A man, an avid sailor, put his boat out to sea one day. This man was a firm believer in God and trusted God for all things. After a while, once he was well out from shore, a storm came up and destroyed his boat, he was left drifting on a piece of wreckage. After sometime, a coast guard helicopter came along, the divers jumped into the water and attempted to rescue the man, but he told the would-be-rescuers, “God will save me, I’ll wait on him to work.” The helicopter left. Sometime later, a boat came along and again offered to rescue the stranded man, but again, he refused telling them, “God will save me, I’ll wait on him to work.” Days latter, the man was on the verge of death when another boat came along, again offering to rescue the man. Even still he refused to be rescued, saying: “God will save me, I’ll wait on him to work.”
Shortly afterwards, the man died of dehydration. When he got to heaven he approached God and asked, “why did you not rescue me?” God replied very simply, “I sent two boats and helicopter, what more did you want?” (Source Unknown)
Will we get to heaven and ask, “God we gave you our service why did you not give us new people?” And will we have to hear him answer, “I gave you new people, why did you not serve them?” My question in my last post was, “what is the church?” I asked the questions because I fear that we are checking the boxes of preference rather than the boxes of God. Many of our churches are serving, but the question is, are they DEVOTED?
Oswald Chambers (1986) wrote, “The greatest competitor of devotion to Jesus is service for Him.” I’ll be honest, my initial reaction to this statement was confusion. How is it possible for service for God to compete with devotion to God? Isn’t service considered one of the primary expressions of devotion? Didn’t Jesus demonstrate his love for God, his devotion to the will of the Father through his service?
I had to consider carefully what Chambers meant, or at least what I believe he meant. It is a question of focus rather than a question of activity. Service FOR God is not devotion TO God. It is completely possible for a devoted person to serve in the same manner as one who is not. Let me illustrate:
Imagine that you are a cup of water, when you serve, you dispense a portion of yourself over to others, to God, to your country, to humanity, etc…and then you go and refill yourself as needed. When you are devoted, you allow yourself to be drunk empty by the object of your devotion. In the case of God, you give yourself wholly over to him, allowing him to empty your glass and trusting him to refill it.
Semantics you may say…but scripture does not seem to think so. If you go to Luke 21:1-4 you will find a story in which Jesus and his disciples watch a number of people give offerings to God, dropping money into the proverbial offering plate. Many people give, but only one gives everything she has. In Luke 14:25-33 Jesus makes it clear that he demands all of you. You must give up all that you have and all that your are and build your life on him. Jesus is looking for people and churches who have given him all.
So here is the question: “Are you serving or are you devoted?” It is very easy for us to use service to assuage guilt over weak or non-existent devotion. We give an hour of our week to “serve” God masking the fact that we have not truly given over every aspect of ourselves. We offer up time to work with the students or the kids or to lead a group to mask the fact that we would rather have our way than risk the cost of following God in a new direction.
This applies easily to churches as well. Many of our churches are “serving” God through ministries that we hope will reach our communities to mask the fact that we are not actually devoted to God. Let me ask a simple question, “Is there anything your church would NOT do even if God asked?” A second question goes along with this one: “Are you sure God is not asking?” God does not always ask with a burning bush or pillar of fire, sometimes he asks by placing us in a specific location, in a specific time.
Could it be that God has already worked, that he has already asked? There is a new culture and a new generation on our doorstep with distinct needs and characteristics. Is it time for our churches to recognize the people that God has sent us and stop waiting on a miraculous appearing of Christians that look like us and who will beat down our doors to join us? Whose boxes are we checking?
Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest: Selections for the Year (Grand Rapids, MI: Oswald Chambers Publications; Marshall Pickering, 1986).