By Contributing Writer Liz:
We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. (1 John 3:16-18)
This is a topic that has been on my mind for a while now. What does it mean to serve? In this passage, John says that we “ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”
When I first think of this, I think of Christ literally laying down his life for us. It is easy to read this and think, “Okay, I’ll lay down my life if need be, but when am I really going to literally do that?” However, what if we though of it in a different way… what if we were to lay down our life – our plans, our time, our tasks?
In Romans 12 Paul writes,
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.
He then tells us to not be conformed to the pattern of the world. If we are not to live like the world, then how are we to live? Paul goes on to speak of how we are to humbly serve others and love with our actions. This is our living sacrifice, our laying down of our life.
We sacrifice and we serve. We give and therefore we sacrifice.
So often I think we want to find an easy way to give. We want fun service projects and tricks for giving simple gifts. We want “hacks” for including service into our busy lives.
Don’t get me wrong, I think serving can be fun and we all know the Lord loves a cheerful giver. I think that, no matter how busy we are, we can find simple ways to serve others. However, are we really taking on the attitude of laying down our lives?
And I’m not talking about dropping everything and becoming foreign missionary (although that’s great of course). No, the more I’ve dwelt on this the clearer it has become that you can lay down your every day, ordinary life in service to others.
The ways I (try to) serve aren’t glamorous or fancy. Usually they amount to just being willing to make a sacrifice in order to meet someone’s need as it comes along.
So, today I want to share with you some things I’ve realized that I may need to sacrifice in order to serve in the way I am being compelled. An act of giving or serving may include the sacrifice of any or all of these things.
(Notice that these things apply in most any type of act of service. Whether serving your family, a friend, or a stranger. Big acts of service or small.)
#1 Sacrifice of Time
Any type of service is going to, at the very least, take of your time.
It could mean taking time to cook a meal to bring to someone, taking time to watch the children of a friend, or even just taking time to talk to a lonely stranger.
In the hustle and bustle of day to day life, often it is our time that is one of the most valuable gifts we can give.
#2 Sacrifice of Energy
The other day I offered to a friend to watch her son while she worked on moving to their new house. My brain tried to convince me multiple times that this offer was a terrible idea. Why? Well, he was going to be dropped off at 7am on a Saturday. Anyone who knows me, knows I love my sleep! Especially on the weekend!
Even though it ended up not working out, I realized that helping my friend was worth the sacrifice of the extra sleep and the energy that came with it.
As humans, we only have a finite amount of energy. So, when we give of that energy to serve another, we sacrifice to do so.
#3 Sacrifice of Money
One of our favorite things to do at Christmastime is to pack an Operation Christmas Child shoebox. However, in doing this, we must pay for the gifts that are packed inside and the shipping for each box. That money has to be sacrificed from somewhere else in the budget.
In Acts 2:44-45 Paul writes that the believers “were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.” If one had something that another needed, they didn’t think twice about sacrificing money or possessions.
#4 Sacrifice of Talent
At first, talent may seem like an odd thing to include in this list. How does one sacrifice their talents?
I believe one of the best ways we can serve others is to take the things we are good at and use them to bless others. So, whether I’m baking bread for my neighbors, or my husband is helping someone with a woodworking project, we are taking the talents given to us, and instead of using them to benefit ourselves, we are using them to bless others.
#5 Sacrifice of Plans
This is a big one for me that I have had to work on a lot. I don’t like my plans getting changed. When I have my mind set on something, I want to do it. Having to change my plans leaves me…. crabby.
However, if we are going to give to and serve others, oftentimes our own plans are the biggest sacrifice we have to make.
As a mom, my kids have given me the most opportunity to practice this. However, we also sacrifice our plans when we put our afternoon of cleaning the house on hold to help a friend or trade a quiet evening in for watching the children of another couple in need of a date night.
So, yes, to give and serve is to make sacrifices. It can be hard. It will require us to mature and grow. We have to be willing to lay down our lives. However, let us not forget what Paul wrote in Acts 20:35,
In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of work we must help the weak, remembering the words the lord Jesus himself said: “It is more blessed to give then to receive.
I would like to challenge you to keep your eyes open. Be on the lookout for ways that God may be calling you to serve. We usually don’t have to look too hard when we have open eyes and an open heart.
So, this holiday season may we take the time to meet the needs of others. May we love with our actions and not just our words. And may the world know us by that love.
The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:40)