Tag Archives: serving

True Humility

weekly theme #52 True Humility*  

week containing the Sunday between October 23-29

One of the best ways for me to be humbled is to be around someone better than me.  I’ve looked like a fool in athletic contests, been hiked into the ground, and displayed my ignorance on many a test.  However, the ultimate humbling will be to stand before the LORD.  What have I ever done or said that will impress the LORD?  Thankfully, he doesn’t seek my greatness he seeks my worship.  Worship is a form of humility because it places me in the position of a servant.  Worship declares that I am not the ruler of myself.  Worship yanks from under me any platform for self-praise or boasting.  All praise belongs to God.

When I say I’m proud of an accomplishment, I’m most likely just proud of myself.  When I reflect back on accomplishments, I am tempted to reside there and bask in my past.  However, if I look back as an act of worship to God’s work, work that he allowed me to be a part of, it can inspire me to be ready for the next serving opportunity God has prepares.

I can be a Christian leader and still not be humble.  Loud boasting or obvious acts of selfishness are not required to be self-focused.  I see more subtle evidence in my own life: impatience, defensiveness*, judging other’s motives, concern about being used while serving, and mentally ranking the worth of people.  The most damning evidence of my self-focus is when I receive an instruction from God and respond with “Yes, but I don’t think…”  I’m sure there are other signs of selfishness in my life that I can’t even see – but you can.

For me, humility takes intentional effort, and I’m not sure it will ever come naturally.  I guess the first step is seeing the problem.  The next step is asking God to create a desire in me for humility.  The courage to continue in humility, even when it’s humiliating – that’s a gift from God, too.

*thoughts on “defensiveness” as a sign of self-focus – I live in the tension of two conditions.  God created me from dust, I am a chronic sinner, and I am mortal flesh.  However, I am also a beloved child of God, I am cleansed of sin by Jesus, and I am an immortal soul.  If I fail to embrace both sides of this coin, if I see myself only as one or the other, I can end up self-absorbed.  That self-absorption can be revealed by arrogant boasting or by defensive insecurity and neither is God’s desire. Paul identified himself to Timothy as an apostle as well as the worst of all sinners.  Paul described similar extremes for Jesus in Philippians 2:6-7.  I believe remembering those extremes allowed Paul to be so usable by God.  Lack of knowing who I am and lack of confidence that God can accept me as I am creates unsure footing for walking the path of service.

*A Guide To Prayer by Job and Shawchuck provided the scripture references and readings that inspired these reflections.  I found this devotional to be the most heart changing of any I’ve used.  It truly lives up to its title.

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Servants Of God

weekly theme #51 Servants Of God*         

week containing the Sunday between October 16-22

The extremes of being a disciple of Jesus are striking to me.  God entrusts his disciple with incredible power for doing good:  healings, raising the dead, and proclaiming the Good News.  The opposite side of the coin is that the disciple is totally dependent upon God and people to meet the disciple’s daily needs.  (Matthew 10)  This irony is probably necessary so the disciple is neither proud nor discouraged, for being a servant of Christ is more than serving.  It is also an attitude of humility in both sacrifice and accomplishment.  Those I serve ought to have a servant who is loving, joyful, humble and earnestly seeking to live each day in a way that is pleasing to the Master and helpful to those served.  I want to be that kind of servant, but most days that goal seems far away.

I’m nearly sixty, and I still don’t live as a servant of Christ.  A servant is consumed with the desires of the Master.  The Master’s command should trump what I want, have planned, or even need, but I find myself clinging to my plans, ideas, and loves.  These personal things clamor for so much attention that I can’t even sense my Master’s efforts to communicate.  Before I was born, he knew that I would serve him, but he also knew that many times I would serve him poorly, or refuse to serve him. Even with that foreknowledge, he loved me, and continues to love me.  His steadfast love is the steady light in the darkness.  My prayer is, “Master, save me from my lukewarm, diluted service.”

I am only able to do the Master’s work because I depend upon the Master for guidance, opportunity, power, persistence…everything.  Including the results.

Note: I’m not sure how this relates to this week’s theme, but in one of the readings, Paul’s ideas at the end of 2 Timothy 2, convicted me.  I must avoid arguments that yield only division.  Respectfully and effectively, I must be able to explain truth, and I need to be patient with those who disagree.  Sometimes he uses my words, actions, or attitudes to impact a person.  Sometimes he doesn’t.

*A Guide To Prayer by Job and Shawchuck provided the scripture references and readings that inspired these reflections.  I found this devotional to be the most heart changing of any I’ve used.  It truly lives up to its title.

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The Cost of Servanthood

weekly theme #35*

week containing the Sunday between June 26 and July 2

A servant’s life revolves around the master.  The servant does not set aside an hour or few each week for work they want to do.  The life of the servant revolves around the master, and the servant’s life is secondary.  So no one can become my disciple without giving up everything for me.” (Luke 14:33)  Yet there is love in this relationship between my master and me, The Lord.

Repeatedly I’ve been overwhelmed with doing good deeds and in nurturing relationships.  The tasks he assigns are too great for me, but that’s because he wants me to work with others and also depend on him.  He doesn’t think of me as just a servant but as his family.  He cares deeply for me, and he wants me to care deeply for him, not just the tasks I perform on his behalf.  My focus on him is more pleasing than my independent effort to do his work, and my reward is his presence, not completing a checklist.

