My 4 year-old came to me recently and excitedly shared about his prayer life.
He said, “Mommy, when I wake up in the morning, I pray to God that……”
OK. I’m pausing in the story to say I was sure he was going to share he had been praying for a loved one’s health, or the end to world hunger. Actually, no, I was pretty sure he wasn’t going to say any of those things. Let’s get back to the story.
“Mommy, when I wake up in the morning, I pray to God that I would see a ghost!”
After a discussion where he reassured me he knew ghosts aren’t real, I asked if he was praying about anything else.
“That I’d have lots and lots of video games.”
Well. There you have it.
I of course posted on Facebook to ask how to teach gratitude, compassion and social awareness to small kids. I got a lot of reassurances that his behavior is age-appropriate, we’re already doing some good things, and also some concrete suggestions. It brought to mind some of the ways we served when I was a child, the most memorable being at the soup kitchen.
You may be asking, what does this have to do with freedom?
We know that Jesus came to serve. “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45 (NLT)
Jesus served by laying down His whole self, both in life and death. How does following His example help us learn to walk in freedom?
1. Service helps us to love.
If you are still deep in the thick of your battle with life-controlling issues, you may think it silly or even inappropriate for you to consider working in service, especially to the church. There are many possibilities and places you could serve, however. Does your church provide coffee and snacks after service? Offer to bake or help with clean-up. What sort of outreaches are happening in your community? Assist at a food pantry.
“For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” Galatians 5:13-14
In a mystery we can’t fully understand, when we serve others we are serving Jesus Himself.
“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’” Matthew 25:37-40
Service helps us to love. It helps us to love ourselves, to love God and to love others.
2. Service helps us recognize our gifts.
” God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.” 1 Peter 4:10 (NLT)
I heard a speaker once say that if you don’t know how God is gifted you, or where He’s calling you to serve, just try something. Ask the person in charge of greeting newcomers if you can try it one Sunday. Offer to sit in on a kid’s Sunday school class. Fold bulletins. Find something that seems interesting to you, or where there is a need, and commit to serving there for a period of time. If it’s not a good fit, ask the leadership of that ministry where you have strengths and where else you might consider serving.
3. Service requires God’s strength.
The verse from 1 Peter 4 quoted above continues, “If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.” (NIV1984)
Serving requires God’s strength. You won’t always feel like getting out of bed early on a Sunday to set up chairs. Ask God to help you. Service is another way to grow in intimacy with God, as you ask Him not only for His strength, but His grace in empowering you to be a blessing to others.
4. Service gives us perspective.
My favorite answer to my Facebook question was from my friend who lives with her family in Guatemala. How do you teach children empathy and social awareness? She simply wrote, “Move here.”
Service helps us to get our eyes off our own struggles for a moment. It reminds us that the whole world is struggling and suffering in some way. On the other hand, do not fall into the trap of shaming yourself about the time and money you have spent on your recovery. There is a time and a place for that as well. But those problem that seem so big and overwhelming can be put into perspective when we come face to face with the suffering of others.
This past week on Mother’s Day, one of the pastors at church shared about his mother not eating for days to ensure she had enough food to feed her children. Still, the kids often ate once a day. Even in the most trying times, I could likely feed my children for a month with what I have on hand. Imagining opening the cabinets to find nothing for my kids is one of the most heartbreaking things I could imagine.
You might also consider going on a humanitarian missions trip with your church or other outreach, as my friend suggested in her “Move here” comment. Others agreed that nothing gives you perspective like seeing how the truly poor live, or walking through the devastation caused by a natural disaster.
In what way could be serve someone today?