• Jennifer Williams

SHE believed: SERVE (Part 5)

If you are already too busy, over committed, and can’t say no, this devotional is for you. I know what you are thinking….I am burning the candle at both ends, there is no space left in my calendar. I am already struggling with finding my quiet pause each day to Think on truth (T) or to find Rest (R) or to Worship/Sing (S). I am flat worn out from all the overdoing. And, now you want me to serve? Hang on a minute. Stay with me and take several days to work through this devotional.

Yes, we are called to serve. However, that doesn’t mean we have to Do. It. All. We don’t have to do everything for everyone or Pinterest perfect. Jesus didn’t. He knew his purpose, his calling. And, he also knew when he needed to slip away to refuel and rest. He knew balance. 

Remember, Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 NIV

The SHE believed series is about building a foundation of trust in God not laying more burdens on you. I know most of you are already serving in some capacity…your family, aging parents, grandkids, at church or in your community. Some things are givens. Have-to’s. If you have kids at home, obviously you spend a great deal of time serving them. Or some of you may have a family member that requires extra time. I get it. Me, too.

Unhealthy commitments lead to an unhealthy life. We all need balance and margin. When I am over committed, healthy eating, exercise, proper rest, and quiet time with God all suffer. It has taken me a minute to get my head wrapped around this devotional for that very reason. I have been doing a lot of stuff lately. But, after going to bed really early last night (that was written actually about 2 months ago LOL! I actually got little sleep last night. Haha!), I am ready to go. So, let’s get started.

When we consider serving, we must take a look at it from spiritual, personal and practical aspects.

First things first. Let’s take a look at the spiritual aspect of serving.

Many times in our “serving” we get our focus on the tasks at hand or the people we are serving rather than staying focused on Jesus.

Scripture says: “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17 NIV

I love The Passion Translation: “Let every activity of your lives and every word that comes from your lips be drenched with the beauty of our Lord Jesus…and bring your constant praise to God the Father because of what Christ has done for you.”

After Jesus’ death and burial, on the 3rd day, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to visit the tomb. I am sure they were overcome with grief at having lost their friend and teacher. In both Mark and Luke, it says that the women were taking burial spices with them to anoint Jesus’ body. Let’s stop a minute and think about that. Jesus had also been dead for several days. They were required to rest on the Sabbath; therefore, delaying the time that they could prepare the spices and go to the tomb. I am sure this wasn’t a pleasant activity nor were they looking forward to this act of service.

When they arrived at the tomb, they saw the Angel of the Lord sitting on the stone that had been rolled away. His first words to them: “Don’t be afraid!” He said, “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen!” Matthew 28:5-6 NLT

Scripture says although “they were very frightened,” they were “filled with great joy.” Matthew 28:8 NLT Why? Because Jesus was alive! The one whom they were looking for. They were focused on Jesus.

As they ran to tell the disciples the news, Jesus met them and greeted them. To my knowledge, he met these women first, before any others. (Could it be that he knew how much women talk and the word would spread faster? LOL)

When they saw him, they ran to him. Grasped his feet and worshipped him. To run toward someone, you must be focused. To grasp someone’s feet, you must kneel down in surrender. To worship is looking up with respect to the one who is worthy of our worship.

So what does this have to do with serving? There are times when we are called to serve. To do the hard things. The things that we don’t want to do or are not looking forward to at all. Maybe some of you are in that situation right now. If I keep my eyes on the task at hand or the people I am serving, sometimes I become frustrated, discouraged, bitter, or just in a really bad mood. I have found that when I am focused on Jesus and faithful to follow through giving thanks for the opportunity to serve, I may run smack dab into Him. At those moments, I am filled with great joy and it makes me want to fall at his feet and worship. Just like the women at the tomb…

I may experience Jesus in a way I never expected. That builds trust.

This past summer I volunteered to help our Family Pastor with VBS for the boys and girls club. When I say help, I meant like going on a supply run or checking kids in or filling snack cups. Stuff like that. I was put in charge of Crafts for K-5th grades. I don’t do crafts. I don’t do kids under 5th grade. In fact, our Family Pastor knows that it must be an emergency if she asks me to fill in on Sunday morning. Give me high schoolers all day long, but I am really not cut out for working with younger kids most of the time. So, you can see where this is going…five days of glue sticks, glitter, paint, popsicle sticks with little hands trying to keep our brand new children’s area from becoming a modern work of art in itself. I had gotten myself in quite a state of bad mood UNTIL I changed my focus. When I started to see these kids as Jesus did, when I started to focus on sharing Jesus with them rather than what I was doing, it all changed. I began to see each of their sweet little faces as a soul in need of a Savior. And, you know what? I experienced Jesus in a whole new way that week. It was one of the best weeks of my summer.

