A year ago a sad older man was home alone sitting in his back yard weeping. He had
never before suffered with real depression, but now it seemed as though He was in a black hole with no bottom. For reasons not known to him, he lost the inspiration to write a couple years prior. Opportunities to speak were minimal and his website seemed to be in limbo. Lack of financial income had forced him to take a part time job that he hated. The dreams he had of serving God more fruitfully seemed to take off at one point and then crash. He no longer had a vision for the future and was without a clue about what he was supposed to be doing at present. Having passed 65 years of age, he felt discarded at a point in his life when he thought that he had more to “offer” than ever. What he thought was the beginning of a transition time a couple years prior seemed to have morphed into a permanent rut leading nowhere.
Can anyone reading this relate? In the past couple years I have met a number of folks who have experienced or are still living very close to what is written above. I am one of them. For each of us, this journey into no mans land began after we had become heartsick of self serving, self promoting and superficial religion. We shed it like a leprous coat and set out to find Father’s heart. For awhile, the trials, including the rejection of others who chafed at the way our life and words exposed the system seemed inconsequential compared to the fresh revelation of Father’s love and new insight into his ways. But then God began to expose our inner man.
James warns us that a teacher will be expected to live what she/he teaches. (James 3:1) It’s the only way one can be truly accountable. I was reminded of the blogs and exhortations I had spoken and written which focused on the reality that our identity, self worth, and significance must be found in Christ alone. The “big is better” success garbage and the praises of man must be discarded for the hope of hearing “Well done, good and faithful servant” spoken to us from our Lord at the end of our self sacrificing life. All true, and if taken seriously, will lead to a painful death.
Through these last few years some of us are learning what it means to walk our talk. We’re finding that God really isn’t much interested in what we do. He is very interested and involved in what we become .Oh yes, he very much wants us to bear fruit. But the fruit of the Spirit flows from the life of one who is transformed through love. There is not much worth in traveling over land and sea speaking to millions no matter how accurate and powerful our message may be if we don’t love those in front of us. That includes the difficult and dense, the unlovely, the ones from whom there is no return. If we don’t learn to love well in that context, our “ministry” is a fraud.
We may never see the results of learning to love well. In the kingdom, results can not be measured. Jesus said that unless a seed falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone. (John 12:24) So if a person has great gifts, talent and charisma, builds a wold-wide ministry, sees thousands respond, yet does not love well, he/she has accomplished nothing, (1Cor 13 ) and remains alone with his pride and selfishness. But if the seed dies, it bares much fruit. Loving well always puts self to death and fills the heart with Jesus. The result is much fruit whether it can be seen or not.
We are servants of Christ, and we serve him by laying down our lives for others. In other words, we give up our own wants and selfish ambition to satisfy the needs and wants of someone else. We may even allow others to walk on us if we can serve as a bridge to a better place for them. I’ve summarized a scene Denny Gunderson describes in his book, Through the Dust, that defines the meaning of a servant.
A caravan is moving through the desert when a fierce dust storm blocks out the sun and makes it almost impossible to breath. All direction is lost, the camels are panicking and about to bolt which would prove disastrous to the the lives of all in the caravan. It is up to the servant to take control of the animals and bring them through. He succeeds, but dies in the process.
It was from this scenario that the word servant, (diakonos) comes. Diakonos consists of two words, Dias means “through or across”, and konos can be translated “dust, dirt or earth.” So the literal meaning is “through the dust. It is this word that Jesus used with James and John when they asked him to give them a place of prominence in the new Kingdom. “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.” (Mark 9:35) Want to be a leader? Denny points out that Jesus seldom mentioned leadership and the few times he referred to leaders it was in a negative context. When the disciples disputed about leadership positions he would not dignify their discussions with direct answers, but demonstrated servanthood instead.
Loving well means we esteem everyone else as better than ourselves and become their servant. (Phil. 2:3) But in so doing, our heart is expanded and filled with joy that we never imagined possible. We live in hope. We thrill at the revelation of Father to us in a way that cannot be known otherwise. One discovers how God feels about Charles Manson and about a baby bird fresh out of the egg. We are set free from false expectations of others and of ourselves. Circumstances no longer can control our well-being.
This writer is not there yet, but brief glimpses bring enough encouragement to carry on. Besides, what other alternatives are there? Learning to love well is the only way to know God who IS love. It is why the Suffering Servant walked among us and became a victim of those who wanted power, prominence and praise. It is the highest calling.