The joy of service (2)

In my last post, The joy of service, I wrote about the need to serve practically when all you want to do is teach. Karen asked a great question: “Does it work the other way, Jean–when you’re good at (and often prefer) to stuff envelopes, stack chairs and wash dishes, but the thought of leading Bible study fills you with extreme terror?” Here’s The joy of service re-written (with apologies) for such a person. Because, yes, I have friends who lead Bible studies even though it terrifies them. And, yes, it works both ways.

flickr: HidingHeart

I’m no up-the-front servant. My love is given to behind-the-scenes ministries: cooking a meal for a friend, stacking chairs, organising events. If I’m honest, I also love the safety of this kind of ministry. There: I’ve said it.

The word-y roles, the out-there roles, the people-can-see-me roles: they don’t come naturally to me. Sitting next to a stranger at church, reading the Bible during the service, welcoming newcomers, leading a small group, walking into a room full of people: I try to avoid these things. I have to fight down my terror as I do them. I don’t like this about myself, but it’s true.

I know this isn’t good enough. I know that to stuff envelopes and avoid people is as far from our Lord’s example as hell from heaven. And so picture, if you will, a recent morning at our church. The usual leaders aren’t there, so I sit with people I don’t know. When we split into small groups to pray after the sermon, I find myself leading the prayers.

Then there’s this moment. This crystal-clear, earth-touches-heaven, joy-filled moment. As I say a stumbling prayer for one of the members of the group, it’s as if I’m speaking Christ’s words on his behalf. If it was Paul’s privilege to suffer with him, it’s mine to serve with him.1 Looking at this group of strangers, awkward with unspoken fears, I touch the tiniest edge of what it meant for him to serve.

The One with the right to a universe of worship gave up his own interests, his right to equality with God, and made himself nothing. The King of heaven and earth got off a chair, tied a towel around his waist, and knelt to wash his follower’s feet. God’s own Son was stripped naked and hung on a cross, abandoned between earth and heaven, bleeding out his life for his bride.2

Leading a group in prayer is just a baby-step as I follow in his footsteps. But if so much joy can be found in such a simple task, I wonder what else we miss out on when we refuse to serve.

  1. Romans 8:17; Colossians 1:24; John 13:14-17
  2. Philippians 2:1-11; John 13:1-17; Mark 10:35-45

2 thoughts on “The joy of service (2)

  1. Hi Jean

    Thanks for the encouragement to serve.

    Re joy…It would perhaps be helpful if we explored the actual source or reason for Jesus’ joy. For example, in Hebrews ‘the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God’.

    Are you implying that the joy is from the difficulty of the task?


    • Not from the difficulty itself, but from the joy of sharing in Jesus’ suffering and service. I was more thinking of Paul’s joy in sharing in Jesus suffering than of Hebrews and the joy of Christ (e.g. Col 1:24).

      I wasn’t making a theologically exact statement, just recognising that there is great joy in following in Jesus’ footsteps into costly service – an experiential observation as much as anything, and one that many Christians can echo in much bigger ways than my little example.

      I guess you could do an exhaustive treatment of all the reasons for joy in the Bible (e.g. the salvation we are receiving – 1 Pet 1, the joy of seeing the growth that comes from suffering – Rom 5) and you would probably find lots of different reasons.

      When it comes to Jesus’ joy – well, that would be a whole other study! John’s gospel springs to mind, and all the joy he has in the love and service of the Father. It would be a great study to do, wouldn’t it?

      But yes, I think you are right that, in Hebrews, both Jesus’ and our joy is from the expectation of the glory that follows our suffering and service.

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