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29. Accepting your assignment

THE CHRISTIAN'S SECRET OF A HAPPY LIFE - AudioBook

L`OSSERVATORE ROMANO

OUR DAILY BREAD

BQ29

YOU WERE SHAPED FOR SERVING GOD

We are simply God's servants.... Each one of us does the work which the Lord gave him to do: I planted the seed, Apollos watered the plant, but it was God who made the plant grow.

1 Corinthians 3:5 - 6 (TEV)

It is God himself who has made us what we are and given us new lives from Christ Jesus; and long ages ago he planned that we should spend these lives in helping others.

Ephesians 2:10 (LB)

I glorified you on earth by completing down to the last detail what you assigned me to do.

John 17:4 (Msg)

You were put on earth to make a contribution.

You weren't created just to consume resources-to eat, breathe, and take up space. God designed you to make a difference with your life. While many best-selling books offer advice on how to `get" the most out of life, that's not the reason God made you. You were created to add to life on earth, not just take from it. God wants you to give something back. This is God's fourth purpose for your life, and it is called your "ministry," or service. The Bible gives us the details.

You were created to serve God.

The Bible says, "[God] has created us for a life of good deeds, which he has already prepared for us to do." These "good deeds" are your service. Whenever you serve others in any way, you are actually serving God and fulfilling one of your purposes.  What God told Jeremiah is also true for you: "Before I made you in your mother's womb, I chose you. Before you were born, I set you apart for a special work." You were placed on this planet for a special assignment.

You were saved to serve God. The Bible says, "It is he who saved us and chose us for his holy work, not because we deserved it but because that was his plan. " God redeemed you so you could do his "holy work." You're not saved by service, but you are saved for service. In God's kingdom, you have a place, a purpose, a role, and a function to fulfill. This gives your life great significance and value.

It cost Jesus his own life to purchase your salvation. The Bible reminds us, "God paid a great price for you. So use your body to honor God." We don't serve God out of guilt or fear or even duty, but out of joy, and deep gratitude for what he's done for us. We owe him our lives. Through salvation our past has been forgiven, our present is given meaning, and our future is secured. In light of these incredible benefits Paul concluded, `Because of God's great mercy ... Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service."

The apostle John taught that our loving service to others shows that we are truly saved. He said, "Our love for each other proves that we have gone from death to life." If I have no love for others, no desire to serve others, and I'm only concerned about my needs, I should question whether Christ is really in my life. A saved heart is one that wants to serve.

Another term for serving God that's misunderstood by most people is the word ministry. When most people hear "ministry," they think of pastors, priests, and professional clergy, but God says every member of his family is a minister. In the Bible, the words servant and minister are synonyms, as are service and ministry. If you are a Christian, you are a minister, and when you're serving, you're ministering.

When Peter's sick mother-in-law was healed by Jesus, she instantly "stood up and began to serve Jesus," using her new gift of health. This is what we're to do. We are healed to help others. We are blessed to be a blessing. We are saved to serve, not to sit around and wait for heaven.

Have you ever wondered why God doesn't just immediately take us to heaven the moment we accept his grace? Why does he leave us in a fallen world? He leaves us here to fulfill his purposes. Once you are saved, God intends to use you for his goals. God has a ministry for you in his church and a mission for you in the world.

You are called to serve God. Growing up, you may have thought that being "called" by God was something only missionaries, pastors, nuns, and other "full-time" church workers experienced, but the Bible says every Christian is called to service. Your call to salvation included your call to service. They are the same. Regardless of your job or career, you are called to full-time Christian service. A "non-serving Christian" is a contradiction in terms.

The Bible says, "He saved us and called us to be his own people, not because of what we have done, but because of his own purpose." Peter adds, "You were chosen to tell about the excellent qualities of God, who called you. " Anytime you use your God-given abilities to help others, you are fulfilling your calling.

The Bible says, "Now you belong to him ... in order that we might be useful in the service of God." How much of the time are you being useful in the service of God? In some churches in China, they welcome new believers by saying "Jesus now has a new pair of eyes to see with, new ears to listen with, new hands to help with, and a new heart to love others with."

One reason why you need to be connected to a church family is to fulfill your calling to serve other believers in practical ways. The Bible says, "All of you together are Christ's body, and each one of you is a separate and necessary part of it." Your service is desperately needed in the Body of Christ-just ask any local church. Each of us has a role to play, and every role is important. There is no small service to God; it all matters.

Likewise, there are no insignificant ministries in the church. Some are visible and some are behind the scenes, but all are valuable. Small or hidden ministries often make the biggest difference. In my home, the most important light is not the large chandelier in our dining room but the little night light that keeps me from stubbing my toe when I get up at night. There is no correlation between size and significance. Every ministry matters because we are all dependent on each other to function.

What happens when one part of your body fails to function? You get sick. The rest of your body suffers. Imagine if your liver decided to start living for itself: "I'm tired! I don't want to serve the body anymore! I want a year off just to be fed. I've got to do what's best for me! Let some other part take over." What would happen? Your body would die. Today thousands of local churches are dying because of Christians who are unwilling to serve. They sit on the sidelines as spectators, and the Body suffers.

You are commanded to serve God.

Jesus was unmistakable: "Your attitude must be like my own, for I, the Messiah, did not come to be served, but to serve and to give my life." For Christians, service is not optional, something to be tacked onto our schedules if we can spare the time. It is the heart of the Christian life. Jesus came "to serve" and "to give"-and those two verbs should define your life on earth, too. Serving and giving sum up God's fourth purpose for your life. Mother Teresa once said, "Holy living consists in doing God's work with a smile."

Jesus taught that spiritual maturity is never an end in itself. Maturity is for ministry! We grow up in order to give out. It is not enough to keep learning more and more. We must act on what we know and practice what we claim to believe. Impression without expression causes depression. Study without service leads to spiritual stagnation. The old comparison between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea is still true. Galilee is a lake full of life because it takes in water but also gives it out. In contrast, nothing lives in the Dead Sea because, with no outflow, the lake has stagnated.

The last thing many believers need today is to go to another Bible study. They already know far more than they are putting into practice. What they need are serving experiences in which they can exercise their spiritual muscles.

Serving is the opposite of our natural inclination. Most of the time we're more interested in "serve us" than service. We say, "I'm looking for a church that meets my needs and blesses me," not "I'm looking for a place to serve and be a blessing." We expect others to serve us, not vice versa. But as we mature in Christ, the focus of our lives should increasingly shift to living a life of service. The mature follower of Jesus stops asking, "Who's going to meet my needs?" and starts asking, "Whose needs can I meet?" Do you ever ask that question?

