Friday, December 23, 2016
“I don't know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve as your hearts lead you.” ― Albert Schweitzer
Three times in my life I have received standing ovations. The first was for an acting performance and the next two were for sermons, one preached at a large Catholic church near Boston, and one preached at a contemporary service at a large Methodist church. While all three were pleasing to receive, none of them lasted more than a few minutes and none of them left lasting feelings of accomplishment within me. Even more important, none were pleasing to Christ. It was a hard lesson to learn, but one of the most important I have ever learned. You see, Christ is not pleased by how many standing ovations we have received or how many honors we have won. Nor is He pleased by how many orphans we have fed, or how many mosquito nets we have distributed, or how many sanitation and hygiene workshops we have led. Christ is not pleased by how large our church has grown here, or by how many new pastors we have ordained. Christ is not pleased by how many thousands of people now have clean, safe drinking water or by how many new preschools we have started. You’d think all those things would please Him, wouldn’t you? The lesson we have learned here is perhaps the most important lesson of all Christianity because it isn’t how much or how little we have done that pleases Christ. What pleases Christ is “why” we do it at all. He gave us this important lesson in John 13: 1-17 when He washed His own disciples’ feet. He told them then, that if they could not learn to be as servants, they would never be His. We think that numbers count. That the biggest churches are the best ones, that the more money we raise—the more we please Him, but that is just not true. He is not pleased by accomplishments, by banquets in our honor, by buildings with our names on them, or by the years of service we had accumulated. What pleases Him is not “what” we do but “why” we do it—what is in our hearts. Servant’s hearts are what pleases Him. Do you not remember that Christ Himself said if we want to be first, we must be last. I remember an old country and western Christian song that had this line in it: “It’s hard to keep your mind on what’s divine, When everybody’s pushing’ to the front of the line.” What Christ wants are hearts that know how to do no other than to help all those in need. Some may be born with servant’s hearts, but many, perhaps most, me included, have had to learn how to change our hearts from those that want only to please ourselves to those that only want to help those in need. It matters not whether you are a servant in a distant vineyard or a servant in your own back yard—it only matters that wherever you are, however you are able, you are willing, waiting, and wanting to serve because your heart is His and His is that of a servant. If we only feed one orphan, or give away one Bible in Swahili, if we do it because our servant heart leads us to do it, it will be pleasing to Christ. I believe that what pleases Christ the most is that every day, within its circumstances, we are both available and obedient to Christ because we exist only to serve Him by serving others. We humble ourselves as we bow before Him, not by showing Him how many we’ve served, or how much we’ve raised in offerings. When we have truly given Him our hearts, and offered our hands and voices to serve those who are hungry, naked, ill, in prison, widowed, orphaned, or weeping, mourning, and seemingly without hope—then we please Him. Many may feed and clothe those in need, but only those who do it with servant’s hearts will be pleasing to the Lord. There are many who help only to bring praise to themselves and glory to their own efforts. You probably know some of these, but you surely also know those whose hearts are those of servants only. It is only when you are rolling up your sleeves to wash the feet of those you serve because you love them and you love the Lord that you are pleasing to Christ. It’s not about what you do, it’s all about why you do it. For me, the greatest praise I could ever receive would be to hear my Master’s voice saying, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” Emphasis on the word “servant.” I pray each and every day to have a heart that is humble and open to serve as I am called to serve. If you weren’t born with servant’s heart, you can attain it but only with a bowed head, a bowed knee, and an overwhelming desire to serve however, whenever, and wherever Christ calls you to serve. It’s not about what you do in your life, it’s about what is in your heart that leads you to be who Christ has called you to be. Simple, but very hard for most of us, yet it brings the greatest joy imaginable, and it is available for every single one of us.