To say that the last week here in Texas has been a challenging one is to put it mildly. We have experienced temperatures like we have not seen in decades. Many decades. But the worst part is, they will not go away (although it looks like we might finally sneak above freezing today)! Texans can handle months of 95-plus degree temperatures with 101 percent humidity. Heck, we can even handle a day or two of extreme cold. But a week of sub-freezing temps? Nope. We are out on that.
While our family has been blessed with only the mild inconvenience of having to boil water due to our water treatment plant freezing up, some of our neighbors have not had it so easy. I personally know at least three families who were without electricity and/or water in their homes for over 48 hours. Unfortunately, those three families are just a minute percentage of a much larger population with the same experience. And this is bad enough if you still have natural gas heating your home, but many homes in our area have electric heating, so they have been completely without heat. In single digit temperatures.
And yet, they are still far better off than those who have no home at all.
As I peruse the headlines this morning, I am seeing numerous versions of the same story:
- “Texas Weather: Deaths Mount as Winter Storm Leaves Millions Without Power”
- “Frigid Temperatures Devastate Texas Power Grid as Death Toll Climbs”
- “Millions Without Water, Power as Death Toll Rises in Winter Storms”
Needless to say, we have had plenty of conversations in our home over the past few days about the importance of showing gratitude in all circumstances and how “suffering” is a relative term – somebody always has it worse.
Since we have not been able to do much else for the last few days, I have spent a little more time than normal scrolling through social media. I have been trying to limit my exposure lately, but my self-imposed limits have been out the window since this past Saturday. As I was running through posts on my Facebook feed on Monday, I saw a post in one of the local Facebook Marketplace groups where someone in our community was attempting to sell a $700 generator for $1,500. Clearly, he was attempting to capitalize on the suffering of others, and as you might expect, folks let him know how they felt about it.
I would like to say that this was the only example of this sort of thing, but unfortunately, there were plenty. But as I scrolled further, I found far more expressions of empathy and support than I did attempts at exploitation. It seems that, as a rule, people seem to do a fairly solid job of rallying around one another when disaster strikes.
Even for those who have no relationship with Jesus, there is something inside that can’t stand to see suffering without lending a hand if possible. In fact, some of the greatest servants I know have no interest in Jesus whatsoever. My working theory is that even those who choose to turn their back on God are still created in His image, and at His core, God is a servant. While the image of God within all of us has been marred by sin, there is still something innate within that compels us to help our fellow man when we see someone in desperate need.
But for those of us who have chosen to follow Jesus, there is more to the story that we should consider.
Learn from Me . . .
You cannot possibly understand the motives of Jesus and observe His ministry without being moved by His humility. He exerts no effort to be humble – it is not something He does, but who He is.
During His ministry on the earth, Jesus did not “put on” servanthood as a task or in order to make an example. He is a servant from eternity past. He did not serve because He had laid aside His power; He laid aside His power because he wanted to serve. It is precisely because Jesus was in the form of God that He sought to give and to serve. He did not see washing the feet of those into whom He breathed life to be beneath Him, but viewed such lowly tasks as an opportunity to reveal who He really is – the humble, Servant God.
Nowhere in Scripture are we given a better description of the humility and meekness of Jesus than in Paul’s letter to the Church in Philippi:
Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the very form of God, did not consider it robbery [something to be grasped, NIV] to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.Philippians 2:3-8, NKJV
The life of the Godhead flows forever from a place of meekness, and Jesus put the riches of God’s humility on clear display for all to see. Because He did so as a man under the anointing of the same Holy Spirit that dwells within the heart of every believer, understanding Jesus’s humility both inspires and instructs us to seek the Spirit’s power to help us love God in the same way in which He loves us. This is precisely why Jesus says to us, “learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart” (Matthew 11:29). This is the only direct description that Jesus gives of His own character, and He does so as a compassionate High Priest, knowing that we will struggle in this area and that walking out meekness will require the power found only in His example. How can One so strong stoop so low in such concern for His Beloved? It is in considering this reality that we find strength to love in return!
Loving Jesus through Serving Our Neighbor
I think most Christ followers understand the importance of helping and serving others, but I think I am safe in saying that most of us struggle to do it consistently. I do not believe it is because we don’t want to. Most of us do. But we are busy. Very busy. And because we are so busy, most of us are fairly limited in the energy department as well. How often do we find ourselves aware of a need or opportunity where we could help, yet uttering the phrase, “I just don’t have the time?”
I would love to show you a verse that would give credence to our claim and allow us to justify our behavior, a place in Scripture where Jesus tells us to serve as long as we can fit it in to our schedules, but, well . . . I can’t.
In serving others, we choose to invest our time and energy, assets that could be used to further our own interests, in God’s purposes and Kingdom. Time that we might otherwise use for earning income, networking, socializing or being entertained is poured out on others as an expression of love for both Jesus and the ones we serve. And as with most things in God’s economy, the rewards far outweigh the sacrifice.
Time and energy are valuable resources – potentially the most valuable ones we have at our disposal. Yet as we give them away freely, choosing to put God’s agenda above our own, we show love for Jesus and position our hearts to be expanded to love even more. More importantly, it is in serving others that we come face to face with the Servant of all. His deepest desire is that we would encounter Him where He is, and what better place to find the ultimate Servant than in the act of serving!
I can think of no better way to make my life count, in this age and the next, than to partner with Jesus by loving and serving others, understanding all the while that He takes that service personally, and it moves His heart.
Service as a Lifestyle
As we seek to develop a lifestyle whereby we honor and love Jesus through our service, let us remember that it is just that – a lifestyle. In other words, we can’t just sit by and wait for the next natural disaster to strike. Certainly, the Church needs to step up in times of great peril, but only as a ramping up of what we are doing on a regular basis. By God’s grace, followers of Jesus must find our way out of the “church outreach” mentality. While there is certainly value in participating in scheduled projects with others in the Body, it is easy to fall into the trap of checking off service projects on our “spiritual checklist” and then not thinking about it again until the next formal opportunity arises.
As lovers of God who truly desire to have our hearts expanded, let us commit to looking for opportunities to serve regularly.
Check in on the elderly neighbor. Spend some time talking with her. Ask what you can do to help. It may be that your greatest service is simply lending a listening ear. Make a regular time in your schedule to serve at the homeless shelter or soup kitchen. Volunteer at a school or community center. Pick up trash around your neighborhood. Take your family along. Teach your kids what it looks like to live a life of service.
Speaking of your family, service is by no means limited to our interactions outside our homes. While we are commanded to care for those who are less fortunate and to step out of our comfort zone to serve those we may not know, those opportunities are not always in front of us. Focus on serving the ones you live with. Make a bed. Empty the dishwasher. Grab a vacuum or lawn mower and get rolling. Or, maybe what is needed is simply slowing down to have a meaningful conversation with your spouse or children. In the midst of our chaos, it is not always easy to get fired up about serving those closest to us. Do it anyway. Be intentional. I assure you, you won’t regret it.
Gotta go now. There’s some snow that needs shovelin’.
P.S. Here are some photos and links that I hope will make you smile like they did me. Notice that none of these are major “heroic” acts; yet, at the same time, they are. Trust me, there are many more examples of this kind of stuff out there, but I can’t spend all day screenshotting!
I think this is a great one to start with. Please consider helping if you can!
Let’s support Eddie Kraft