As I opened the Word this morning I was struck by one single thought: What do you hope to get out of this relationship with God today? It is not that odd of a thought. We all give and take in relationships but the healthier relationships are those where we are more concerned with contributing than receiving. In healthy relationships the giving takes effort but the receiving is a natural effect of the giving. This has been normal with me in my relationship with Jesus. I have long desired and worked at developing a servant's heart, believing that it was my responsibility to respond to his love by giving everything I have to him, to serving him, and not worrying about receiving. After all, it is part of his nature to give back. At least, that is what I thought I was doing, until last night.
I am planning to get married in October to the most incredible woman who has profoundly touched my spirit and heart. It is an event I am anticipating with great joy. We have been talking and planning with the help of friends so it looks like it is all coming together. At the same time I am busy getting ready, along with my team, to open our school for the new school year. However, yesterday I received some bad news that, due to some unforeseen expenses, our account has been drained and we had to borrow money from the church to cover it. This happens from time to time but in taking from the church my salary goes with it. Again, this is normal and now I scramble to see if I can cover my bills. Then it struck me last night, I have no money for a wedding. My spirit sunk. Immediately I started feeling bitter toward families that have monies outstanding to the school and toward the people who have stopped tithing regularly. The thought going through my head was, "Oh no, not another year of this. It isn't worth it". That is how I went to bed.
This morning I woke, not feeling so dark, but still under a cloud. I want to get married! I opened the Word as I do every morning to prepare this devotional and this is what I read in Matthew 4:
Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and he healed them. Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him. (Matthew 4:23-25)
It suddenly struck me, "You are not serving Jesus, you are trying to use him". Look at the three things Jesus was doing at the time; teaching, preaching the good news, and healing. What was it that the people wanted from Jesus? His teaching that revealed the heart of the Father like never before? The preaching of the good news which set the captives free? Or the healing? The people wanted their needs met so they could get on with life. They considered him a great man, a wonderful prophet but people were not listening to the message that would see them all transformed from what they were. They just wanted their immediate needs dealt with and they came at him in great crowds. They wanted to use him to get what they wanted.
In other Scripture we see that Jesus saw his mission was to cast out demons so people would be free to make their own decision without the influence of the enemy, and to preach the good news. These two things were at the center of the Father's desire for everyone to be saved. He is interested in our hearts more than anything else. The reason Jesus healed is because he could not help himself. His compassion compelled him to act, to reach out, to alleviate the pain and suffering. He is still more concerned about our hearts than our comforts and he still responds to our needs out of compassion. However, his response to our needs has to do with life here and we should have our eyes fixed on the life to come.
It is as I read the response of the crowds that I was struck with the thought that I too am just using Jesus to get what I want. I am no better than those crowds who flocked to him for healing and who wanted to see the spectacular. All this time I had thought I was serving him out of a pure response to his love, with no concern for myself. Now, as I look back through my years of service, I realize that many times I gave with the expectation of getting back. I expected that if I gave my time, talents, energy that God would give back to me things to make my life easier. After all, a person would have to be a fool to volunteer their time and pay the expenses out of their own pocket.
The fact is that my God has never left me in want. He has always responded to my needs. He deserves better than my doubts. Every year we face this and every year he has led us through. These are facts that I remind myself of, but right now, as I type this, his provision is no longer my concern; my attitude is. I want to be better than the crowd who chased after him for the "free meal". I desire to have an attitude like Paul, who served the Lord faithfully in the face of great trial and persecution, who never worried about the cost but only about his faithfulness to the Lord. I thought I had learned this and I thought this is what I had been doing but if I had I would never have questioned whether it is worth it. Of course it is worth it because it is Kingdom work, it is the Father's will, and it is for service to the Lord by serving others. The cost doesn't matter because there is no more important relationship in my life than my relationship with Jesus.
So now that I am totally chastised by the Spirit, I repent of my doubt and fear, I check my attitude and I press on. There is no greater challenge, no greater joy and no greater purpose than serving Jesus Christ and participating in the Father's mission. May he give us all eyes to see and ears to hear and may we respond to his voice today.
(PS - don't you even think of taking God's place as my provider. This was an illustration of my weakness in service and not an appeal for money. Just making this perfectly clear. My strength is found in the Lord.)