(In 2017, I wrote this series for the 40 days prior to Easter to prepare our hearts and minds for the significance of Jesus’ resurrection. I’m reposting the series now for the 40 days after Easter to encourage us to follow through, living in the risen Savior and King.)
There have been many times when I thought I was serving, but looking back I probably wasn’t. Not serving someone else, that is.
Throughout my time as a military Chaplain, I’ve often made it a habit of investing time with a fellow Christian minister, military or civilian. Sometimes it’s to be mentored. Sometimes it’s to mentor. Other times it’s more of a two-way fellowship.
Several years ago, I was meeting with a junior ranking Chaplain for over a year to help them replace me as the lead minister of a military chapel service. Each week, we invested at least an hour talking and praying about specific challenges, opportunities, progress, and plans for the ministries and our personal walks with Christ. Both of us consistently voiced how helpful our honesty and care was for each other. I always looked forward to meeting with him.
But it required sacrifice from both of us. Our schedules were pretty heavy and did not always sync easily; we worked 10 miles apart; both of us had several bosses to whom we answered; and about once a month one of us would have a sudden ministerial requirement that created a domino effect of rescheduling, anxiety and emotional fatigue.
Consider the following as such a day.
All of the Chaplains and Chaplain Assistants on on our installation had gathered for our monthly training event. The topics and discussion were outstanding, but the training went over an hour longer than the scheduled time. That pushed the weekly lunch meeting with my brother (and the rest of my responsibilities) over an hour to the right.
I came to my brother that day as a senior but frazzled Chaplain and left uplifted by that junior Chaplain who pointed over and over to Christ and His love, strength, and purpose to mold us in His image to honor Himself. I left ready to encourage everyone I met for the rest of the day. The Lord Jesus was so kind to give me a brother who served as He serves.
When I got back to the chapel, I was dreading the many administrative tasks that were building up in my email. But before I was to go into the chapel and park myself behind my computer and three phones, I saw one more chance to encourage a brother in Christ. As I entered the building, there was another Chaplain opening the door for me, and his dress blue uniform reflected a recent promotion. “Congratulations!” I said with a big smile and somewhat loudly. He thanked me but with only a polite smile and quickly looked behind me toward the sanctuary. I turned my head to see where he was looking.
He and several Soldiers behind him in their dress blues were waiting for the wife and young children of a fellow Soldier who had just died after being diagnosed with liver cancer only a month ago. They were preparing to honor their friend, comfort his family and grieve with each other in a chapel memorial service.
Then I remembered
I had been the one who coordinated the domino effect of moving another large ministry that morning and our training into two other chapels so they could have this larger sanctuary. It was no surprise to me, but I was so caught up in “serving” him that I was blind to the obvious needs of the moment all around me. Looking back, I was more likely serving myself by wanting to be appreciated again.
I’m so glad (and amazed) that the Lord Jesus doesn’t “serve” like that.
In Matthew 14, after John the Baptist (who was also Jesus’ cousin) had been beheaded, we read that the Lord withdrew with His disciples to a solitary place. That seemed to have been Jesus’ practice when we wanted to pray about something even more intently and passionately. But the crowds followed Him there, and He served their needs – not His own.
In a sense, the Lord Jesus – through whom the entire universe was created by His grace and for His glory – works in a customer service position. He receives and attends to one person at a time and – no matter what challenges, complaints, anger or confusions that person brings to Him – He meets their true needs and greets the next person with equally full attention, compassion, wisdom, strength and care.
He is never frazzled, and He never demands “me time”.
I want to be clear, though. The Lord is not a fry cook who dishes out whatever we crave. But He is the servant King of His people, who always provides exactly what we need to grow in faith, holiness and true love as He has revealed in His Word.
May we turn to Him again and again for what we need.
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)
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