Jesus is the Messiah and the Servant. He came to save and to serve. He saved because it is His character. He served because it is His mission.
Isaiah prophesied how Jesus would save and serve. He predicted that Jesus would “bring forth justice to the Gentiles,” be “a light to the Gentiles,” “open blind eyes,” “bring out prisoners from the prison” (Is. 42:1, 3, 4, 6, 7 NKJV). He foretold that Jesus would not break a bruised reed, nor quench a smoking flax, nor fail, nor be discouraged. He described Jesus as goodness epitomized, as kindness personified. Hundreds of years later, when Jesus came on earth, He did what was prophesied of Him. The Gospels tell stories about Jesus feeding the hungry, healing the sick, casting out demons, forgiving sins, showing compassion, raising the dead, preaching the good news, washing His disciples’ feet. Many stories—stories that are touching, moving, inspiring; stories of acts of saving and acts of serving—were told. Above all, the Gospels culminates with the ultimate act—Jesus dying on the cross to save all humankind from sin.
We’re saved. It is a gift, a gift paid very highly, paid with a blood currency. Can there be a greater gift? You may say there can be. But for me, the gift of salvation is the greatest gift I can ever receive. This is the gift, the ultimate gift. I do not pretend to fully understand it or appreciate it. Like Paul, I say, “Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely” (1 Cor. 13:12, NLT). Further, Paul heightens my anticipation and expectation about what this gift is like—its grandeur, its beauty, its scope. He hints that “no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor. 2:9, NLT).
But I don’t have to wait for heaven to experience the wonder of this gift. On a moment-by-moment basis, I recognize, faintly it may be, its blessing. I cherish the moments when I can claim, “I am forgiven”; when I can boast, “I can do all things”; when I can whisper, “I am not afraid.” This is what being saved means to me in the here and now—freedom from guilt, freedom from hopelessness, freedom from fear. In the context of the present, yes, freedom from fear. Let me share with you a little bit more about fear and the freedom from it through a poem that I wrote recently:
When Fear Was Taught
The teacher came
His face ashen.
“Class, a catastrophe
Has swept o’er the earth
There’s no escaping.”
As he said those blood-drained words
I heard his heart’s weak beating.
The walls around him came crushing.
He fell a big fall—
Deep into earth’s hellish core.
. . . . .
The day fear was taught
I was at home—sleeping.
This, and so much more, is the meaning of being saved—to me. It is liberating. It is life-giving. It is inspiring.
Inspired to Serve
Unlike the rich young ruler, I will not ask, “What do I do to be saved?” (Mark 10:17-27). I am saved, already saved. Hence, my question is—“Now that I am saved, what will I do?”
Do I have to do? I don’t have to, because no amount of doing on my part can gain any merit for myself. I don’t have to because I don’t have to. But I will, at my will—no force imposed upon me. I will to serve; the desire is so compelling. Like a river to the sea flowing, my joy of being saved has to find expression in serving.
How Can We Serve?
The desire to serve is not only mine. There are also those who seek to find meaningful ways of serving. Hence, the question to ask is—“How can we serve?” Better yet, “How can we serve more meaningfully?”
Serve quietly and gently and lovingly. Have you heard of Martha? Hers was one of those homes which Jesus frequented and blessed with His presence. You see, Martha liked to serve. And she strived to serve well. But one day she was not very happy about what she was doing. She was slicing and stirring and baking and broiling, while her sister Mary was sitting and listening to Jesus. So she went to Jesus to complain, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” (Luke 10:40, NIV).
Also, have you heard of not letting your left hand know what your right hand is doing or has done? Jesus admonishes us to “be careful not to do [our] ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them” (Matt. 6:1, NIV). But how often have we desired to be recognized when we do something good? How often have we been offended when we are not acknowledged for a donation we gave or for help we extended?
Here’s one more. Have you ever asked God to bring somebody in need to your path? What if the same person comes to you again and again and again? Will you recognize him or her as Godsent, as the answer to your prayer?
Allow others to serve. On one occasion, the disciples complained to Jesus. “Teacher,” said John, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us” (Mark 9:38). What do you think Jesus answered? Jesus said, “Do not stop him. . . . Whoever is not against us is for us” (39, 40).
In the past, God called an unlikely servant. He named Cyrus, king of Persia, to deliver His people. At present, God may call unlikely servants, those who do not fit into our criteria. We may not like some of them or even many of them. We may not like the color of their skin, or the twang in their speech, or the pattern of their thoughts. But serving God is not about our preferences; it is about whom we serve and what we individually and together can do.
Rejoice; you labor not in vain. Do not allow discouragement to settle in your heart. Yes, you will sigh. Yes, you may cry. Your heart may be pierced with deep disappointment. You may not hear a word of appreciation. You may not see the fruits of your labor. But rejoice, just rejoice. For as the seeds of the forest are blown by the wind and saplings may grow unknown and unseen, so are the seeds of truth that you share and live by.
Saved to Serve
We are saved. We are saved to serve. If we do not serve, what is being saved for?
Arceli H. Rosario is a professor and chair of the Education department at AIIAS (Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies), as well as director of the MAT, EdS, and PhD in Education programs.
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