Raft Building

I’ve just finished reading ‘Serving without sinking’ by John Hindley with the VWs (two lovely fellow wives of vicars) and feel the need to strap together a few planks to make a raft that I can scramble onto when in danger of sinking.

“Jesus does not want you to measure your life by your service of him. He does not want your service to get in the way of your love for him. He did not come to be served by you – he came to serve you.”

Jesus is not tricking us when he says that his yoke is a restful one. If we are feeling weary or bitter then we have got something wrong not him.

Wrong thinking checklist:

  • Towards God
    • Am I serving to be good enough for him?
    • Am I serving to get something from him?
    • Am I serving to pay him back?
  • Towards People
    • Am I serving to impress people?
    • Am I serving to belong?
  • Towards Myself
    • Am I serving because Jesus needs me?
      • Think of Martha at this point. “What does Jesus need? He needs Martha to make all the preparations, doesn’t he? If Martha doesn’t work hard, things will fall apart won’t they? Martha is the Rock-the Lord Jesus is just the guy sitting in her front room. No….”
      • Corrective: Be God centred not people centred. Remember you need God’s words more than he needs your works!
      • “Jesus never asks your service to be at the expense of your faith, rest or joy.” Do we need to give something up? Remember, Jesus can cope without us!
    • Am I serving in a way that doesn’t need Jesus?
      • Clear indicator – how much are we begging Jesus for help?

How to spot wrong thinking? Dull drudgery and cheerless duty. “They (wrong motivations for service) lead us to be bitter with God; annoyed with others; desperately disappointed with ourselves.”

Major warning bells should be ringing if in our hearts “Christ Jesus is not a good God”, but “a distant taskmaster.”

But enough of the early warning systems – I know I am sinking – where is the life raft?!

Plank 1:
Remember Jesus came to serve his people not to be served by them. Nothing depends on our service of him. Everything depends on his service of us, both in his saving work on the cross, and in the present as he intercedes for us and equips us with all that we need.

Plank 2:
Enjoy Jesus, don’t be worried and distracted by service.  Sit at his feet and listen the “One who has done all we need”.

Plank 3:
The relationship we have with Jesus.

  • We are his friends. This means both that we don’t have to impress him (or our co-workers) and that our service is in the context of getting stuck into our friend’s business. We are not merely clocking in and out, ignorant of all but the small fraction of the work that we get paid for. He shows us the big picture, and more importantly he shows us himself. We know the one we are serving and we know what he is about. “We can trust Him to be more than good, to be good to us, to be at work for us. 
  • We are his bride. He loves us sacrificially, undeserving as we are. How our service could be transformed, lightened as it were, by remembering that it is our Husband we are serving. How could our works of service sit more beautifully on our shoulders were we to remember that they are his gift to us, our wedding dress to beautify us?
  • We are his sons and he delights to have us work alongside him. We haven’t earnt our place in the business, no we work as little children dependent on their Father’s patience and help. Work could be so wonderful if we could see it as it is: working in the family business, working with God our Father.
  • He is our perfect, good Master. All people serve one master or another. Ours is wonderful.

Plank 4:
Our view of the job. “Being able to serve in the way you do is a good gift from your Father. What we sometimes think of as chore to be done, the Father thinks of a gifts to be unwrapped.” Our individual service and gifts contributes to the unity of the church and draw us closer to Jesus and make us more like him and more dependent on him. In the midst of loathsome service ask God to help you think along the following lines: this is “a gift from Jesus to make me more like Jesus; and it’s a gift from Jesus to enable me to show what He is like. I get to understand Him and to imitate Him. Both of these draw me closer to Him and show His love for me.”

Plank 5:
Ask God for more love. [Not for more niceness!] Service in love is joyful and satisfying. The answer to grudging service is not trying harder to obey, but asking for more love. Loving service is God’s wonderful gift to us – the givers.

And the rope that holds it all together? Go back to Plank 1 and Jesus’ service of us.

Now please be aware that I’m not claiming that this is a voyage worthy raft. Like they say about those inflatable crocodiles that are fun to play with in swimming pools – this is not a lifesaving device.

I have not thought carefully about the theological structure of my raft, but rather pulled out some of the brilliant pointers in the book that felt grabbable onto in a crisis.

Jesus saves us – he is the raft! BUT, by his grace he has lovingly served me as I have read this book and I think I will be able to look back at this summary and throw off some of the wrong thinking that pulls me down and find some truths to cling to, and even string together and rest on by God’s grace.

For a more fully equipped, regulation lifeboat with a lot more substance read: Serving without sinking: How to serve Christ and keep your joy.
John Hindley

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