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Monday, February 21, 2011

Strength is for service, not status

1-2 Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient for us. Strength is for service, not status. Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, "How can I help?"
(Romans 15:1-2)

In the world around us, strength opens doors.  There are opportunities galore for "strong" people - those who possess the ability or talent to carry out the task at hand.  This became quite apparent to me when seeking my first job in the workforce.  There were many "you are under-qualified" responses, even though I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I could do the job.  Why?  The one conducting the interview did not view my "qualifications" as those that displayed the "strengths" that the company needed for that position.  Since strength opens doors, it makes it appear that weakness keeps them shut.  

Paul makes it quite clear that there is a function and place for those that possess spiritual strength and are able in the faith.  The type of strength spoken of here is not that of being "qualified" for the position of pastor, teacher, or evangelist.  It is the simple strength of having walked where another is walking right now.  The ability he refers to is simply the testimony of a changed life - the willingness to share the transforming power of Christ in your life.  The reason we are made strong is to be of service - not to use that strength to our aggrandizement.  

Strength is for service - not status.  Strength comes in many forms:
  • The ability to withstand forces that come against you
  • The ability to remain firmly grounded when surrounded by things that would seek to topple your faith
  • The manifestation of vigor and action instead of timidity and retreat
There are times when those in our lives have no apparent ability to withstand, remain, or exhibit movement toward a goal.  That is where Paul tells us we have an obligation to be involved - strength is for service.  We are called to serve each other - not out of obligation, but out of obedience.  In those times of service, connection is made.  We connect with another, and in turn, the weak brother/sister connects with God.  The power of God becomes their own.  They are made strong as a result of our obedient service.

I daresay that most of us don't mind being of service when it is convenient for us - when the "mood hits us" and we don't feel that the "service" will mess with our plans".  But if service imposes on our time, demands a sacrifice of us, etc., we are not as quick to respond.  Why is that?  Simply because we still don't get that our strength may actually be the very thing that another needs to hold onto until they can develop their own strength themselves - becoming assured in their faith and upright in their stand.  I think the members of AA and those types of groups get that - they hold onto each other until the other is clean and sober, then commit to being there when the other needs them.  

Paul reminds us that we need to look after the good of the other - asking ourselves how we can meet the need they have in their lives.  This is intentional action - we commit to looking outside of ourselves, using the talents we have been given, and remaining open to the leading of the Holy Spirit.  There is nothing passive about service - just as there is nothing passive about strength or ability.  We are strong because we have passed through the test, developed the faith-hold that helps us stand strong, and have a deeper trust relationship with Jesus than we had before the test.  That strength was not developed for our "independent" use/enjoyment - it was developed to share.

I have no idea where you will be asked to serve today.  It may be in the simple act of lending a listening ear to a lonely soul.  It could be in changing a diaper for a mom on the edge of losing it with youngsters making demands of her all day long.  It could even be in giving of your time to stop what you are doing and spend just a moment in prayer for that one God is bringing to your mind right now.  Using your strengths and abilities may seem "insignificant" compared to some, but it is what you have to offer.  Offered in obedience, those strengths and abilities become instruments of grace, mercy, and hope to those around you.