Being Served and Serving

It’s easy to get overwhelmed with Christian service. Volunteer burnout is a real threat to Christian ministries. And, even beyond the ministries of the local church, there are so many calls for your time and resources as a Christian living in a fallen and needy world, that anyone with a sensitive heart, who wants to be a good neighbor, can easily grow anxious and troubled … overwhelmed. It is easy to lose sight of what’s really important, and just get bogged down in ‘doing’.

But we must remember that we cannot serve God unless He serves us first. Peter, you may recall, had to learn this when Jesus began to wash his feet. We must never forget that God does not need us to serve Him. If we were to suddenly decide that we were going to sit on our hands. If we passive-aggressively went on strike, and refused to do anything, God would still make a great name for Himself. God would still establish His kingdom. God would still build up His church. We would not be missed. It’s humbling to realize, I know, but God doesn’t need us. We do, however, need Him. And unless He serves us, nothing we do — no matter how relatively good it is — will have any value at all.

Martha’s actions were good ones. It is good to show hospitality. And the Lord certainly deserves our best. But she was under the mistaken impression that Jesus needed the food she would serve. Mary, on the other hand, recognized that she needed the feast Jesus was serving, and she chose the good portion.

Avoiding Burnout

Even Jesus took time away from the crowds to pray and spend time with His Father. We, too, must sit at Jesus’ feet. We must nurture our relationship with the Lord. Our own sinfulness would so quickly draw us away, and deceive us into a sense of self-sufficiency. But when we sit under the teaching of the word and spend time in prayer, we will be constantly reminded of God’s mercy, grace and goodness. And there is no greater prevention of burn-out than that. The same grace that leads you to love will sustain your love. True and meaningful Christian service flows (from beginning to end) out of our love for Who God is and what He has done. And we need to be constantly reminded of those things. We get that by ‘sitting at His feet’ — spending time with the Lord by reading the Bible and praying.

Are you close to burnout? Then you’ve begun to neglect the ‘one thing necessary’. I can say this with confidence because offering yourself as a living sacrifice is the only rational thing to do, given the great mercy God has shown you (Rom. 12:1). And the only way you could have forgotten that great mercy is if all your work has crowded out listening. If that’s the case, then stop serving and listen. Don’t worry. God won’t be hamstrung by your absence. If you keep serving without being served, you’ll end up doing more harm than good, anyway. When you stop to be reminded of Who God is, and what He’s done, however, it won’t be long before you are doing great things by His grace and for His glory. It’s the one thing necessary.