play the cello! 

His second recommendation was diligent work (v. 10). Life is full of opportunities, and there is always more work to be done. We’re to take advantage of the opportunities God gives us, seeking His wisdom on how to prioritize work and play in a way that uses our gifting to serve Him.  

Life is a wonderful gift from the Lord. We honor Him when we take pleasure both in His daily blessings and in meaningful service.

Following the Leader

In the sky over our house, three fighter jets scream through the sky—flying in formation so close together they appear to be one. “Wow,” I say to my husband Dan. “Impressive,” he agrees. We live not far from an Air Force Base and it’s not unusual to see such sights.

Every time these jets fly over, however, I have the same question: how can they fly so close together and not lose control? One obvious reason, I learned, is humility. Trusting that the lead pilot is traveling at precisely the correct speed and trajectory, the wing pilots surrender any desire to switch directions or question their leader’s path. Instead, they get in formation and closely follow. The result? A more powerful team.

It’s no different for followers of Christ. Says Jesus: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).  

His path was one of self-denial and suffering, which can be hard to follow. But to be His effective disciples, we too are invited to put aside selfish desires and pick up spiritual burdens daily—serving others first instead of ourselves, for example—as we closely follow Him.

It’s quite a sight, this humbling close walk with God. Following His lead, and staying so close, we can appear with Christ as one. Then others won’t see us, they’ll see Him. There’s a simple word for what that looks like: “Wow!”

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