Sometimes the weather is perfect and your baby is in the very best mood. Sometimes your grass is over grown and perfectly green. Sometimes you just have to capture it all!
These past few days I have been prayerfully seeking what aspect of Jesus I would like to focus on, in preparation for Easter. I wanted to focus on an aspect of Jesus that I needed more in my own life, and I desperately wanted to be challenged like never before. That’s when the Lord used My Utmost for His Highest in my life once more. The title of today’s devotion is The Determination to Serve, and I was struck hard by the word serve. When is the last time I sought to serve?
Am I willing to serve selflessly? Do I serve without complaint? Is my first choice to serve? Am I willing to serve and give, even to the point of death, just as Christ? Honestly? No.
I am a product of the ME generation. Despite having wonderful examples of service in my life, I rarely seek to serve. My life revolves around me most of the time. I am quick to focus on my blessings, but I so often fail to seek to be a blessing to others. I focus on my time, my plans, and my home, but I fail to focus on areas where I should serve. I no longer want to be associated with my generation. Life all about me is empty, without purpose, and lonely. This is not the life I am called to. This is not the life any believer is called to.
Because our culture is so fixated on ourselves, a heart of service towards others is rare. However, if I am to be more like Jesus, then my heart must seek to put others first, not for their approval, but for His. Oswald Chambers states in My Utmost for His Highest, “When we realize that Jesus Christ has served us to the end of our meanness, our selfishness, and sin, nothing that we meet with from others can exhaust our determination to serve men for His sake.”
Over these next few weeks I will begin the process of shifting my focus. It will not be an easy task to change my thinking, but in order for me to be who God has called me to be, I must seek to serve. I want to have the determination to serve. I want my life to be a picture of selfless giving. If am to be told someday, “Well done my good and faithful servant”, then I need to become a servant of the gospel for the lost, a servant for God’s people, a servant for God’s purpose, and a servant seeking His approval above all else.
I don’t know yet how I am going to accomplish this task of seeking to serve, but I know it starts with a heart, broken of pride, open to a challenge, and filled with love. As I seek to serve, my home will be a sanctuary of worship to my Savior. The TV will be off, social media will be limited, worship music will be on, and everything having to do with our ME culture will be purged from my house. I will spend time in prayer, praying for the lost, praying for the broken, praying for purpose, praying for the determination to serve, even when I don’t want to. I will make time to study the life of Christ, seeking to be more like Him, and thanking Him for His ultimate sacrifice.
“just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve,
and to give His life a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:28
“Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
I have grown up in church my whole life. I came to a knowledge of Jesus Christ at eight years old in Vacation Bible School, and my memories of growing up typically involve being at the church. As the daughter of a Southern Baptist pastor, I have heard the Easter story hundreds of times. Many years, I have been apart of presenting music that details the Easter story, and to be honest, all of those years, I have been more concerned about my new Easter dress than I have been about what Easter means for me as a believer. As one who has been around the church for quite some time, it was easy for me to become complacent in my reaction and gratitude towards the debt paid for my sins. Every now and then, I’d be sure to insert a small phrase of thankfulness for the cross in my prayers, but I would hardly take the time to truly meditate on all that Christ sacrificed in order for me to spend eternity with the Father. However, this year is quite different. For the first time in my life, I am beginning to seek to understand the fullness of the Easter story. I am sensitive to each word spoken about it, and feel a lump in my throat at the mention of Christ’s sacrifice for my sin.
One verse changed my whole outlook on the Easter message. I have heard this verse a thousand times, and yet had never meditated on the words. On Sunday March 17, our pastor preached on Mark 14, and when he read verse 36, time stood still within my heart for a moment. I continued to listen to the sermon and verse 36 would not leave my mind. This past week, I would, all of a sudden, begin to repeat verse 36 in my head throughout the days, and I would often find myself picturing Jesus praying in the garden. In my head, I picture Christ in utter anguish, crying out to the Father, “Abba Father…everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me.” Then, I picture a moment of perfect silence, a pause in his prayer to the Father to prepare his heart for the following statement. I picture Jesus in the midst of this silence, reconciling within himself what he was about to say to his Father. Of all the things Christ could have said/done, He breaks the perfect silence with the resounding statement, “Yet not my will…” What an unconditional, sacrificial love!
The dictionary defines “yet” as nevertheless or in spite of . When Christ says “yet”, it is as if he is saying, “In spite of the humiliation, torture, and utter pain that is coming my way, I will finish the task you placed me upon the Earth to accomplish.” This small word is the picture of Christ surrendering everything to the Father, even though it will cost him complete separation from God as Christ bears the sin of all mankind. Just to even think of all that Christ went through in an act of voluntary obedience to the will of God makes my heart ache. My Savior endured the immense pain brought on through lashings and flogging, he endured the humiliation and mockery of the people, he persevered through the trials and pain even after his followers denied him, and he willingly took on the sin of the world to suffer hell and separation from God in order to atone for our sins. This man did not just come and teach some great stuff and live a good life. This man came with the purpose of laying everything aside to accomplish the will of the Father.
I must ask myself, am I willing to sacrifice everything, including my life for the will of God? Without a doubt, my answer to that is a resounding YES. As an American, I do not have an understanding of sacrificing everything, my comforts, my friends, my family, and ultimately my physical body for the sake of Jesus Christ, but I do pray that if that moment ever came, I would speak with boldness, proclaiming the love of Jesus to all who might hear it. While, that may not be asked of me now, there are many other things I must sacrifice in order to surrender my will to my Creator. My surrender is a daily act of worship. It is a sacrifice of my desires, my time-table, and ultimately my pride. When Christ tells us to take up our cross, it is a command as his follower. I cannot seek intimacy with my Savior, unless I am surrendering my will as he did. When it all comes down to it, whether I am called to sacrifice my time, relationships, or even my life, I am encouraged by Paul’s writing to the Romans.
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:37-39
The only reason I am encouraged by this passage is because I know I serve a living Savior, that died upon the cross and suffered separation from in his Father, in order that I may never know of that separation. I encourage you, as we begin this week of reflection for Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, that you meditate on The Word. I pray that you will grow in your gratitude for the sacrifice of the Savior and that this Easter will transform your life like never before. I pray if you are reading this and have never trusted in Jesus Christ, that you will come to a saving knowledge of him. He died that we might never know separation from God, but He does not force us into a relationship with him. We must come willingly. I pray as I go on from here, that I will earnestly seek the will of God for my life. I pray I will seek intimacy in my spirit with my Savior. Lastly, I pray that when the time comes for me to reconcile within my soul a course of action, that I too will boldly proclaim, “Yet not my will, but what you will.”
“True surrender is not simply surrender of our external life but surrender of our will- and once that is done, surrender is complete. The greatest crisis we will ever face is the surrender of our will…True surrender is a matter of being ‘united together [with Jesus] in the likeness of His death’ (Romans 6:5) until nothing ever appeals to you that did not appeal to Him. And after you surrender- then what? Your entire life should be characterized by an eagerness to maintain unbroken fellowship and oneness with God.”
-Oswald Chambers: My Utmost for His Highest