PREPARING FOR ETERNITY

At the end of your life on earth you will stand before God, and he is going to evaluate how well you served others with your life.

Spiritual maturity is never an end in itself. We grow up in order to give out.

The Bible says, "Each of us will have to give a personal account to God."' Think about the implications of that. One day God will compare how much time and energy we spent on ourselves compared with what we invested in serving others.

At that point, all our excuses for self-centeredness will sound hollow: "I was too busy" or "I had my own goals" or "I was preoccupied with working, having fun, or preparing for retirement." To all excuses God will respond, "Sorry, wrong answer. I created, saved, and called you and commanded you to live a life of service. What part did you not understand?" The Bible warns unbelievers, "He will pour out his anger and wrath on those who live for themselves," but for Christians it will mean a loss of eternal rewards.

We are only fully alive when we're helping others. Jesus said, "If you insist on saving your life, you will lose it. Only those who throw away their lives for my sake and for the sake of the Good News will ever know what it means to really live." This truth is so important that it is repeated five times in the Gospels. If you aren't serving, you're just existing, because life is meant for ministry. God wants you to learn to love and serve others unselfishly.

SERVICE AND SIGNIFICANCE

You are going to give your life for something. What will it be a career, a sport, a hobby, fame, wealth? None of these will have lasting significance. Service is the pathway to real significance. It is through ministry that we discover the meaning of our lives. The Bible says, `Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his body."

As we serve together in God's family, our lives take on eternal importance. Paul said, "I want you to think about how all this makes you more significant, not less ... because of what you are a part of."

God wants to use you to make a difference in his world. He wants to work through you. What matters is not the duration of your life, but the donation of it. Not how long you lived, but how you lived.

If you're not involved in any service or ministry, what excuse have you been using? Abraham was old, Jacob was insecure, Leah was unattractive, Joseph was abused, Moses stuttered, Gideon was poor, Samson was codependent, Rahab was immoral, David had an affair and all kinds of family problems, Elijah was suicidal, Jeremiah was depressed, Jonah was reluctant, Naomi was a widow, John the Baptist was eccentric to say the least, Peter was impulsive and hot-tempered, Martha worried a lot, the Samaritan woman had several failed marriages, Zacchaeus was unpopular, Thomas had doubts, Paul had poor health, and Timothy was timid. That is quite a variety of misfits, but God used each of them in his service. He will use you, too, if you stop making excuses.

Service is the pathway to real significance.

THINKING ABOUT MY PURPOSE

Point to Ponder: Service is not optional.

Verse to Remember: "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)

Question to Consider: What is holding me back from accepting God's call to serve him?

 

 
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30. Shapped for serving God

THE CHRISTIAN'S SECRET OF A HAPPY LIFE - AUDIOBOOK

L`OSSERVATORE ROMANO

OUR DAILY BREAD

BQ30

Your hands shaped me and made me.

Job 10:8 (NIV)

The people I have shaped for myself will broadcast my praises.

Isaiah 43:21 (NJB)

You were shaped to serve God.

God formed every creature on this planet with a special area of expertise. Some animals run, some hop, some swim, some burrow, and some fly. Each has a particular role to play, based on the way they were shaped by God. The same is true with humans. Each of us was uniquely designed, or "shaped, 'to do certain things.

Before architects design any new building they first ask, "What will be its purpose? How will it be used?" The intended function always determines the form of the building. Before God created you, he decided what role he wanted you to play on earth. He planned exactly how he wanted you to serve him, and then he shaped you for those tasks. You are the way you are because you were made for a specific ministry.

The Bible says, "We are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works. "I Our English word poem comes from the Greek word translated "workmanship." You are God's handcrafted work of art. You are not an assembly-line product, mass produced without thought. You are a custom-designed, one-of-a-kind, original masterpiece.

God deliberately shaped and formed you to serve him in a way that makes your ministry unique. He carefully mixed the DNA cocktail that created you. David praised God for this incredible personal attention to detail: "You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother's womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous." As Ethel Waters said, "God doesn't make junk."

Not only did God shape you before your birth, he planned every day of your life to support his shaping process. David continues, "Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed." This means that nothing that happens in your life is insignificant. God uses all of it to mold you for your ministry to others and shape you for your service to him.

God never wastes anything. He would not give you abilities, interests, talents, gifts, personality, and life experiences unless he intended to use them for his glory. By identifying and understanding these factors you can discover God's will for your life. The Bible says you are "wonderfully complex.' You arc a combination of many different factors.

God never wastes anything.

HOW GOD SHAPES YOU FOR YOUR MINISTRY

Whenever God gives us an assignment, he always equips us with what we need to accomplish it. This custom combination of capabilities is called your SHAPE:

Spiritual gifts

Heart

Abilities

Personality

Experience

SHAPE: UNWRAPPING YOUR SPIRITUAL GIFTS

God gives every believer spiritual gifts to be used in ministry. These are special God-empowered abilities for serving him that are given only to believers. The Bible says, "Whoever does not have the Spirit cannot receive the gifts that come from God's Spirit."

You can't earn your spiritual gifts or deserve them-that's why they are called gifts! They are an expression of God's grace to you. "Christ has generously divided out his gifts to us." Neither do you get to choose which gifts you'd like to have; God determines that. Paul explained, "It is the one and only Holy Spirit who distributes these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have."

Because God loves variety and he wants us to be special, no single gift is given to everyone.' Also, no individual receives all the gifts. If you had them all, you'd have no need of anyone else, and that would defeat one of God's purposes-to teach us to love and depend on each FOR other.

Your spiritual gifts were not given for your own benefit but for the benefit of others, just as other people were given gifts for your benefit. The Bible says, "A spiritual gift is given to each of us as a means of helping the entire church." God planned it this way so we would need each other. When we use our gifts together, we all benefit. If others don't use their gifts, you get cheated, and if you don't use your gifts, they get cheated. This is why we're commanded to discover and develop our spiritual gifts. Have you taken the time to discover your spiritual gifts? An unopened gift is worthless.

Whenever we forget these basic truths about gifts, it always causes trouble in the church. Two common problems are 'gift-envy' and 'gift-projection. "The first occurs when we compare our gifts with others', feel dissatisfied with what God gave us, and become resentful or jealous of how God uses others. The second problem happens when we expect everyone else to have our gifts, do what we are called to do, and feel as passionate about it as we do. The Bible says, "There are different kinds of service in the church, but it is the same Lord we are serving."

Sometimes spiritual gifts are overemphasized to the neglect of the other factors God uses to shape you for service. Your gifts reveal one key to discovering God's will for your ministry, but your spiritual gifts are not the total picture. God has shaped you in four other ways, too.

