Posts Tagged ‘service’
In a sermon on 1 Peter 2.24, focused on the fact that Christ “his own self” bore our sins, Spurgeon makes this potent application. Having made clear at first that the death of Christ is not just an example, he is not slow to emphasize that it is also an example. We too should take personal responsibilty for what is given into our hands. We would do well to consider Spurgeon’s words:
Let me remind you of our text: “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree” There is a poor Christian woman lying bedridden; she very seldom has a visitor, do you know her? “Yes, I know her, and I got a city missionary to call upon her.” But the text says, “Who his own self bare our sins.” Poor Mary is in great need. “Yes, I know, sir, and I asked somebody to give me something to give to her.” Listen: “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree.” There is your sister, who is unconverted. “Yes, air, I know it; and I—I—I have asked Mrs. So-and-so to speak to her.” “Who his own self bare our sins.” Can you not get to that point, and do something your own self? “But I might do it badly.” Have you ever tried to do it at all? I do believe that personal service for Christ, even when it is far from perfect, is generally much more efficient than that sort of substituted service which so many prefer. Oh, if we could but get all those who are members of our churches personally to serve the Lord Jesus Christ, what a powerful church we should have! Would not the whole South of London soon feel the power of this church of more than 5,000 members, if you all went to this holy war,—each man, each woman, by himself or herself? But it is not so; many of you just talk about it, or propose to do something, or try to get other people to do something. “Well, but really, sir,” says one, “what could I do?” My dear friend, I do not know exactly what you could do, but I know that you could do something. “Oh, but I have no abilities; I could not do anything!” Now, suppose I were to call to see you, and, meeting you in your parlour, I were to say, “Now, my dear friend, you are no good to us; you have no abilities; you cannot do anything.” I am afraid that you would be offended with me, do you not think that you would? Now, it is not true, is it? You can do something; there never yet was a Christian who had not some niche to occupy,—at least one talent to lay out in his Master’s service. You young people, who have lately joined the church,—little more than boys and girls,—begin personally to serve Christ while you are yet young, or else I am afraid that we shall not be able to get you into harness in after life. And even those who are encumbered with large families and great businesses, or with old age and infirmities, yet say, nevertheless, “We must not sit still; we must not be idle, we must do something for our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, we must serve him who, his own self, bore our sins in his own body on the tree.” In the spirit of this text, go forth, and, even before you go to bed, do something to prove your love to Jesus; and unto his name be glory for ever and ever! Amen and Amen.
C. H. Spurgeon, “Our Lord’s Substitution,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 48 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1902), 370–371.
I doubt that many readers of this blog would know a brother by the name of Johnny Farese. Johnny was born with spinal muscular atrophy. By the time I had the privilege of meeting him in person, he had been unable to sit up for about ten years. He was paralysed in both arms and legs, his body twisted and passive. But, for a man who the doctors prophesied would not live beyond his eighth birthday, Johnny led a remarkably productive life. The quote which adorned almost all his emails was this: “I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do. What I can do, I should do. And what I should do, by the grace of God, I will do.”
With these words understood in the light of God’s saving grace in Christ Jesus, Johnny set out to serve as he was able. He learned to code and for years maintained a mailing list for and a directory of Reformed Baptist churches, generating much mutual interest and fellowship. All this he did using an intricate arrangement of technology operated through a small tube.
I met Johnny when preaching at a conference in Florida. He listened to pretty much everything he could online, and – the day after the first sermon, when I went to see him – he gave me a lovely illustrated copy of Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, to which I had referred in passing, which evidently coloured my preaching in Johnny’s eyes, and which he had immediately ordered as an expression of kind appreciation. We spoke about some of his labours, his hopes and his fears, the struggles and the joys of his condition. I spoke to his brother, Paul, and his wife and children, with whom Johnny lived, and whose selfless care of him brought its own challenges and burdens.
Johnny’s brief written testimony is here, and a few years ago he was featured in a television programme:
Johnny fell asleep in Christ last Lord’s day afternoon. He went to be with Christ, which is far better. His soul has left that battered and twisted body in which he sought to serve his Lord so faithfully and fruitfully. He is present with the Lord, his soul made perfect, his joy entire. He is now looking forward to the day when Christ returns, when his soul shall be reunited with his body, but not as it goes into the ground.
So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed – in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” (1Cor 15.42-54)
On that Lord’s day morning, I was preaching to the church which I serve on Peter’s mother-in-law (Matthew 8.14-15). This woman was saved (and there are parallels with our deliverance from the fiery fever of sin); having been delivered, she served. Johnny knew what it was to have his soul delivered from sin, and he knew what it was to serve. The next time you are tempted to excuse yourself from duties, shirk present responsibilities, and let opportunities pass you by, you should remind yourself of a man who could move only his mouth and his eyes, and offered them readily and constantly to the Lord.
