It is God himself who has made us what we are and given us new lives from Christ Jesus; and long ages ago he planned that we should spend these lives in helping others. (Ephesians 2:10 TLB)
This time of year lends itself to people doing kind deeds for those they really know. It seems to be part of the holiday season from Thanksgiving to Christmas. Food banks pile higher with food items donated at the local grocer in collection bins dedicated to ensuring those "less fortunate" have a nice meal for the holidays. Soup kitchens see an influx of volunteer help to prepare meals for the homeless. Red kettles get filled with pocket change and spare dollar bills. It is the season of "doing for others" and it is seen in many ways. As good as it is to serve others in some small way during the holiday season, God has called each of us for "bigger" purposes - to spend our entire lives helping others!
Needs are all around us each and everyday. We don't need a "season" to point them out, but it seems there is much emphasis placed on those needs during this time of year because there seems to be some kind of "pull" to help others in need while we are preparing for the season ourselves. We find the commitment to helping others is often very short-lived, though. Why? It was an emotional response to the season, but not a life-long concern within our hearts. Jesus didn't place his Spirit within us in order for us to serve others only once in a while. Service is to be for a lifetime - as the need arises and in whatever way we are able to meet that need.
This is not a criticism - it is an observation of my own heart response on occasion. It is easy to meet the need once, but to keep on meeting that need - that is where the rubber meets the road. To go above and beyond time after time, long after the "emotional high" has gone, this is where true service begins and "seasonal service" ends. As you can see from our passage, it is God's plan for us to serve others - over a lifetime spent in union with him. It is this union that makes service really meaningful and moves us beyond the emotional high into faithful obedience. There are lots of ways to serve, but none so rewarding as when that service is "commissioned" and "empowered" by the Spirit of God within us.
Just a couple of thoughts about service:
- What is the need you are seeing that is tugging at the strings of your heart? When we begin to define the need, we often find there comes a "strategy" within our minds and hearts that helps us to meet that need. This is the Spirit of God working within us to show us how best to meet the need we have been moved to meet.
- Who can best meet the need? Sometimes we know the need exists, but we don't have the necessary skills or tools to meet the need ourselves. We can often connect others who have those skills or tools with the one in need. I am not a counselor for the addict desiring to live clean or sober, but I know those who are and I can help to connect the addict with them. My part may be to serve by being that conduit for connection.
- Will the service require a lifetime commitment on our part? This is the hardest part of "stepping up" to serve. If we are to serve as Christ intends for us to serve, the service doesn't end at meeting the need once. It begins there and continues until God tells us that need no longer exists. We must be prepared to give of ourselves as long as it takes, in ways we are being constantly prepared to give.
Service doesn't have to be "seasonal" and is most meaningful when it becomes a "lifestyle" born within us by the Spirit of God. Just sayin!