SHAPE: LISTENING TO YOUR HEART

The Bible uses the term heart to describe the bundle of desires, hopes, interests, ambitions, dreams, and affections you have. Your heart represents the source of all your motivations-what you love to do and what you care about most. Even today we still use the word in this way when we say, "I love you with all my heart."

The Bible says, "As a face is reflected in water, so the heart reflects the person." Your heart reveals the real you-what you truly are, not what others think you are or what circumstances force you to be. Your heart determines why you say the things you do, why you feel the way you do, and why you act the way you do.

Physically, each of us has a unique heartbeat. Just as we each have unique thumbprints, eye prints, and voice prints, our hearts beat in slightly different patterns. It's amazing that out of all the billions of people who have ever lived, no one has had a heartbeat exactly like yours.

In the same way, God has given each of us a unique emotional "heartbeat" that races when we think about the subjects, activities, or circumstances that interest us. We instinctively care about some things and not about others. These are clues to where you should be serving.

Another word for heart is passion. There are certain subjects you feel passionate about and others you couldn't care less about. Some experiences turn you on and capture your attention while others turn you off or bore you to tears. These reveal the nature of your heart.

When you were growing up, you may have discovered that you were intensely interested in some subjects that no one else in your family cared about. Where did those interests come from? They came from God. God had a purpose in giving you these inborn interests. Your emotional heartbeat is the second key to understanding your shape for service. Don't ignore your interests. Consider how they might be used for God's glory. There is a reason that you love to do these things.

Repeatedly the Bible says to "serve the Lord with all your heart." God wants you to serve him passionately, not dutifully. People rarely excel at tasks they don't enjoy doing or feel passionate about. God wants you to use your natural interests to serve him and others. Listening for inner promptings can point to the ministry God intends for you to have.

How do you know when you are serving God from your heart?

The first tell tale sign is enthusiasm.

The second characteristic of serving God from your heart is effectiveness. Whenever you do what God wired you to love to do, you get good at it. Passion drives perfection. If you don't care about a task, it is unlikely that you will excel at it. In contrast, the highest achievers in any field are those who do it because of passion, not duty or profit.

We have all heard people say, "I took a job I hate in order to make a lot of money, so someday I can quit and do what I love to do." That's a big mistake. Don't waste your life in a job that doesn't express your heart. Remember, the greatest things in life are not things. Meaning is far more important than money. The richest man in the world once said, "A simple life in the fear-of-God is better than a rich life with a ton of headaches."

Don't settle for just achieving "the good life," because the good life is not good enough. Ultimately it doesn't satisfy. You can have a lot to live on and still have nothing to live for. Aim instead for "the better life"-serving God in a way that expresses your heart. Figure out what you love to do-what God gave you a heart to do-and then do it for his glory.

When you are doing what you love to do, no one has to motivate you.

 THINKING ABOUT MY PURPOSE

 

Point to Ponder: I was shaped for serving God.

Verse to Remember: "God works through different men in different ways, but it is the same God who achieves his purposes through them all." 1 Corinthians 12:6 (Ph)

Question to Consider: In what way can I see myself passionately serving others and loving it?

 

 

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31. Understanding your shape

THE SPIRITUAL LIFE by Andrew Murray - Religion, Christianity, Spirituality (Audiobook)

L`OSSERVATORE ROMANO

OUR DAILY BREAD

BQ31

You shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother's womb.

Psalm 139:13 (Msg)

Only you can be you.

God designed each of us so there would be no duplication in the world. No one has the exact same mix of factors that make you unique. That means no one else on earth will ever be able to play the role God planned for you. If you don't make your unique contribution to the Body of Christ, it won't be made. The Bible says, "There are different kinds of spiritual gifts ... different ways of serving ... [and] different abilities to perform service." In the last chapter we looked at the first two of these: your spiritual gifts and your heart. Now we will look at the rest of your SHAPE for serving God.

SHAPE: APPLYING YOUR ABILITIES

 Your abilities are the natural talents you were born with. Some people have a natural ability with words: They came out of the womb talking! Other people have natural athletic  abilities, excelling in physical coordination. Still others are good at mathematics or music or mechanics.

When God wanted to create the Tabernacle and all the utensils for worship, he provided artists and craftsmen who were shaped with the "skill, ability, and knowledge in all kinds of crafts to make artistic designs ... and to engage in all kinds of craftsmanship."

Today God still bestows these abilities and thousands of others, so people can serve him.

All of our abilities come from God. Even abilities used to sin are God-given; they are just being misused or abused. The Bible says, "God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well." Since your natural abilities are from God, they are just as important and as "spiritual" as your spiritual gifts. The only difference is that you were given them at birth.

One of the most common excuses people give for not serving is "I just don't have any abilities to offer." This is ludicrous. You have dozens, probably hundreds, of untapped, unrecognized, and unused abilities that are lying dormant inside you. Many studies have revealed that the average person possesses from 500 to 700 different skills and abilities-far more than you realize.

For instance, your brain can store 100 trillion facts. Your mind can handle 15,000 decisions a second, as is the case when your digestive system is working. Your nose can smell up to 10,000 different odors. Your touch can detect an item 1/25,000th of an inch thick, and your tongue can taste one part of quinine in 2 million parts of water. You are a bundle of incredible abilities, an amazing creation of God. Part of the church's responsibility is to identify and release your abilities for serving God.

Every ability can be used for God's glory. Paul said, "Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." The Bible is filled with examples of different abilities that God uses for his glory. Here are just a few of those mentioned in Scripture: artistic ability, architectural ability, administering, baking, boat making, candy making, debating, designing, embalming, embroidering, engraving, farming, fishing, gardening, leading, managing, masonry, making music, making weapons, needle work, painting, planting, philosophizing, machinability, inventing, carpentry, sailing, selling, being a soldier, tailoring, teaching, writing literature and poetry.

The Bible says, "There are different abilities to perform service, but the same God gives ability to all for their particular service." God has a place in his church where your specialties can shine and you can make a difference. It's up to you to find that place.

God gives some people the ability to make a lot of money. Moses told the Israelites, "Remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth."6 People with this ability are good at building a business, making deals or sales, and reaping a profit. If you have this business ability, you should be using it for God's glory. How? First, realize your ability came from God and give him the credit. Second, use your business to serve a need of others and to share your faith with unbelievers. Third, return at least a tithe (10 percent) of the profit to God as an act of worship.' Finally, make your goal to be a Kingdom Builder rather than just a Wealth Builder.