Although that is a lighthearted example, many of us are serving in more difficult circumstances than managing a bunch of school kids waving paint brushes. In whatever the circumstance, just as our worship impacts those around us, so does our service. Ultimately, we have to trust that God sees us and is with us.

Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.” Then the righteous will answer him, saying, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’”And the King will answer them, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”

We may never know how great the impact of our service when we keep our focus on Jesus.

“Put your heart and soul into every activity you do, as though you are doing it for the Lord himself and not merely for others.” Colossians 3:23 TPT

Next, we need to take a look at the personal aspect of serving.

God uniquely created us with gifts, talents, abilities, and passions for the purpose of serving Him.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10 NIV

Esther was a beautiful young Jewish woman that was brought into the royal harem of King Xerxes. She was later crowned queen. On her uncle Mordecai’s advice, she did not reveal her nationality or family background. As it came to pass, Haman (the most powerful official in the empire) convinced the king to destroy all the Jews throughout the empire of Xerxes because Mordecai refused to bow down to him. Mordecai informed Queen Esther of the decree issued and asked her to go to the king and beg for mercy. Now, Esther reminded Mordecai that if anyone approached the king uninvited and he did not hold out his gold scepter to them, they were doomed to death. And, he said this, “Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?” Esther 4:14 NLT As a result, the Jewish nation was saved by her willingness to serve at “such a time as this.”

Maybe you are made for such a time as this. Your gifts, abilities, passions, experiences. Not necessarily adding one more thing. Maybe right where you are. In your job on the assembly line or in the classroom. In your mom’s group or at your child’s game. Or waiting in line at the coffee shop. Maybe it is on the worship team or in kids ministry or in the nursing home or retail store. Maybe it is serving your family, friend, client, or neighbor. God handcrafted you for good works for such a time as this. He can use us right where we are exactly as he beautifully designed us to be with our own gifts, abilities, passions and experiences. For such a time… as this just like Esther. 

Rick Warren from Saddleback Church created an acronym called SHAPE that explores our unique design. 

The acronym S.H.A.P.E. stands for:

  • S – Spiritual Gifts: What natural gifts do you possess?

  • H – Heart: What do you have passion for and love to do? What motivates and invigorates you so you are full engaged?

  • A – Abilities: What talents and skills do you have and have you learned?

  • P – Personality: Where does your personality best suit you to serve and work? What is your natural approach to life and relationships?

  • E – Experience: What experiences do you have that has molded you into who you are today?

Go to Putting It Into Practice for great tools to use to find your S.H.A.P.E. 

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. 1 Cor. 12:4-5 NLT

Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. 1 Pet. 4:10 NIV

Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. Romans 12:4-6a NIV

Finally, let’s look at the practical aspect of serving.

I have always loved the story of Mary and Martha. Do you recall it? Martha was busy. Don’t we say that word a lot? BUSY. With so many details. After all she was hosting Jesus and others for dinner. I am sure there was a certain level of stress involved in that. STRESS. Another word we use often. She was also frustrated with her sister, Mary. While she was running around like crazy – busy, stressed and frustrated -Mary sat at the feet of Jesus.

In fact, Martha was so frustrated at Mary that she finally came to Jesus. Not to sit at his feet and take a quiet pause or to listen and learn from him or even serve him. Only to complain. Ouch.

The older I get the more I find that there is nothing new under the sun. It is only dressed a little differently. We run around like crazy too. We may not be entertaining traveling disciples, but we are busy, stressed and frustrated about many things and sometimes those things include serving.

Jesus said, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-42

I don’t want the “many things” to keep me from the one necessary thing. The good portion. A quiet pause. To sit with Jesus. Nor do I want the too “many things” to keep me from the priorities in my life. 

In Overwhelmed, Kathi Lipp and Cheri Gregory discuss how we operate off of different size plates. For some of us it is a platter, others a dinner plate, while others a dessert plate. I am going to say right now I am definitely a dessert plate. I don’t do well juggling a thousand things with no downtime. But, regardless of the plate size, we still tend to pile the plate to the rim until it is spilling over. Kinda like Thanksgiving dinner. 

