So I will very gladly spend for you everything I have and expend myself as well. If I love you more, will you love me less?
- 2 Corinthians 12:15
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.
- 2 Corinthians 8:9
The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
- Matthew 23:11-12
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
- James 2:14-19
“Natural human love expects something in return. But Paul is saying, ‘It doesn’t really matter to me whether you love me or not. I am willing to be completely destitute anyway; willing to be poverty-stricken, not just for your sakes, but also that I may be able to get you to God.’ [2 Corinthians 12:15] ‘For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor…’ (2 Corinthians 8:9). And Paul’s idea of service was the same as our Lord’s. He did not care how high the cost was to himself— he would gladly pay it. It was a joyful thing to Paul.
The institutional church’s idea of a servant of God is not at all like Jesus Christ’s idea. His idea is that we serve Him by being the servants of others. Jesus Christ actually ‘out-socialized’ the socialists. He said that in His kingdom the greatest one would be the servant of all (see Matthew 23:11). The real test of a saint is not one’s willingness to preach the gospel, but one’s willingness to do something like washing the disciples’ feet— that is, being willing to do those things that seem unimportant in human estimation but count as everything to God. It was Paul’s delight to spend his life for God’s interests in other people, and he did not care what it cost. But before we will serve, we stop to ponder our personal and financial concerns— ‘What if God wants me to go over there? And what about my salary? What is the climate like there? Who will take care of me? A person must consider all these things.’ All that is an indication that we have reservations about serving God. But the apostle Paul had no conditions or reservations. Paul focused his life on Jesus Christ’s idea of a New Testament saint; that is, not one who merely proclaims the gospel, but one who becomes broken bread and poured-out wine in the hands of Jesus Christ for the sake of others.”
- Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest (devotion for 25 February)
Have you ever been on a mission trip? What was it like?
Let’s go through a basic scenario. You see a need. You organize a team or have one organized by the mission leader. But wait, you cannot go into the field without being commissioned. That means the help you wanted to do for others anonymously is now brought before the congregation and people pray over you. They may even lay hands on you as they pray. Now your anonymous work that you wished to do is out there in front of everyone. A prayer team is organized to pray for you the entire time you are gone. Then when you get back, you are asked to speak at every worship service the following Sunday about your experience and how you felt – nothing about how God helped people in distress, no, how doing for others made you feel, and nothing but glowing words would be accepted, even if you threw your back out. Then a month later, the youth group leader asks for you to speak for an hour to encourage the youth to do service.
Wow! Some anonymous little service project, hunh?!
What did Jesus say about those who make a big show of their giving? They already received their reward. But the attention was required by the church. You begged them to let you do this in private, so that no one knew. You just asked the church to see if anyone was like-minded and they blew it all out of proportion.
But what about that back that gets thrown out? When my wife and I went to the Mississippi Gulf Coast a few months after Hurricane Katrina, we were in a tent city, on cots, in subfreezing weather, and it rained a lot, usually water outside the tents up to your ankles or deeper, with the tent on top of pallets to keep them dry. We cooked our own food. We went to the hardware store and wrestled other church-based teams to get the supplies we needed to rebuild a person’s house. The homeowner had the tough-to-find commodity – dry wall.
We left a day early because the team leader had a bad back and the deprivations of our living was too much. How did I feel? I felt numb – that is, when my body was not feeling the pain. Emotionally – numb. Physically – exhausted, in pain. Spiritually – uplifted.
As the Apostle Paul said, “I would do it again to give of myself, sacrificially.” At this point in my life, it would be an unfair trade. I would try to help, but I doubt if my body would cooperate.
When you have mud up to your knees each day, all day. When you have skipped at least one meal each day, sometimes two meals, to get in more working time. When you are treated poorly by others, called names, pushed, shoved. When you feed the last carrot to the farmer’s horse because the farmer allowed the church group to camp there. When your shower time was Wednesday at 8:30pm, and oh, we just ran out of hot water and the air temperature outside the shower hut (think a little larger than a porta-potty) is five degrees below the freezing mark. When your wife’s tent collapses in the middle of the night, she sleeping with the other women, and her sleeping bag gets totally soaked in water, and you sneak her into your tent in the men’s section, and you “borrow” blankets that were intended for homeless people just to keep her from freezing. Come to think of it, my wife cheated. She got two showers that week! Yes, a week. The thing that kept us sane at times was that we would be going home soon.
And yet, Paul had been stoned. That did not happen to us. Paul had been beaten. That did not happen to us. Paul had been flogged. That did not happen to us. Paul was imprisoned. That did not happen to us. Jesus was crucified.
Serving others with the heart of Jesus?
No matter how hard the deprivations, we will always fall short of the mark set by our Lord and Savior.
Am I saying to not go on mission trips? Absolutely not! GO!!
Just pack a few extra pairs of socks.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.
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