What I'm able to do, God wants me to do. You are the only person on earth who can use your abilities. No one else can play your role, because they don't have the unique shape that God has given you. The Bible says that God equips you "with all you need for doing his will.” To discover God's will for your life, you should seriously examine what you are good at doing and what you're not good at.

If God hasn't given you the ability to carry a tune, he isn't going to expect you to be an opera singer. God will never ask you to dedicate your life to a task you have no talent for. On the other hand, the abilities you do have are a strong indication of what God wants you to do with your life. They are clues to knowing God's will for you. If you're good at designing or recruiting or drawing or organizing, it is a safe assumption that God's plan for your life includes that skill somehow. God doesn't waste abilities; he matches our calling and our capabilities.

Your abilities were not given just to make a living; God gave them to you for your ministry. Peter said, "God has given each of you some special abilities; be sure to use them to help each other, passing on to others God's many kinds of blessings.

SHAPE: USING YOUR PERSONALITY

We don't realize how truly unique each of us is. DNA molecules can unite in an infinite number of ways. The number is 10 to the 2,400,000,000th power. That number is the likelihood that you'd ever find somebody just like you. If you were to write out that number with each zero being one inch wide, you'd need a strip of paper 37,000 miles long!

To put this in perspective, some scientists have guessed that all the particles in the universe are probably less than 10 with 76 zeros behind it, far less than the possibilities of your DNA. Your uniqueness is a scientific fact of life. When God made you, he broke the mold. There never has been, and never will be, anybody exactly like you.

It is obvious that God loves variety-just look around! He created each of us with a unique combination of personality traits. God made introverts and extroverts. He made people who love routine and those who love variety. He made some people "thinkers" and others "feelers." Some people work best when given an individual assignment while others work better with a team. The Bible says, "God works through different people in different ways, but it is the same God who achieves his purpose through them all.”

The Bible gives us plenty of proof that God uses all types of personalities. Peter was a sanguine. Paul was a choleric. Jeremiah was a melancholy. When you look at the personality differences in the twelve disciples, it's easy to see why they sometimes had interpersonal conflict.

There is no "right" or "wrong" temperament for ministry. We need all kinds of personalities to balance the church and give it flavor. The world would be a very boring place if we were all plain vanilla. Fortunately, people come in more than thirty-one flavors.

Your personality will affect how and where you use your spiritual gifts and abilities. For instance, two people may have the same gift of evangelism, but if one is introverted and the other is extroverted, that gift will be expressed in different ways.

Woodworkers know that it's easier to work with the grain rather than against it. In the same way, when you are forced to minister in a manner that is "out of character" for your temperament, it creates tension and discomfort, requires extra effort and energy, and produces less than the best results. This is why mimicking someone else's ministry never works.

You don't have their personality. Besides, God made you to be you! You can learn from the examples of others, but you must filter what you learn through your own shape. Today there are many books and tools that can help you understand your personality so you can determine how to use it for God.

Like stained glass, our different personalities reflect God's light in many colors and patterns. This blesses the family of God with depth and variety. It also blesses us personally. It feels good to do what God made you to do. When you minister in a manner consistent with the personality God gave you, you experience fulfillment, satisfaction, and fruitfulness.

SHAPE: EMPLOYING YOUR EXPERIENCES

You have been shaped by your experiences in life, most of which were beyond your control. God allowed them for his purpose of molding you." In determining your shape for serving God, you should examine at least six kinds of experiences from your past:

• Family experiences: What did you learn growing up in your family?
• Educational experiences: What were your favorite subjects in school?
• Vocational experiences: What jobs have you been most effective in and enjoyed most?
• Spiritual experiences: What have been your most meaningful times with God?
• Ministry experiences: How have you served God in the past?
• Painful experiences: What problems, hurts, thorns, and trials have you learned from?

It is this last category, painful experiences, that God uses the most to prepare you for ministry. God never wastes a hurt! In fact, your greatest ministry will most likely come out of your greatest hurt. Who could better minister to the parents of a Down syndrome child than another couple who have a child afflicted in the same way? Who could better help an alcoholic recover than someone who fought that demon and found freedom? Who could better comfort a wife whose husband has left her for an affair than a woman who went through that agony herself?

God intentionally allows you to go through painful experiences to equip you for ministry to others. The Bible says, "He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When others are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us."
If you really desire to be used by God, you must understand a powerful truth: The very experiences that you have resented or regretted most in life-the ones you've wanted to hide and forget-are the experiences God wants to use to help others. They are your ministry!

For God to use your painful experiences, you must be willing to share them. You have to stop covering them up, and you must honestly admit your faults, failures, and fears. Doing this will probably be your most effective ministry. People are always more encouraged when we share how God's grace helped us in weakness than when we brag about our strengths.

Paul understood this truth, so he was honest about his bouts with depression. He admitted, "I think you ought to know, dear brothers, about the hard time we went through in Asia. We were really crushed and overwhelmed, and feared we would never live through it. We felt we were doomed to die and saw how powerless we were to help ourselves; but that was good, for then we put everything into the hands of God, who alone could save us, for he can even raise the dead. And he did help us and saved us from a terrible death; yes, and we expect hint to do it again and again."

For God to use your painful experiences, you must be willing to share them. If Paul had kept his experience of doubt and depression a secret, millions of people would never have benefited from it. Only shared experiences can help others. Aldous Huxley said, "Experience is not what happens to you. It is what you do with what happens to you." What will you do with what you've been through? Don't waste your pain; use it to help others.

As we've looked at these five ways God has shaped you for service, I hope you have a deeper appreciation for God's sovereignty and a clearer idea of how he has prepared you for the purpose of serving him.

Using your shape is the secret of both fruitfulness and fulfillment in ministry. You will be most effective when you use your spiritual gifts and abilities in the area of your heart's desire, and in a way that best expresses your personality and experiences. The better the fit, the more successful you will be.

THINKING ABOUT MY PURPOSE

Point to Ponder: Nobody else can be me.
Verse to Remember: "God has given each of you some special abilities; be sure to use them to help each other, passing on to others God's many kinds of blessings." 1 Peter 4:10 (LB)
Question to Consider: What God-given ability or personal experience can I offer to my church?

 

 
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32. Using what God gave to you

HOLY BIBLE: GENESIS - FULL Audio Book - King James Version KJV - Adam & Eve - Creation

L`OSSERVATORE ROMANO

OUR DAILY BREAD

BQ32

Since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ's body, lets just go ahead and be what we were made to be.

Romans 12:5 (Msg)

What you are is God's gift to you; what you do with yourself is yourgifit to God.

Danish proverb

God deserves your best.