My troubles, complaints, and sufferings are magnified when I serve with wrong motivations.  If the desire to serve is generated from love, it will endure because it produces shalom and my Master shares my yoke.  Service from fear or guilt does not endure; it saps my strength.  This perishable container that I feed, groom, and worry about miraculously contains the Spirit of God.  Though I physically die a little each day, I can spiritually be renewed, improved, and strengthened.  I would do well to focus on what I’m gaining, not on what I’m losing.

Even spiritual leaders are servants.  I have been arrogant enough to believe I could lead other s through strategy, persona, or organization.  How foolish that seems now.  God loves me, but does not need me.  He can accomplish his will without me, but graciously he offers me the opportunity to join him in what he is doing.  I have no cause for pride yet pride seems to be constantly lurking near me.  Pride creeps in when I choose to compare my strengths to other’s weaknesses.  This guarantees that I’ll be puffed up and dismissive of my own weaknesses.  There is no redemption in lopsided comparisons.

*A Guide To Prayer by Job and Shawchuck provided the scripture references and readings that inspired these reflections.  I found this devotional to be the most heart changing of any I’ve used.  It truly lives up to its title.

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Planning To Obey

This is a revision of a previous post called, “Think Big For Jesus”.

I recently went through some personal “stuff” that opened my eyes to two nasty qualities in my life: judging and injury by words.  I realized that “Think Big For Jesus” bore witness to both.   This revision is more about me and a lot less about others.  My goal for this post is to let you see the trap I was in and help you avoid it in your journey.

I bought into the USA business model that says I control the results.  It said that I must control as much as possible in order to “stay focused”, “ahead of the curve”, and “guarantee success”.  But I no longer feel comfortable with this model.  If Jesus is LORD then all I have to do is obey him.  I don’t need to be strategic or significant; I can leave that to him.   What was happening to me was an invasion of selfishness.  I started to think more about my planning and manipulating than God’s provision and production.  I plotted too much and prayed too little.

There is nothing wrong with planning.  I still consider that to be a valuable part of following God.  But I do it with less selfishness.  I am more earnest in asking God what is best.  I give more accolades to him and less boasting about myself.  And I really try to do what I think is right by God rather than right for me. 

I can’t pick out the best instructions from God as I would pick the strawberries out of a fruit salad.  When I start deciding which of God’s instructions will have the greatest yield on my investment, I am actually evaluating God.  It’s almost like God and I have traded places.  He tells me his ideas and I decide what’s worth my time and then revise accordingly.  I can’t believe that he finds that arrangement satisfactory.

I freely admit that there is a part of me that wants to run the show.  “It’s your life,” says the voice in my head, “You should be able to do what you want.”  However, I can’t do whatever I want if I truly think God is God.  If God is God, then I am his inferior.  (Unless I am God, then we’re all in trouble.)  I have often heard of people being called “children of God”.  And in most cultures around the globe, parents expect their children to submit to instruction.  Often the child disagrees or does not understand why the instruction is given.  But as time passes, the lessons learned become the character of the child – a reproduction of the character of the parent.  If the child resists instruction, the character formed no longer resembles the parent.  In the case of God and his children, his character is the most enviable, and his instructions are always the best.

 So whose plan am I committed to follow – his or mine?  I think I’m supposed to follow God.  If my obedience doesn’t produce something significant, that’s God’s doing.  Gandhi, a Hindu who admired Jesus but was disappointed with Christians, said that nothing he did was significant but everything he did was important.   Obedience does not always yield results I would consider significant, but neither does significant results always indicate obedience to God’s call.  It is enough to obey.

“But you don’t want to do something wasteful or trivial!” says the part of me who likes to plan, plot, pick, and choose. “Didn’t Jesus pick the twelve most strategic disciples?  And besides, being strategic is just figuring out the best way to do something.  What’s wrong with that?”

The part of me that makes these arguments is trying to distract my focus from three basic principles:

  1. If God says to do something, big or small, I should do it.  I don’t need to evaluate it to see if it yields a return worthy of my efforts.  It is a dangerous thing to believe God’s call is beneath my qualifications, ability, education, or position.  Jesus spent all night in prayer to be sure he selected the right disciples, but his chosen disciples didn’t look strategic at all.  The final dozen included some fishermen and a tax collector, not the ones who were doing the best in seminary.  God’s ways are different from my ways.
  2. Results aren’t my concern, let alone my responsibility.  Focusing on results, rather than obedience, invites me to take charge and do things my way.  It also tempts me to take the credit for success.  If I say that something was accomplished because I was strategic, it sounds like I deserve credit.  If I say something was accomplished because God used me and other resources, it shifts the credit to him.  Often this takes a blind faith, a step into the unknown.  Personally, I find it awesome to look back and suddenly have it dawn on me, “Wow.  Now I see why those things happened!  God had it planned all along.”  And I can’t take a bit of credit for being strategic.
  3. Sometimes little insignificant things can add up to be big, significant things.  I’m pretty sure Jesus likes it when his followers fully follow his instructions.  That allows him to use many of us in a grand and beautiful tapestry of events.  No single thread gets admired, just the final product.  And the artist gets the praise.

I wonder what would happen if I was more passionate about obedience to God than about getting big results.  What if I was willing to obey a step at a time in insignificant things rather than seek giant leaps in spectacular things?  How would things be different? 

I bet I’d have more faith and less stress.  Joy would be common; anxiety would be rare.  My faith would be lived daily instead of when it suits my purpose.  My work would be less mine and more God’s.  I would be more godly and less business-like.  People would remember God more than they remember me.

I’d like that.

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