Serve and Receive Bigger (10/1/2017)

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In fall of 2005, I was invited to join a group of Brethren who were going to Uganda and Sudan. Our main objective was to help the New Sudan Council of Churches erect a building in Southern Sudan. I had no doubt God was calling me to go on this trip so I spent weeks getting the necessary immunizations, taking care of paperwork and gathering supplies. I was told that no matter how much our group prepared to carry out our agenda, we should be ready for things to move slowly or to change at any moment. Uganda and Sudan aren’t like the United States.

A few days before we left, my father asked: “What will you be doing there?” I responded with, “We’re supposed to help build a compound but I don’t know anything else.”

Dad: “Where are you going to sleep?”

Me: “We taking tents but some of us might be able to sleep in huts. I’m not really sure.”

Dad: “What kinds of food are you eating.”

Me: “I don’t know.”

After getting these three responses, my dad just stared at me. His mouth didn’t speak any words but his face said, “Are you crazy?” I was OK with this. I was so certain God wanted me to go that I was prepared to face whatever came my way, even if it meant never returning home. I actually wrote letters to my family, gave them to a friend and asked him to distribute them if I didn’t return. Praise God the trip went well. Although we did experience some delays and changes in itinerary, our group was never in danger. (At least not that we knew about anyway.)

I returned home and went back to work in the family business, which was going through a very difficult time financially. We did our best to pull through and thought at one time were going to make it. However, things just kept getting worse.

One day I snapped. I let loose on God. “Why are you letting this happen? You know how hard we’re trying? When we pray, we feel that we keep getting signs to keep going? Are we not hearing you?”

This went on until was I tired from yelling and I started to get hoarse. It lasted about 10 minutes. After I calmed down, I felt bad and asked God to forgive me.

As I processed the way I approached my trip to Africa with the way I handled our business situation, I began to wrestle with something. Why is it that I trusted God with my death but I didn’t trust him with my life?

Perhaps it was because I knew I couldn’t stop death from happening so I had no choice but to trust him. Yet, I felt I could control my life and reacted poorly when things didn’t go my way.

What about you? Does the way you live your life show that you really trust God?

What would happen if we lived our lives the way Jesus lived his? Mark 10:32-45 tells us, 32 They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid. Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him. 33 “We are going up to Jerusalem,” he said, “and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, 34 who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.”

Jesus was leading his disciples to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. This was a yearly festival they had celebrated many times. Jesus knew something else is in store for him this time. He told the disciples he was going to be killed but would rise again in three days. This was the 3rd time Jesus had shared this with them. He’d said the same thing in Mark 8:31 and Mark 9:31. The disciples couldn’t understand what Jesus was saying to them. They had a different agenda in mind.

35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”

36 “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.

37 They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”

The disciples expected the Messiah to be a powerful warrior king who would restore Israel to its former glory and help them walk closer with God. A king needed his court. The most powerful and influential men sat next to the king. One on his left. One on his right. We all know you don’t have if you don’t ask so they came right out and asked for those positions.

38 “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?”

39 “We can,” they answered.

Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, 40 but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.”

Jesus got right to the point. “Oh, you want to drink from the cup I’m going to drink from. Do you think you’re capable of doing this?” James and John were certain they could handle it. “Yes, we can.”

In some ways, James and John were like a friend of mine from Middle School. Once when I was in 8th grade, our homeroom teacher, Mr. Campbell, enthusiastically asked, “Who wants to do me a favor?” A classmate named Allen raised his hand, loudly said “I do” and jumped up from his desk.

As Allen was hurrying towards the teacher’s desk, Mr. Campbell reached into a drawer and pulled out a pair of socks. He held them out towards Allen and said, “Here. Take these home and wash them for me.” Allen stopped, turned around and headed back to his desk while the rest of us roared with laughter. He said “yes” to a question without first understanding what was truly being asked of him.

Allen was only being asked to wash socks. James and John were being asked to surrender everything to God. Jesus asked them to do two things – to drink from the cup he was to drink from and to be baptized with his baptism. When someone drinks from a cup, the cup is being emptied. In the Old Testament, a cup being emptied was a symbol of suffering that must be endured. A person being baptized is going into the water to die to self and be raised as a servant of God. Neither of the symbols Jesus used were meant to indicate wealth and power. They were meant to symbolize complete surrender to God.

As we read on, we see the other disciples didn’t understand what Jesus was saying either. 41 When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. 42 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 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.”

Since no one seemed to understand Jesus’ mission or his teachings, Jesus got right to the point. “The gentile authorities have the type of power you want. If you want to be great in my kingdom, be just like me. Become a servant and a slave to others.”

Later in the week, Jesus gave a real-life example to his disciples by doing a job that was usually reserved for servants or slaves. John 13:1-17 says, It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”

10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not everyone was clean.

12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”

Both serving and being served can take us out of our comfort zone. Jesus pushed Peter out of his by washing his feet. God also pushes us into areas we’ve never been before.

Jesus humbled himself and did the work of a servant in other areas of his life as well. He associated with the rejects of society –  the poor, sinners and the demon possessed. He calls us to do the same thing.

We need to remember that just as Jesus served his disciples, he also serves us by:

*Giving us salvation from our sins. (John 14:6)

*Interceding for us with God the Father. (Rom. 8:34)

*Giving us peace. (John 14:27)

*Creating us and the world we live in. (Col. 1:15)

*Leading our congregation. (Col. 1:18)

*Reconciling us with God the Father. (Rom. 5:10)

*Making us daughters and sons of God. (Eph. 1:5)

One thing we must realize is that glory in the kingdom of God isn’t about power, titles or wealth. It can only be gained through the cross and through service. When we come to terms with this, we’ll not only trust God with our salvation when we die. We’ll also trust him with the details of our lives now.