What’s love got to do
A year or so ago I visited an inmate of Send prison
and observed some of the prisoners at work stripping and cleaning the re-usable
head phones for airlines. The prisoners had all the time in the world. Their motivation
was low like their pay and they looked like automatons. The same week I visited
a factory making plastic CD cases. The boss was employing educationally challenged
disabled people to pack the cases and box them. It was another world. They were
laughing and chatting and happy to have a job even though it was as boring as
that of the prisoners.
The difference? We will come back to it in a moment. These Sunday evenings
we have been exploring how to find our place in the Body of Christ. The purpose
of the Network course is two fold… I do hope you have or will soon complete your
Spiritual Gift Assessment we considered last week. This is meant to be a
practical hands on course, and I do encourage you to complete the Network
training on the 18th and 25th February.
We have by now I hope realized that to be the right people in the right
places for the right reasons we need to get in touch with our passions, discover
our spiritual gifts and reflect on our preferred way of serving - our style. We
have covered the first two and next week we shall complete the series by considering
the question of style. Today we want to consider our motivation for doing what
What is driving us-really? The most extensive New Testament passage we have about how the church is to function is found in 1 Corinthians 12-14. We've already drawn a great deal from chapter 12, which provided us with a theological and practical understanding of how the church is to perform as the body of Christ. Next comes 1 Corinthians 13, the famous "love" chapter. I can't recall attending a church wedding where God's description of love has not been read from it. The depiction of love is true, but the context of the passage is not about marriage. It is about service.
The question I want us to ask tonight is this - “What has love got to do with it?” As chapter 12 concludes its teaching on spiritual gifts, chapter 13 begins with the way spiritual gifts are to be expressed. Notice how God's gifts relate to love:
“And now I will show you the most excellent way. If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.” (1 Corinthians 12:31-13:3)
Do you see how important love is? You can know your spiritual gift and be using it, but if it is not expressed in love, you will not make a kingdom difference. Consider this love in which we are supposed to serve:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.” (1 Cor. 13:4-8).
Lets reflect on this important passage for a little while.
In order to make it more personal, substitute the name Jesus in place of
the word love. How does it sound? Jesus was the embodiment of love personified
so its natural but refreshing to reads the passage in
this way. Now substitute your name for Jesus. Then with each phrase rate yourself
on a scale of 1-5. Stephen is patient, Stephen is kind, Stephen does not envy,
Stephen does not boast… How is your love quotient? Don’t be too hard on yourself.
Perfect love can only be found in Jesus. As we abide in Jesus, he indwells us
and by His Spirit He will manifest this love in and through us. So another way
of reading this passage is to say “Jesus in Stephen is patient, Jesus in Stephen
Do you sense your need for Jesus in a new way? What is done in love lasts. In other words, what is done in Christ will last. When we are serving in the name of Christ, we are serving in love. The tasks we do are not as important to God as the heart in which we do them. The biblical relationship between your spiritual gifts and your love is foundational to your understanding of ministry. You must not only reflect your passion, spiritual gifts, and personal style, but you must also express them in love.
A Heart Condition
While the prisoners and the students whom I mentioned at the beginning were both working they had different motivations. The conditions of their hearts were quite different. The students demonstrated a heart of servanthood (serving with love). The prisoners seemed to have a spirit of servility (serving without love). They may or may not look the same on the outside, but within the human heart, servanthood and servility amount to two very different things.
Servility serves out of obligation; servanthood serves out of obedience. Servility. has an "I-have-to" attitude. It feels an obligation to perform. Servanthood has an "I want to serve" spirit, and those who possess it have a heart's desire to give to others what Jesus Christ has given to them.
Servility is being motivated to serve by what others see; servanthood is motivated by what God sees. In servility, we are driven by a concern about what others will say or do if we don't serve, or if we don't serve in that ministry, or if we, don't serve in this position, or if we don't commit a certain amount of time. The conditions can go on and on. Servanthood is motivated by the fellowship we have with God as we serve others. Servanthood understands that ultimately we have an audience of One. It is what God sees that matters, and he sees everything.
Servility says, "It's not my job" servanthood says, "Whatever, takes. " When you serve with servility, you do the minimum. You accomplish only whatever is needed to get by, to fulfill the basic requirements of the task at hand. Servanthood, however, is willingness to go the extra mile; it feels the freedom to carry o beyond the job description.
Our church is intentional about having people visit our Sunday services. We want to offer them a comfortable environment to hear the comforting, but uncomfortably convicting message of Jesus Christ. As a church, we work hard to take away any excuse that visitors might have for not coming back to further explore relationship with Christ.
