“I have taken off my robe; how can I put it on again? I have washed my feet; how can I defile them?” (Song of Solomon 5:3 NKJV).
I am continually impressed with the concern of Christian brothers and sisters for my welfare while I am with them in Bangladesh and Nepal. It is normal for them to give me their best room and furniture for my stay, to feed me at a higher standard than that to which their family is accustomed, and to show every kindness and courtesy in providing whatever it may seem that I need. They do this without being asked, and even sometimes when I have requested that they not do so much.
I remember one occasion when I stumbled and fell stepping off a porch onto an unsteady and uneven set of rock steps. Almost before I could get back on my feet a brother was taking apart the steps and rebuilding them so I would not fall again. It was not even his house.
Unfortunately, that is not the norm everywhere in our relations with one another. The experience cited above from the Song of Solomon is perhaps more typical. The heroine of the story (called in the NKJV “The Shulamite”) tells of a night when her new husband came in late. She had already retired and resented having her sleep interrupted. “I have already washed my feet and dressed for the evening – why must I get up and undo all of that?” Doesn’t that sound familiar? Predictably, her reluctance to greet him created a strain in the marriage.
So often it is only our own need or convenience that we consider important. “It is all about me.” Not only is this un-Christian and un-Biblical, it is counter-productive. It is precisely this attitude which Jesus targeted when he promised, “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25).
It is not only by dying that one may lose his life. It is also by renouncing personal selfishness in favor of doing for others first (see Philippians 2:2-4). The more we seek to gain for ourselves at the expense or to the neglect of others, the less we will have. That is what the Bible teaches, unequivocally, for everyone.
In the days of Haggai, the people of Judah had put their own affairs first, building houses for themselves while neglecting the rebuilding of the Temple, which was their stated purpose for returning from Babylon (Haggai 1:4). As a result the Lord spoke:
“You have sown much, and bring in little; you eat, but do not have enough; you drink, but you are not filled with drink; you clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; and he who earns wages, earns wages to put into a bag with holes” (Haggai 1:6).
By seeking only what was important to themselves and neglecting those things for which God had sent them back from captivity, they had become impoverished.
“You looked for much, but indeed it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away” (Haggai 1:9).
The solution to their need was simple. Trust the Lord and put him first, and he would assure them of blessing. “Consider now from this day forward . . . from this day I will bless you” (Haggai 2:18-19). Once they had resumed work on the temple, God removed the famine and drought and gave them prosperity.
So Jesus taught,
“Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).
The path to blessing and prosperity is not selfishness, it is service, accompanied by faith.
by Barry Newton
Can we read, without hearing Julie Andrews’ voice, “When I’m feeling sad, I simply remember my favorite things and then I don’t feel so sad”? Like the song, “My Favorite Things,” Paul’s Philippian letter encourages rejoicing and prescribes a song. However, a sharp distinction exists.
Unlike the Sound of Music’s spoonful of sugar where each individual meditates upon his or her own favorite things, Paul’s song in Philippians 2:5-11 provides an illustration of “each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4). This love song, filled with lyrics that perhaps the Philippian Christians had even sung, could guide them in conducting themselves in a manner worthy of the gospel with those who opposed them.
As Paul’s pen began to scratch out these powerful lyrics, they described Jesus’ loving attitude spilling forth in his actions. Rather than selfishly clinging to his own rights, Jesus let go and took on the nature of a servant even to the point of obediently dying on a cross. Jesus had not only mouthed the words, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” he had obediently lived the song. Then God stamped his approval upon such selflessness, by exalting Jesus.
What would happen if Christians obeyed such a high calling to love? God’s people would live out their salvation as God worked in them achieving his purposes. The fruit of righteousness would replace grumbling. The light of God’s people would pierce the darkness of a depraved generation.
And yes, if such a song of love becomes how a person lives, they will join with Paul in rejoicing about the good being achieved despite their own circumstances.
On October 21, 2010, my Mother, Carolyn Mansel, passed away days after the discovery of cancer. The dizzying week left us stunned and heartbroken. She was an extraordinary woman who touched countless lives.
Large crowds at the visitation and the funeral were a tribute to her godly life. The outpouring of sympathy for her loss affected us deeply. Mother walked with Christ and exhibited three key qualities that all Christians should posses. She was a selfless servant who had a smile for everyone.
In Mother’s life, nothing was ever about her. She endured hardships to take care of others. She was the type Mom who claimed she was never hungry when her children needed food. She always put others before herself.
“Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3, NKJV).
A true selfless person will always look out for the needs of others before themselves. They will truly be servants that “bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2).
A selfless person will always be a servant that keeps the big picture before them. They look at situations with their Christianity in mind. If they can help others, they will do all they can to accomplish that goal.
Mother spent her life taking care of others in the family. It was her mission and the backdrop of her existence. It provides a tapestry for the rest of us to follow (2 Thessalonians 3:9).
Jesus taught us to serve others (John 13:3-10). We conduct ourselves as Dorcas, so that when we are gone, people remember the ways we helped them and edified their lives (Acts 9:36-42).
Mom was a leader in her family and in her eighteen years at Walmart. It is a misconception that a servant allows others to step on them as they wait for people to help. God’s people are servants, but they stand strong and confident in Christ.
Mother strengthened her brethren with cards, calls and encouragement. A selfless servant looks for opportunities to lift someone’s spirits. They are attuned to the people around them and they go places that others do not and lives are changed.
As mourners passed through the funeral home, most of them had warm memories of Mother’s smile. She took it everywhere she went and touched people’s hearts.
A joyous Christian has smiles for everyone they meet. Mother dealt with pain for much of her life, but she maintained her happy demeanor. Her positive spirit persisted even to the end. “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials” (James 1:2).
This counterintuitive thought is the heart of a servant. We do not think of ourselves because we see the bigger picture. We put Christ’s mission as our primary path in life (2 Timothy 3:12).
If we understand the palpable joy of Christ, it will come through all that we do (1 Peter 4:13). We will have a smile because our lives stand on salvation, hope and peace.
Mother will be missed, but her godly example will walk with us the remainder of our days. For that, we are joyous.