He shaped you for a purpose, and he expects you to make the most of what you have been given. He doesn't want you to worry about or covet abilities you don't have. Instead he wants you to focus on talents he has given you to use.
When you attempt to serve God in ways you're not shaped to serve, it feels like forcing a square peg into a round hole. It's frustrating and produces limited results. It also wastes your time, your talent, and your energy. The best use of your life is to serve God out of your shape. To do this you must discover your shape, learn to accept and enjoy it, and then develop it to its fullest potential.

DISCOVER YOUR SHAPE

The Bible says, "Don't act thoughtlessly, but try to find out and do whatever the Lord wants you to. "' Don't let another day go by. Start finding out and clarifying what God intends for you to be and do.


Begin by assessing your gifts and abilities. Take a long, honest look at what you are good at and what you're not good at. Paul advised, "Try to have a sane estimate of your capabilities." Make a list. Ask other people for their candid opinion. Tell them you're searching for the truth, not fishing for a compliment. Spiritual gifts and natural abilities are always confirmed by others.


If you think you are gifted to be a teacher or a singer and no one else agrees, guess what? If you want to know if you have the gift of leadership, just look over your shoulder! If no one is following you, you're not a leader.


Ask questions like these: Where have I seen fruit in my life that other people confirmed? Where have I already been successful? Spiritual gift tests and ability inventories can have some value, but they are limited in their usefulness.


In the first place, they are standardized, so they don't take into account your uniqueness. Second, there are no definitions of the spiritual gifts given in the Bible, so any definitions are arbitrary and usually represent a denominational bias. Another problem is that the more mature you become, the more likely you are to manifest the characteristics of a number of the gifts. You may be serving or teaching or giving generously out of maturity rather than because it is your spiritual gift.


The best way to discover your gifts and abilities is to experiment with different areas of service. I could have taken a hundred gift and ability tests as a young man and would have never discovered that I was gifted at teaching because I had never done it! It was only after I began accepting opportunities to speak that I saw the results, received confirmation from others, and realized, "God has gifted me to do this!"


Many books get the discovery process backwards. They say, "Discover your spiritual gift and then you'll know what ministry you're supposed to have." It actually works the exact opposite way. Just start serving, experimenting with different ministries, and then you'll discover your gifts. Until you're actually involved in serving, you're not going to know what you're good at.


You have dozens of hidden abilities and gifts you don't know you've got because you've never tried them out. So I encourage you to try doing some things you've never done before. No matter how old you are, I urge you to never stop experimenting. I have met many people who discovered hidden talents in their seventies and eighties. I know a woman in her nineties who runs and wins 10K races and didn't discover that she enjoyed running until she was seventy-eight!


Don't try to figure out your gifts before volunteering to serve somewhere. Just start serving. You discover your gifts by getting involved in ministry. Try teaching or leading or organizing or playing an instrument or working with teenagers. You will never know what you're good at until you try. When it doesn't work out, call it an "experiment," not a failure. You will eventually learn what you're good at.


Consider your heart and your personality. Paul advised, "Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. "3 Again, it helps to get feedback from those who know you best. Ask yourself questions: What do I really enjoy doing most? When do I feel the most fully alive? What am I doing when I lose track of time? Do I like routine or variety? Do I prefer serving with a team or by myself? Am I more introverted or extroverted? Am I more a thinker or a feeler? Which do I enjoy more-competing or cooperating?


Examine your experiences and extract the lessons you have learned. Review your life and think about how it has shaped you. Moses told the Israelites, "Remember today what you have learned about the LORD through your experiences with him." Forgotten experiences are worthless; that's a good reason to keep a spiritual journal. Paul worried that the believers in Galatia would waste the pain they had been through. He said, "Were all your experiences wasted? I hope not!"


We rarely see God's good purpose in pain or failure or embarrassment while it is happening. When Jesus washed Peter's feet, he said, "You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand." Only in hindsight do we understand how God intended a problem for good. Extracting the lessons from your experiences takes time. I recommend that you take an entire weekend for a life review retreat, where you pause to see how God has worked in the various defining moments of your life and consider how he wants to use those lessons to help others. There are resources that can help you do this.

ACCEPT AND ENJOY YOUR SHAPE

Since God knows what's best for you, you should gratefully accept the way he has fashioned you. The Bible says, "What right have you, a human being, to cross-examine God? The pot has no right to say to the potter: `Why did you make me this shape?' Surely a potter can do what he likes with the clay!"

Your shape was sovereignly determined by God for his purpose, so you shouldn't resent it or reject it. Instead of trying to reshape yourself to be like someone else, you should celebrate the shape God has given only to you. "Christ has given each of us special abilities-whatever he wants us to have out of his rich storehouse of gifts."

Part of accepting your shape is recognizing your limitations. Nobody is good at everything, and no one is called to be everything. We all have defined roles. Paul understood that his calling was not to accomplish everything or please everyone but to focus only on the particular ministry God had shaped him for. He said, "Our goal is to stay within the boundaries of God's plan for us."

The word boundaries refers to the fact that God assigns each of us a field or sphere of service. Your shape determines your specialty. When we try to overextend our ministry reach beyond what God shaped us for, we experience stress. Just as each runner in a race is given a different lane to run in, we must individually "run with patience the particular race that God has set before us." Don't be envious of the runner in the lane next to you; just focus on finishing your race.

God wants you to enjoy using the shape he has given you. The Bible says, `Be sure to do what you should, for then you will enjoy the personal satisfaction of having done your work well, and you won't need to compare yourself to anyone else." Satan will try to steal the joy of service from you in a couple of ways: by tempting you to compare your ministry with others, and by tempting you to conform your ministry to the expectations of others. Both are deadly traps that will distract you from serving in the ways God intended. Whenever you lose your joy in ministry, start by considering if either one of these temptations is the cause.

The Bible warns us never to compare ourselves with others: "Do your own work well, and then you the shape he has given you. will have something to be proud of. But don't compare yourself with others." There are two reasons why you should never compare your shape, ministry, or the results of your ministry with anyone else. First, you will always be able to find someone who seems to be doing a better job than you and you will become discouraged. Or you will always be able to find someone who doesn't seem as effective as you and you will get full of pride. Either attitude will take you out of service and rob you of your joy.

Paul said it is foolish to compare ourselves with others. He said, "We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise." The Message paraphrase says, "In all this comparing and grading and competing, they quite miss the point."

You will find that people who do not understand your shape for ministry will criticize you and try to get you to conform to what they think you should be doing. Ignore them. Paul often had to deal with critics who misunderstood and maligned his service. His response was always the same: Avoid comparisons, resist exaggerations, and seek only God's commendation.'