On one particular weekend, Dave walked into the men's toilet between the services and noticed that someone had splashed water onto the mirror. While drying his hands, he observed several paper towels and pieces of paper on the floor around the waste bin. As he left, he tried to figure out who he should tell about cleaning up the toilet. It was obvious that someone wasn't doing his job.
A few minutes later, Justin walked in and noticed the same situation. He was thinking that a visitor might get the wrong impression about how they cared for God, their guests, and their facilities. Justin quickly dried off the mirror, picked up the paper towels, and walked out.
Justin was willing to do whatever it took, even if it meant going outside his "responsibilities" (servanthood). Dave, on the other hand walked away thinking, "It's not my job" (servility). Servility has a ministry mind-set that says me first; servanthood has a ministry mind-set that says Father first. Servility has its own agenda and the goal of that agenda is to serve my needs first. Servility evaluates its involvement by asking, "What's in it for me?"
Servanthood looks up and says, "Lord, what do you have for me to do today?" It seeks the Father's agenda. Those who demonstrate servanthood have not forgotten that they have asked Jesus. Christ to be Lord of their life, and they want to advance his agenda-not their own
Servility can have a kind of false humility or arrogance; servanthood has an authentic humility and godly pride. Servility may take the form of saying, "Oh, God couldn't use me ... I have nothing to offer." Not true! It sounds like one is being humble, but what is really being demonstrated is false humility. Servility may go the other way and take on the form of arrogance, concerning itself with being recognized and rewarded by others. While it will happen in different ways, there is a dominating presence of "I" and "look at me."
Servanthood has a clear understanding that God has given us his Holy Spirit, spiritual gifts, and his agenda for the needs he wants us to meet on his behalf. It is God who is at work through us. This understanding makes us both humble that we can serve the living God and proud that he chooses to work through us.
Servility is self-seeking and without permanent results; servanthood is God-glorifying and has everlasting results. The end result of servility is a self-seeking ministry that only draws attention to the individual and his or her desire for personal gain. Servanthood results in a truly God-glorifying ministry where Jesus Christ is being honored and the focus is on a kingdom gain.
Jesus said, "Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise [glorify] your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:16). We are to do visible ministry. It is okay for people to see our service! But what they see should be our serving in such a way that the love we have for each other causes them to look upward and say, "There must be a God. Look at how these people love one another!"
The religious leaders in Jesus' time went out in public parading their spirituality with holier-than-thou attitudes and practices. People could not see God in them, they could only see the Pharisees themselves. Because they lacked authentic love, most of their deeds were done in servility. So, what about you? What is your motivation for serving? How are you doing in each of these areas? Take a minute to reflect and indicate where your heart is most of the time. Check each of the sentences in the list and put a 1-5 which ever best reflects you at the moment. And let's be honest-there is a little servility in all of us!
The development of your servant's heart will flow out of your personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Your ministry will emerge as you become a fully-devoted follower of the Leader of your life. God will put the love in your heart to do the ministry he has called you to if you abide in him and he abides in you (John 15).
Visible servanthood is a testimony to the reality and presence of God: "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:35).
There was a young man who appeared to be a budding artist. Of all his works, he was most proud of his latest masterpiece he had just completed a painting of the Last Supper. With childlike enthusiasm, he was anxious to show the piece to his friend and get his opinion. That friend was the writer Leo Tolstoy.
The day finally came when the young artist was able to present his work to the famous writer. He unveiled his rendition of the Last Supper. Breathlessly, he asked his friend, "What do you think?" Tolstoy quietly studied the picture. He pondered every detail as the artist watched impatiently. The silence was finally broken as Tolstoy slowly pointed to the central figure. "You don't really love him," he said quietly.
The confused young man responded, "Why, that is the Lord Jesus Christ!" "I know," said Tolstoy, "but if you loved him more, you would have painted him better." Just as a picture is worth a thousand words, it is also true that actions speak louder than words. Most of us are not budding artists, but we are budding servants. We want to grow in our ability to glorify God and edify others. Yet someone else, looking al the central figure in our lives-Jesus Christ-might say, "If you loved him more, you would serve him better."
What do your actions say about your love for God? Do you give him your leftover time? Do you give him your leftover money, Do you do what you have to do to just "get by" spiritually? Is doing "enough" really enough? Have you become lukewarm and addicted to spiritual mediocrity? God has given us his best in the life, death, and resurrection of his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. He asks us to give him the first-fruits of all that we receive. God wants our best. He wants our hearts. He wants our talents. He wants our love. Giving to God requires something from every one of us: sacrifice. And sacrifice means there is a cost involved. Giving God our best requires time, thought, and the resources he has provided. Examine the quality of your ministry, and remember: If we loved him more, we would serve him better. Lets pray.
This talk is based upon chapter 8 of “What you do best in the Body of Christ” by Bruce Bugbee (Zondervan)