Cheri says: “ Five decades of over-attempting have taught me that no matter how high I pile my plate, I can’t stretch it any bigger….Worst of all, each time I try to stretch my plate, I demonstrate distrust in my Maker, basically telling God, “You made a mistake.” …When considering a new optional commitment, I now ask myself one question: Is there space on my plate?” Working in the confines of our plate, our schedule, and our priorities develops trust in God.

How on earth do we do that? 

Step 1: Evaluate your current schedule.

I suggest that if you don’t use a paper calendar any longer, that for the sake of this exercise that you print one out OR use a piece of paper to map out your current commitments. Make sure it has hours listed starting with your waking time and ending with bedtime. Something like this…

Write in EVERYTHING that you currently have to do.  I usually lump mine into hour segments like job/volunteer hours, errands/shopping, house cleaning, meal prep, school activities, etc. Be sure to add any prep time required for any activity including hobbies, meetings. Don’t forget to pencil in quiet time with God, sleeping, eating, exercise, social activities, church, etc. Once you see how many blocks of time are filled, you will also see where your margin is or is NOT in some cases. 

Step 2: Evaluate your current areas of serving.

Now, specifically, look at the areas where you are “serving”. Do you serve at church, in the community, or at your child’s school? Once again, do you have a family member that requires extra time each week? Remember to take into account what activities require prep time. When I serve on the greeting team on Sundays, I just show up and it is somewhere I am already going. It doesn’t take any extra time out of my schedule. It is a simple way to serve at my church. However, when I led a youth Sunday morning class several years ago, I had to prep my lesson that added several hours of service prior to Sunday morning.  Make a list with all your service areas and the approximate amount of time that takes.

Step 3: Evaluate your priorities.

Now, let’s go back to the glass and rubber ball example from a previous post. Which of those things that you are doing are glass balls (the have to’s – that if you drop them they will most certainly break) and which are rubber balls (those that can be dropped and picked up later or not at all). For example, my friend and I have served for the last two years at the concession stand runners for our ball team. That doesn’t sound too hard, right? What we didn’t take into consideration was the fact that we had several shopping runs per week, sometimes to multiple stores and it required us to get to the field several hours before the game. Although we loved helping our team, that one “little” act of service equated to numerous hours during the week. This year we chose to lay down that “rubber ball”. We both have increased hours helping our aging parents (glass balls) and knew that we couldn’t continue. Have you over committed to something or several somethings that is taking away from a “glass ball” priority right now? Remember, one of the glass balls that you juggle must include your own health (physical and spiritual).

I think it is important to do this evaluation at the beginning of each season. My seasons are still on school/sports schedules right now (until my baby graduates in May.) So I evaluate in August (back to school),), January (Spring Semester/Sports Season) and May (beginning of Summer break). You might choose regular seasons of the year. I know which seasons automatically are busier and adjust accordingly. 

Step 4: Pray.

Now, that you have looked at your current schedule and commitments, take time to pray. Ask God to show you the areas that you need to continue and those that you may need to lay down or maybe new areas to pick up.

Step 5: Use your No’s.

No is a powerful little word. Seldom used these days. That’s why we are so busy, stressed, burned out and stretched. It is ok to say No. It is ok to say “let me pray about that” before giving an answer especially to those things that require lots of time or are ongoing. And, be careful how many “yeses” you give to the little things. A lot of little yeses can have a big impact on your schedule. 

Also, keep in mind if you are in an unusually demanding season with things like an illness, extra job travel, extra-curricular sports, etc. Again, give yourself grace and adjust your other commitments accordingly. 

Evaluating, praying, and using your No’s all require trust. Being able to lay down some things or pick up new things require trust. Trusting that God will lead you. Trusting that God can handle what you can’t. Trusting that others will step up when you step down. Do you know that sometimes when we step out of the way, it gives others an opportunity that they have been waiting on to serve? 

Serving also requires trust when we don’t know how it is all going to work. If we have enough time, talent, resources, etc to pull off this thing God has called us to.

Wow! That’s a lot to evaluate. Yes, it is. But, it is so necessary to maintain balance and margin. To keep us healthy physically and spiritually. And, to ultimately serve God…right where we are….with our time and talents.

Putting It Into Practice

  • Be sure to complete the steps in the last section to evaluate your current schedule and service opportunities.

  • Pray and ask God specifically to open your eyes to see Him in the details of your service.

  • Here is a great link to a Spiritual Gifts test. Click HERE. Info will also be sent to your email that details your spiritual gifts.

Here is a link that explores Rick Warren’s S.H.A.P.E. (Spiritual Gifts, Heart, Abilities, Personality, and Experiences). Click HERE to take a look at all the areas. It may help you discern where you serve best.