One of the reasons Paul was used so greatly by God was that he refused to be distracted by criticism or by comparing his ministry with others or by being drawn into fruitless debates about his ministry. As John Bunyan said, "If my life is fruitless, it doesn't matter who praises me, and if my life is fruitful, it doesn't matter who criticizes me."

KEEP DEVELOPING YOUR SHAPE

 Jesus' parable of the talents illustrates that God expects us to make the most of what he gives us. We are to cultivate our gifts and abilities, keep our hearts aflame, grow our character and personality, and broaden our experiences so we will be increasingly more effective in our service. Paul told the Philippians to "keep on growing in your knowledge and understanding," and he reminded Timothy, "Kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you."

If you don't exercise your muscles, they weaken and atrophy. In the same way, if you don't utilize the abilities and skills God has given you, you will lose them. Jesus taught the parable of the talents to emphasize this truth. Referring to the servant who failed to use his one talent, the master said, "Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents." Fail to use what you've been given and you'll lose it. Use the ability you've got and God will increase it. Paul told Timothy, `Be sure to use the abilities God has given you.... Put these abilities to work."

Whatever gifts you have been given can be enlarged and developed through practice. For instance, no one gets the gift of teaching fully developed. But with study, feedback, and practice, a "good" teacher can become a better teacher, and with time, grow to be a master teacher. Don't settle for a half-developed gift. Stretch yourself and learn all you can. "Concentrate on doing your best for God, work you won't be ashamed of." Take advantage of every training opportunity to develop your shape and sharpen your serving skills.

In heaven we are going to serve God forever. Right now, we can prepare for that eternal service by practicing on earth. Like athletes preparing for the Olympics, we keep training for that big day: "They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You're after one that's gold eternally."

We're getting ready for eternal responsibilities and rewards.

 THINKING ABOUT MY PURPOSE

Point to Ponder: God deserves my best.
Verse to Remember: "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth." 2 Timothy 2:15 (NN)
Question to Consider: How can I make the best use of what God has given me?

 

 
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33. How real servants act

A. W. Tozer - The Pursuit of God - Audiobook

L`OSSERVATORE ROMANO

OUR DAILY BREAD

BQ33

"Whoever wants to be great must become a servant."

Mark 10:43 (Msg)


You can tell what they are by what they do.

Matthew 7:16 (CEV)

We serve God by serving others.

The world defines greatness in terms of power, possessions, prestige, and position. If you can demand service from others, you've arrived. In our self-serving culture with its me-first mentality, acting like a servant is not a popular concept.

Jesus, however, measured greatness in terms of service, not status. God determines your greatness by how many people you serve, not how many people serve you. This is so contrary to the world's idea of greatness that we have a hard time understanding it, much less practicing it. The disciples argued about who deserved the most prominent position, and 2,000 years later, Christian leaders still jockey for position and prominence in churches, denominations, and parachurch ministries.

Thousands of books have been written on leadership, but few on servanthood. Everyone wants to lead; no one wants to be a servant. We would rather be generals than privates. Even Christians want to be "servant-leaders," not just plain servants. But to be like Jesus is to be a servant. That's what he called himself.

While knowing your shape is important for serving God, having the heart of a servant is even more important. Remember, God shaped you for service, not for self-centeredness. Without a servant's heart, you will be tempted to misuse your shape for personal gain. You will also be tempted to use it as an excuse to exempt yourself from meeting some needs.

God often tests our hearts by asking us to serve in ways we're not shaped. If you see a man fall into a ditch, God expects you to help him out, not say, "I don't have the gift of mercy or service."

While you may not be gifted for a particular task, you may be called to do it if no one gifted at it is around. Your primary ministry should be in the area of your shape, but your secondary service is wherever you're needed at the moment. Your shape reveals your ministry, but your servant's heart will reveal your maturity. No special talent or gift is required to stay after a meeting to pick up trash or stack chairs. Anyone can be a servant. All it requires is character.

It is possible to serve in church for a lifetime without ever being a servant. You must have a servant's heart. How can you know if you have the heart of a servant? Jesus said, "You can tell what they are by what they do."'

Real servants make themselves available to serve. Servants don't fill up their time with other pursuits that could limit their availability. They want to be ready to jump into service when called on. Much like a soldier, a servant must always be standing by for duty: "No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him." If you only serve when it's convenient for you, you're not a real servant. Real servants do what's needed, even when it's inconvenient.

Are you available to God anytime? Can he mess up your plans without you becoming resentful? As a servant, you don't get to pick and choose when or where you will serve. Being a servant means giving up the right to control your schedule and allowing God to interrupt it whenever he needs to. If you will remind yourself at the start of every day that you are God's servant, interruptions won't frustrate you as much, because your agenda will be whatever God wants to bring into your life. Servants see interruptions as divine appointments for ministry and are happy for the opportunity to practice serving.

Real servants pay attention to needs. Servants are always on the lookout for ways to help others. When they see a need, they seize the moment to meet it, just as the Bible commands us: "Whenever we have the opportunity, we have to do what is good for everyone, especially for the family of believers." When God puts someone in need right in front of you, he is giving you the opportunity to grow in servanthood. Notice that God says the needs of your church family are to be given preference, not put at the bottom of your "things to do" list. We miss many occasions for serving because we lack sensitivity and spontaneity. Great opportunities to serve never last long. They pass quickly, sometimes never to return again. You may only get one chance to serve that person, so take advantage of the moment. "Never tell your neighbors to wait until tomorrow if you can help them now."

John Wesley was an incredible servant of God. His motto was "Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as you ever can." That is greatness. You can begin by looking for small tasks that no one else wants to do. Do these little things as if they were great things, because God is watching.

Real servants do their best with what they have. Servants don't make excuses, procrastinate, or wait for better circumstances. Servants never say, "One of these days" or "When the time is right." They just do what needs to be done. The Bible says, "If you wait for perfect conditions, you will never get anything done." God expects you to do what you can, with what you have, wherever you are. Less-than-perfect service is always better than the best intention.

One reason many people never serve is that they fear they are not good enough to serve. They have believed the lie that serving God is only for superstars. Some churches have fostered this myth by making "excellence" an idol, which makes people of average talent hesitant to get involved.

You may have heard it said, "If it can't be done with excellence, don't do it." Well, Jesus never said that! The truth is, almost everything we do is done poorly when we first start doing it-that's how we learn. At Saddleback Church, we practice the `flood enough" principle: It doesn't have to be perfect for God to use and bless it. We would rather involve thousands of regular folks in ministry than have a perfect church run by a few elites.

Real servants do every task with equal dedication. Whatever they do, servants "do it with all their heart." The size of the task is irrelevant. The only issue is, does it need to be done?