Johnny is still serving his Saviour. He will serve him forever, soon with a restored body to match his striving soul – full of strength and vigour, every capacity and faculty thoroughly enlivened and invigorated, knowing no hindrance or obstacle – in the new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells, and where sickness, sorrow, pain and trouble are long past.
My mother was reading a sermon on “Christian resignation” by Charles Spurgeon drawn from Christ’s words to his Father recorded in Matthew 26.39, “Not as I will, but as you will.” She passed this paragraph to me, commenting that this was something she could imagine I would write. I read it to my wife. She said, “I’ve heard that from you often enough.” So, hiding behind Spurgeon’s skirts, here we go on the holy resolve that follows from genuine Christian resignation to accomplish God’s will, spoken as I would and as Spurgeon could:
So, this resignation to God’s will gives, first, joy in the heart, and then it gives fearless courage; and yet another thing follows from it. As soon as anyone truly says, “Not as I will, but as thou wilt,” this resolve tends to make every duty light, every trial easy, every tribulation sweet. We should never feel it to be a hard thing to serve God; yet there are many people, who, if they do a little thing for the Lord, think so much of it; and if there is ever a great thing to be done, you have, first, to plead very hard to get them to do it; and when they do it, very often it is done so badly that you are half sorry you ever asked them to do it. A great many people make very much out of what is really very little. They take one good action which they have performed, and they hammer it out till it becomes as thin as gold leaf, and then they think they may cover a whole week with that one good deed. The seven days shall all be glorified by an action which only takes five minutes to perform; it shall be quite enough, they even think, for all time to come. But the Christian, whose will is conformed to God’s will, says, ‘My Lord, is there anything else for me to do? Then, I will gladly do it. Does it involve want of rest? I will do it. Does it involve loss of time in my business? Does it involve me, sometimes, in toil and fatigue? Lord it shall be done, if it is thy will; for thy will and mine are in complete agreement. If it is possible, I will do it; and I will count all things but loss that I may win Christ, and be found in him, rejoicing in his righteousness, and not in mine own.’
In his excellent book My God is True: Lessons Learned Along Cancer’s Dark Road (which I hope shortly to review), Paul Wolfe makes some comments about serving and being served. Although these are made in the context of his suffering cancer, the principles are worth remembering for all who have opportunities to serve or be served:
What stands out about those two examples [of friends who served Paul Wolfe and his wife, Christy, after his diagnosis of cancer] is that, in both cases, those who cared for us did not wait for us to ask them for help. They came up with concrete proposals and then proactively sought us out to make them a reality. By their example those friends taught us a valuable lesson: though there are times when ‘Let me know if there’s anything I can do’ is all that can be said, there are other times when a more proactive approach is called for. Instead of ‘Let me know if there’s anything I can do’, try ‘Let me tell you what I’d like to do to serve you.’ Christy and I learned the value of others offering specific assistance without waiting for those in need to ask for it. . . .
Learn to see beyond earthly similarities and differences within the body and love others for Jesus’ sake. Do not make the excuse, ‘Well, your church sounds great, but I don’t find mine to be all that loving.’ You don’t? Well, try this tune: ‘Let there be practical love in the congregation to which I belong . . . and let it begin with me.’ In other words, if you want to encourage tangible service among the members of your church, just do it.
For example, are you the one who is suffering alone, your trials and your needs unknown to others in the church? It may be that the first step is yours to take. You may have to go ahead and tell others about your needs before they inquire, and then ask them to help you in concrete ways before they offer. Remember: your duty – indeed, your privilege – is to let others serve you. Listen again to the Apostle Paul: ‘Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ’ (Gal. 6:2). Would you deny your brothers and sisters in Christ the opportunity to fulfil his law? No, there is nothing heroic, nothing admirable, about shouldering your burdens, silent and solitary, if those burdens are plainly too heavy for you to bear alone.
Or, are you the one who has become aware of the needs of another? Then do not wait for him to ask for help. Step up and serve him. And if someone in your congregation is battling cancer, consider seeking and serving him months after he is diagnosed. By then he may have faded from people’s minds. By then the flow of cards and visits and phone calls may have slowed considerably. That is a great time to show him what God is like, the God who promises never to leave, never to forsake.
In short, there is faithful giving, and there is faithful receiving, too. Model them both.
Are you in a position to show the grace of serving? Do not be too lazy, too callous, too dull, too slow, too carnal to do so.
Are you in a position to show the grace of being served? Do not be too proud, too remote, too arrogant, too stubborn, too ungrateful to do so.
“There is faithful giving, and there is faithful receiving, too. Model them both.”