From Praying the Names of Jesus Week Twenty-Four, Day Four
Like most of us, Jesus' disciples were sometimes caught up with a sense of their own self-importance, at times even arguing with each other about which of them was greatest. Jesus startled them by reversing the natural order in which it is the weak who serve the strong. He assured them, instead, that he came not in order to control and dominate but in order to serve.
Though prophets, judges, and kings were called servants of God in the Bible, Jesus is the greatest of all God's servants, the Man of Sorrows who laid down his life in obedience to his Father. He is the Servant who through his suffering has saved us. When you pray to Jesus as Servant or as the Man of Sorrows, you are praying to the Lord who has loved you in the most passionate way possible, allowing himself to be nailed to a cross in order that you might have life and have it to the full.
He was despised and rejected, a man of sorrows, acquainted with bitterest grief. >Isaiah 53:3, NLT
The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve. >Matthew 20:28
Praying the Name
When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. "Do you understand what I have done for you?" he asked them. "You call me ‘Teacher' and ‘Lord,' and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them." John 13:12-17
Reflect On: John 13:12-17.
Praise God: For sending his Son to show us how to live.
Offer Thanks: For the humble, practical ways others have served you.
Confess: Your sorrow at the opportunities you have missed to serve others.
Ask God: To give you the heart of a servant.
Do you ever question your purpose in life? As a zealous young Christian I used to wonder what I could do to make the most impact. What single thing, what career or ministry, would enable me to make the greatest contribution to the kingdom of God? That question, full of youthful ambition, recycled itself in my mind off and on for many years. Finally an answer occurred to me that took me completely by surprise. It was simple, unspectacular, but true. It didn't involve giving up all my worldly possessions. Nor did it mean moving to the inner city to help the poor, good as that might be. In fact, it required no drastic change in terms of what I was already doing.
I began to realize that the secret to fulfilling God's purpose for my life resided not so much in what I did as in how I did it. It didn't matter whether God gave me a large role or a tiny one; I could still have impact if I could learn to do one thing — to love people in whatever circumstance I found myself. Why? Because love lasts. Because love never fails. Because love does not envy, and it never boasts. It is neither proud nor rude. Love is not easily angered, and it keeps no record of wrongs. Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes. Love never gives up. God is love. Love, in fact, is the hardest, most powerful thing in the world. Whether driving a child to school, leading a church, cleaning a bathroom, heading up a multinational corporation, or washing feet, love is the secret to making a lasting impact.
To be truthful, I would have found it easier to move to a Third World country to live among the poor than to try and make God's love present within my family, my neighborhood, and my church. Even now, after years of knowing the Lord, I am aware of the meagerness of my efforts, of how tainted they are by selfishness. Speaking of how difficult it can be at times to love others, Mother Teresa once remarked, "I have found the paradox that if I love until it hurts, then there is no hurt but only more love." This remarkable woman knew the power of loving in simple, practical ways:
Some of my sisters work in Australia. On a reservation, among the Aborigines, there was an elderly man. I can assure you that you have never seen a situation as difficult as that poor old man's. He was completely ignored by everyone. His home was disordered and dirty.
I told him, "Please, let me clean your house, wash your clothes, and make your bed." He answered, "I'm okay like this. Let it be." I said again, "You will be still better if you allow me to do it."
He finally agreed. So I was able to clean his house and wash his clothes. I discovered a beautiful lamp, covered with dust. Only God knows how many years had passed since he last lit it.
I said to him, "Don't you light your lamp? Don't you ever use it?"
He answered, "No. No one comes to see me. I have no need to light it. Who would I light it for?"
I asked, "Would you light it every night if the sisters came?"
He replied, "Of course."
From that day on the sisters committed themselves to visiting him every evening. We cleaned the lamp, and the sisters would light it every evening.
Two years passed. I had completely forgotten that man. He sent this message: "Tell my friend that the light she lit in my life continues to shine still."
I thought it was a very small thing. We often neglect small things.
Ask for the grace today to be mindful of the things that seem too small to capture your attention. Ask God to help you slow down and recognize the opportunities he is giving you right now to make a lasting impact in this world through the power of his love.
Two of Ann Spangler's most-loved books have been released in paperback: Praying the Names of God and Praying the Names of Jesus.
These books help us understand the biblical context in which these names and titles were revealed, and help us gain a more intimate knowledge of the Father and of the Son.