You will never arrive at the state in life where you're too important to help with menial tasks. God will never exempt you from the mundane. It's a vital part of your character curriculum. The Bible says, "If you think you are too important to help someone in need, you are only fooling yourself. You are really a nobody." It is in these small services that we grow like Christ.

Jesus specialized in menial tasks that everyone else tried to avoid: washing feet, helping children, fixing breakfast, and serving lepers. Nothing was beneath him, because he came to serve. It wasn't in spite of his greatness that he did these things, but because of it, and he expects us to follow his example.

Small tasks often show a big heart. Your servant's heart is revealed in little acts that others don't think of doing, as when Paul gathered brushwood for a fire to warm everyone after a shipwreck. He was just as exhausted as everyone else, but he did what everyone needed. No task is beneath you when you have a servant's heart.

Great opportunities often disguise themselves in small tasks. The little things in life determine the big things. Don't look for great tasks to do for God. Just do the not-so-great stuff, and God will assign you whatever he wants you to do. But before attempting the extraordinary, try serving in ordinary ways.

There will always be more people willing to do "great" things for God than there are people willing to do the little things. The race to be a leader is crowded, but the field is wide open for those willing to be servants. Sometimes you serve upward to those in authority, and sometimes you serve downward to those in need. Either way, you develop a servant's heart when you're willing to do anything needed.

Real servants are faithful to their ministry. Servants finish their tasks, fulfill their responsibilities, keep their promises, and complete their commitments. They don't leave a job half undone, and they don't quit when they get discouraged. They are trustworthy and dependable.

Faithfulness has always been a rare quality.' Most people don't know the meaning of commitment. They make commitments casually, then break them for the slightest reason without any hesitation, remorse, or regret. Every week, churches and other organizations must improvise because volunteers didn't prepare, didn't show up, or didn't even call to say they weren't coming. Great opportunities often disguise themselves in small tasks.

Can you be counted on by others? Are there promises you need to keep, vows you need to fulfill, or commitments you need to honor? This is a test. God is testing your faithfulness. If you pass the test, you're in good company: Abraham, Moses, Samuel, David, Daniel, Timothy, and Paul were all called faithful servants of God. Even better, God has promised to reward your faithfulness in eternity. Imagine what it will feel like one day to have God say to you, "Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let's celebrate together!" By the way, faithful servants never retire. They serve faithfully as long as they're alive. You can retire from your career, but you will never retire from serving God.

Real servants maintain a low profile. Servants don't promote or call attention to themselves. Instead of acting to impress and dressing for success, they "put on the apron of humility, to serve one another." If recognized for their service, they humbly accept it but don't allow notoriety to distract them from their work.

Paul exposed a kind of service that appears to be spiritual but is really just a put-on, a show, an act to get attention. He called it "eyeservice" serving in order to impress people with how spiritual we are. This was a sin of the Pharisees. They turned helping others, giving, and even prayer into a performance for others. Jesus hated this attitude and warned, "When you do good deeds, don't try to show off. If you do, you won't get a reward from your Father in heaven.'

Self-promotion and servanthood don't mix. Real servants don't serve for the approval or applause of others. They live for an audience of One. As Paul said, "If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ."

You won't find many real servants in the limelight; in fact, they avoid it when possible. They are content with quietly serving in the shadows. Joseph is a great example. He didn't draw attention to himself, but quietly served Potiphar, then his jailer, then Pharaoh's baker and wine taster, and God blessed that attitude. When Pharaoh promoted him to prominence, Joseph still maintained a servant's heart, even with his brothers, who had betrayed him. Unfortunately, many leaders today start off as servants but end up as celebrities. They become addicted to attention, unaware that always being in the spotlight blinds you.

You may be serving in obscurity in some small place, feeling unknown and unappreciated. Listen: God put you where you are for a purpose! He has every hair on your head numbered, and he knows your address. You had better stay put until he chooses to move you. He will let you know if he wants you somewhere else. Your ministry matters to the kingdom of God. "When Christ ... shows up again on this earth, you'll show up, too-the real you, the glorious you. Meanwhile, be content with obscurity."

There are more than 750 "Halls of Fame" in America and more than 450 "Who's Who" publications, but you won't find many real servants in these places. Notoriety means nothing to real servants because they know the difference between prominence and significance. You have several prominent features on your body that you could live without. It is the hidden parts of your body that are indispensable. The same is true in the Body of Christ. The most significant service is often the service that is unseen-"

In heaven God is going to openly reward some of his most obscure and unknown servants-people we have never heard of on earth, who taught emotionally disturbed children, cleaned up after incontinent elderly, nursed AIDS patients, and served in thousands of other unnoticed ways.

Knowing this, don't be discouraged when your service is unnoticed or taken for granted. Keep on serving God! "Throw yourselves into the work of the Master, confident that nothing you do for him is a waste of time or effort." Even the smallest service is noticed by God and will be rewarded. Remember the words of Jesus: "If, as my representatives, you give even a cup of cold water to a little child, you will surely be rewarded."

THINKING ABOUT MY PURPOSE

Point to Ponder: I serve God by serving others.
Verse to Remember: "If you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded." Matthew 10:42 (NLT)
Question to Consider: Which of the six characteristics of real servants offers the greatest challenge to me?

 

 
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34.Thinking Like a Servant

THE CHRISTIAN'S SECRET OF A HAPPY LIFE - FULL AudioBook

L`OSSERVATORE ROMANO

OUR DAILY BREAD

BQ34

My servant Caleb thinks differently and follows me completely.

Numbers 14:24 (NCV)

Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself.

Philippians. 2:5 (Msg)

Service starts in your mind.

To be a servant requires a mental shift, a change in your attitudes. God is always more interested in why we do something than in what we do. Attitudes count more than achievements. King Amaziah lost God's favor because "he did what was right in the sight of the LORD, yet not with a true heart." Real servants serve God with a mindset of five attitudes.

Servants think more about others than about themselves. Servants focus on others, not themselves. This is true humility: not thinking less of ourselves but thinking of ourselves less. They are self-forgetful. Paul said, "Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand." This is what it means to "lose your life" forgetting yourself in service to others. When we stop focusing on our own needs, we become aware of the needs around us.

Real servants don't try to use God for their purposes. They let God use them for his purposes. Jesus "emptied himself by taking on the form of a servant." When was the last time you emptied yourself for someone else's benefit? You can't be a servant if you're full of yourself. It's only when we forget ourselves that we do the things that deserve to be remembered.

