Has God ever asked you to do something that didn’t make sense? Has He led you to serve others in ways that were difficult or required sacrifice? Not everything He might ask you to do will be hard and many serving opportunities will be filled with joy and excitement. But, are you willing to say “yes” no matter the cost?
Two years ago my family moved to Rhode Island to serve as missionaries. We felt the “call” of God to go and make disciples in New England. Although we have experienced many blessings as missionaries, it has not been without sacrifice and personal loss. We left family and friends behind. We left a church community that we loved. We gave up our dream house in a wonderful neighborhood. There were even financial sacrifices along the way. Does any of this make sense? In the kingdom of God, which is upside down to this world, it makes perfect sense. We count it a privilege to commune with Jesus in this way. The words of Paul in Philippians chapter 3 encourage us to find joy in our service and that our reward is ultimately more intimate fellowship with Jesus.
There are some stories in the Bible that help us see what this upside down kingdom of God looks like. For example, Jesus' definition of greatness is opposite to the ways of this world. Let’s take a look at what Jesus had to say to a concerned mother and her two ambitious sons.
“Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.” (Matthew 20:26) This was Jesus’ reply to Salome the mother of James and John who asked Jesus to promise that her sons would sit, one on His right and the other on His left in his kingdom. This was a bold question that exposed the misunderstanding of what Jesus referred to just moments before when He announced His arrest, crucifixion and resurrection.
Jesus would finish his exhortation to James and John by saying, “...the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).
Jesus took on the form of a servant. I can’t think of a more counter-cultural, upside down posture than this...Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, was a servant to mankind.
Let’s look at how Jesus served and what was the result.
“Jesus continued going around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and every sickness.” - Matthew 9:35
Everywhere Jesus went, desperate people sought Him out for healing, deliverance, and hope.
There are not enough books that could record all the acts of service Jesus did. As a result of these acts, the good news of the kingdom of God spread and many chose to repent and believe. If you were to search through the four gospels, you would find several examples of people whom Jesus served. Here are a few of my favorites...
- Jesus served a wedding party by turning water into wine. John 2:1-11
- Jesus served a man with leprosy by making him clean. Matthew 8:1-4
- Jesus served a hungry crowd by feeding them. Mark 8:1-9
- Jesus served a paralytic man by forgiving his sins and healing his body. Matthew 9:1-8
- Jesus served a widow by raising her only son from the dead. Luke 7:11-17
- Jesus served a Gentile woman by casting a demon out of her little daughter. Mark 7:24-30
- Jesus served his disciples by calming the winds and the sea. Matthew 8:23-26
- Jesus served his disciples by washing their feet before the Last Supper. John 13:4-17
- Jesus served his disciples by praying for them. John 17
Through each of these acts of service, scripture shows that after Jesus served people, many chose to believe and become His followers. Not just the people who He served but also the ones who heard about it later. Whole communities were turned upside down by the testimony of those who encountered Jesus’s touch. Every act of healing, every deliverance, and every miracle that Jesus performed was an act of service that impacted generations.
The crescendo of Jesus’ service was to reconcile all of humanity back to God (Colossians 1:19-20). The good news of God’s kingdom is that we can be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. This is the hope that we have and that the world desperately needs to hear.
James and John would learn a valuable lesson from Jesus about greatness and servanthood. True discipleship involves sacrifice and service as we help to reconcile others to God. Jesus’ disciples are to follow in his footsteps. He did not come to be served but to serve.
At first glance we might think of Salome as a woman bent on position and power. But, that’s not the end of her story. Salome came to Jesus with a seemingly selfish request but she left his presence having made the ultimate sacrifice for any mother by giving her two sons to Christ. James would later be martyred for following Christ. John, though he outlived the other apostles, suffered extreme persecution.
Sisters, let us accept Jesus’ invitation to follow His example of serving others which leads to making disciples. We are to carry on His love mission. We do this by proclaiming the good news that the kingdom of God is near as we serve others and lay our lives down, if so required.
Not everyone is called by God to uproot to a new location to make disciples. And only by supernatural empowerment can we heal the sick or cast out demons. But every disciple of Christ is called to love and serve their neighbors. Ask yourself, how has Jesus uniquely equipped me to serve those around me?
Can you cook a meal for someone in need? Can you welcome that new family into the neighborhood? Will you tutor a struggling student? Might you offer to pray with someone who is facing difficulty? The opportunities to serve others are endless. What are some upside down ways you can serve your neighbors to show them that the kingdom of God is near?
My encouragement to you is that you respond to the prompting of the Holy Spirit to serve people. God is always at work around you. Will you join Him in His love mission to rescue the lost and hurting? Are you willing to serve others no matter the cost?
When you are living a surrendered life to Christ, don’t be surprised if desperate people seek you out. They will notice that you live differently and that you are part of an upside down kingdom.
My prayer for you is that, as you serve others in need, our Servant Savior Jesus will be glorified and many people will choose to believe and follow Him. Who knows, your ministry of service just might impact whole communities for generations to come!
North American Mission Board, Missionary