Monday, January 9, 2017

Having a Heart to Serve

     Math has never been my strong suit.  For those of you who know me well, this does not come as a surprise.  I did well in this subject until I reached Junior High.  Because I had been a good student up until that time, I was entered into an experimental math program called SMSG.  Today this would be equivalent to CORE curriculum math.  In other words, nothing was done in a traditional manner.  Theoretically, this was supposed to make math more understandable.  However, it made it more difficult for my parents to assist me, and I found I often did not understand the material.  When it came time to take Algebra I in high school, I wanted to take traditional Algebra but since I was college bound, I was once again enrolled in this experimental Algebra program.
     By this time, I was struggling to keep my head above water, and on top of this, we had an instructor whom I will never forget.  His name was Mr. Newhart.  He, without a doubt, knew Algebra well but he was not a good instructor.  Many of us in the class had questions, and inevitably, he would become irritated and impatient with us.  In fact, one day he told us that if he were principal of the school he would see to it that we were all suspended.  He did not like us so that made learning even more difficult than it had to be.
     After several parent teacher conferences and extra help after class, I managed to finish the year with less than a stellar performance, but I finished!  I think Mr. Newhart did not return the next year which was most likely a good thing for both he and future students.  Some people may have the right qualifications for a job, but if they don't have the heart for it, they will not succeed without hurting others.  This is true for any vocation or even for those serving in church leadership.
     Many years ago, a pastor friend, told me that there are those who go into the ministry out of a need they have to perform in order to be accepted rather than having a heart to serve.  As a result, these people tend to hurt others they are supposed to be helping.  Selfish ambition gets in the way of true relationships.  I think many of us can recall some of the top, up and coming young pastors who crashed and burned in recent years, and some of it was due to their self-promotion.  Like my algebra teacher, they had lots of subject knowledge, but they ended up hurting others around them.
     Jesus Christ, our only perfect example, calls us to be servants if we would minister to others.  Twice in Mark's Gospel, the Lord instructed His disciples who had been arguing who would be the greatest among them.  In Mark 9:35, we see how Jesus responds:  "And He sat down and called the twelve.  And He said to them, 'If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.'"  Then in Mark 10 starting in verse 35, James and John come to Jesus with a request.  They wanted to sit one on the right and one on His left side when He came into His kingdom.  Jesus said it was not up  to Him to grant this request.  Of course, the other disciples had become upset upon hearing this.  Once again, Jesus used this teachable moment to reveal to us what the heart of ministry is really all about.  Starting in Mark 10:42-45, Jesus said this:  "And Jesus called them to Him and said to them, 'You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.  But it shall not be so among you.  Whoever would be great among you must be your servant and whoever would be first among you must be 'slave' of all.  For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.'"
     In both of these passages, Jesus emphasized that having a servant's heart was pleasing to God.  After all, He came as a servant not one seeking popularity, fame and fortune.  On many occasions, Jesus healed someone and advised them not to tell anyone.  At one point, the people wanted to make Him the king (John 6:15) by force so He slipped away by Himself.  Jesus was secure in His mission, and He knew who He was and why He came.  He did not need the world's accolades that Satan offered Him in the desert when He was fasting.  No, He came as a servant to be our ransom and to glorify God by redeeming the people whom God would call to Himself.  Likewise, all who would serve in the ministry, church leadership or in any other vocation to which God has called him must also have that servant heart.  We cannot glorify God when we are busy glorifying ourselves.
     I do not know whatever became of Mr. Newhart after he left our school, but I really hope he found a better use for his talents.  He did not love his students or teaching for that matter.  It was a job with benefits and nothing more.  If we are not willing to lay down our lives in service to others, then we have no business in following a call that requires it.  We may have the knowledge, skill, training and degrees, but if we do not have love for others we are more like a "sounding gong" as Paul wrote and others will be hurt in the long run.  Furthermore, God is not glorified when we are busy self-promoting.  May we ponder what the Lord has said about leadership/ministry for He will hold us accountable one day.  Selah!

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