Unfortunately, a lot of our service is often self-serving. We serve to get others to like us, to be admired, or to achieve our own goals. That is manipulation, not ministry. The whole time we're really thinking about ourselves and how noble and wonderful we are. Some people try to use service as a bargaining tool with God: "I'll do this for you God, if you'll do something for me." Real servants don't try to use God for their purposes. They let God use them for his purposes.

The quality of self-forgetfulness, like faithfulness, is extremely rare. Out of all the people Paul knew, Timothy was the only example he could point to. Thinking like a servant is difficult because it challenges the basic problem of my life: I am, by nature, selfish. I think most about me. That's why humility is a daily struggle, a lesson I must relearn over and over. The opportunity to be a servant confronts me dozens of times a day, in which I'm given the choice to decide between meeting my needs or the needs of others. Self-denial is the core of servanthood.

We can measure our servant's heart by how we respond when others treat us like servants. How do you react when you're taken for granted, bossed around, or treated as an inferior? The Bible says, "If someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life." Servants think like stewards, not owners. Servants remember that God owns it all. In the Bible, a steward was a servant entrusted to manage an estate. Joseph was this kind of servant as a prisoner in Egypt. Potiphar entrusted Joseph with his home. Then the jailer entrusted Joseph with his jail. Eventually Pharaoh entrusted the entire nation to him. Servanthood and stewardship go together, since God expects us to be trustworthy in both. The Bible says, "The one thing required of such servants is that they be faithful to their master." How are you handling the resources God has entrusted to you?

To become a real servant you are going to have to settle the issue of money in your life. Jesus said, "No servant can serve two masters.... You cannot serve both God and Money." 8 He didn't say, "You should not," but "You cannot." It is impossible. Living for ministry and living for money are mutually exclusive goals. Which one will you choose? If you're a servant of God, you can't moonlight for yourself. All your time belongs to God. He insists on exclusive allegiance, not part-time faithfulness.

Money has the greatest potential to replace God in your life. More people are sidetracked from serving by materialism than by anything else. They say, "After I achieve my financial goals, I'm going to serve God." That is a foolish decision they will regret for eternity. When Jesus is your Master, money serves you, but if money is your master, you become its slave. Wealth is certainly not a sin, but failing to use it for God's glory is. Servants of God are always more concerned about ministry than money.

The Bible is very clear: God uses money to test your faithfulness as a servant. That is why Jesus talked more about money than he did about either heaven or hell. He said, "If you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?"9 How you manage your money affects how much God can bless your life.

Have two kinds of people: Kingdom Builders and Wealth Builders. Both are gifted at making a business grow, making deals or sales, and making a profit. Wealth Builders continue to amass wealth for themselves no matter how much they make, but Kingdom Builders change the rules of the game. They still try to make as much money as they can, but they do it in order to give it away. They use the wealth to fund God's church and its mission in the world.

Servants think about their work, not what others are doing. They don't compare, criticize, or compete with other servants or ministries. They're too busy doing the work God has given them.

Competition between God's servants is illogical for many reasons: We're all on the same team; our goal is to make God look good, not ourselves; we've been given different assignments; and we're all uniquely shaped. Paul said, "We will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original. "

There's no place for petty jealousy between servants. When you're busy serving, you don't have time to be critical. Any time spent criticizing others is time that could be spent ministering. When Martha complained to Jesus that Mary was not helping with the work, she lost her servant's heart. Real servants don't complain of unfairness, don't have pity-parties, and don't resent those not serving. They just trust God and keep serving.

It is not our job to evaluate the Master's other servants. The Bible says, "Who are you to criticize someone else's servant? The Lord will determine whether his servant has been successful. "11 It is also not our job to defend ourselves against criticism. Let your Master handle it. Follow the example of Moses, who showed true humility in the face of opposition, as did Nehemiah, whose response to critics was simply, "My work is too important to stop now and ... visit with you.”

If you serve like Jesus, you can expect to be criticized. The world, and even much of the church, does not understand what God values. One of the most beautiful acts of love shown to Jesus was criticized by the disciples. Mary took the most valuable thing she owned, expensive perfume, and poured it over Jesus. Her lavish service was called "a waste" by the disciples, but Jesus called it "significant,"' and that's all that mattered. Your service for Christ is never wasted regardless of what others say.

Servants base their identity in Christ. Because they remember they are loved and accepted by grace, servants don't have to prove their worth. They willingly accept jobs that insecure people would consider "beneath" them. One of the most profound examples of serving from a secure self-image is Jesus' washing the feet of his disciples. Washing feet was the equivalent of being a shoeshine boy, a job devoid of status. But Jesus knew who he was, so the task didn't threaten his self-image. The Bible says, `Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God ... so begot up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist."

If you're going to be a servant, you must settle your identity in Christ. Only secure people can serve. Insecure people are always worrying about how they appear to others. They fear exposure of their weaknesses and hide beneath layers of protective pride and pretensions. The more insecure you are, the more you will want people to serve you, and the more you will need their approval.

Henri Nouwen said, "In order to be of service to others we have to die to them; that is, we have to give up measuring our meaning and value with the yardstick of others.... thus we become free to be compassionate." When you base your worth and identity on your relationship to Christ, you are freed from the expectations of others, and that allows you to really serve them best.

Servants don't need to cover their walls with plaques and awards to validate their work. They don't insist on being addressed by titles, and they don't wrap themselves in robes of superiority. Servants find status symbols unnecessary, and they don't measure their worth by their achievements. Paul said, "You may brag about yourself, but the only approval that counts is the Lord's approval."

If anyone had the chance of a lifetime to flaunt his connections and "name-drop," it was James, the half-brother of Jesus. He had the credentials of growing up with Jesus as his brother. Yet, in introducing his letter, he simply referred to himself as "a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ." The closer you get to Jesus, the less you need to promote yourself.

Servants think of ministry as an opportunity, not an obligation. They enjoy helping people, meeting needs, and doing ministry. They "serve the LORD with gladness." Why do they serve with gladness? Because they love the Lord, they're grateful for his grace, they know serving is the highest use of life, and they know God has promised a reward. Jesus promised, "The Father will honor and reward anyone who serves me." Paul said, "He will not forget how hard you have worked for him and how you have shown your love to him by caring for other Christians."

Imagine what could happen if just 10 percent of all Christians in the world got serious about their role as real servants. Imagine all the good that could be done. Are you willing to be one of those people? It doesn't matter what your age is, God will use you if you will begin to act and think like a servant. Albert Schweitzer said, "The only really happy people are those who have learned how to serve."

THINKING ABOUT MY PURPOSE

Point to Ponder: To be a servant I must think like a servant.
Verse to Remember: "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus." Philippians 2:5 (NIV)
Question to Consider: Am I usually more concerned about being served or finding ways to serve others?

 

 
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