Monday, August 29, 2016

The Paradox of Self in the Art of Service

God doesn’t need us, but, shudder to think, He wants to use us to build His Kingdom for His glory.  For, when His Kingdom is built, it is for His glory, which also means it’s the best result for all concerned — beautiful outcomes of love merged with truth.
The paradox of self in the art of service is two concepts, enjoined, united, complementary, together for the act of teamwork.  ‘Self’ and ‘service’ would otherwise be inanely foreign, but for the fact that when the self is stripped of all pride and self-consciousness, it’s the very agent for success in the concept of service.  See how ‘self’ and ‘service’ may be worst of enemies and best of friends, depending on whether self is full of self or emptied of self.
The paradox of self in the art of service is such that only the self is able to serve, yet the self is acting as if it were not just a self — it’s acting out of interdependence.  And only when the self chooses passionately to serve is service truly what God designed it to be; a Holy Spirit sponsored act completely devoid of selfishness.
Service is always a thing for another, and in this case, principally God, though others are directly blessed.
In the way of the Kingdom, service is something that’s known by its fruit.  It has an indelible and tangible effect.  Coming without an agenda, a person serves out of the sheer delight of being God’s emissary, ironically, without even the need to serve.
So, service is a paradox: we serve out of the delight that we can, though without feeling any pressure of the need to serve.  True service, hence, is about devotion and not about duty.
Serving God requires availability and willingness; nothing else, certainly nothing that we can ‘bring’.  Then the Holy Spirit shows us what to do.  It’s then that God shows us He’s alive, with us, in the very minute service we’re doing.
The lasting paradox of service is that God will do greatly through us what, through us, He requires no help from us on.  Only through complete reliance on His will and power will our service amount to anything Kingdom-worthy.
The best of service is done through the self, devoid of self, fully dependent on the Spirit.
Serving is the final corrective of the self.  To serve joyfully is the final subjugation of the self.
When we resolve to be open to whatever God is doing, free of need to add our competence, we’re powerful instruments of God’s grace.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

When We Can Only Love Those Who Bear God’s Image

“And just as we have borne
the image of the man made of dust,
we will also bear
the image of the heavenly man.
— 1 Corinthians 15:49 (HCSB)
God showed me something at the shopping mall.  Every individual was beautiful before me; every unique soul, living a matchless life, in the service of hope, for a purpose they determined as best.  As I looked everywhere, all about me was the same image; myriads of people, all beautiful, all beloved, all bearing the same resemblance.  And as I looked, God did something in my heart; all indifference, intolerance, and cynicism ebbed away, and with it, all vanity.  Suddenly, my heart was so full of love, my mind had no space for anything else.
This experience lasted ten minutes.  Then I became my troubled self all over again.
But God proved something to me.  The more we see what is patently true in every person, the more we see what’s true within ourselves — we’re all due love.  To love and be loved.  If we can determine that another person is due love, surely we’ll ascribe the same beneficence to ourselves.
As I looked about me in the shopping mall — a menagerie of cultures, colours, and creeds to be seen — I saw the common plight of humanity: the striving of each one for a life of hope, for justice and mercy, and a life of purpose.  With purpose, all humanity can struggle through, but without purpose any privileged life is a prison.
Our personalities make it possible that we could worship and serve God.  And when we worship and serve God, we’re closest to bearing His image.  But whether we worship or serve Him or not, we still bear His image, even as we bear the image of Adam in our sin.
When we realise that every single human being is sacred, precious in God’s sight, not for what they’ve done, but for who they are, then we begin interacting with all life differently.  And, whilst we ought not to idolise another human being, we worship and serve God well when we love those who bear His image.
When our hearts of full of love, our minds have no space for indifference or hatred.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Greater the Despair, Deeper the Gospel’s Grace

“Yet those that be against us, so far are they from thwarting us at all, that even without their will they become to us causes of crowns, and procurers of countless blessings, in that God’s wisdom turns their plots unto our salvation and glory.  See how really no one is against us!”
— John Chrysostom (349–407)
Such is the power of the gospel in the dross of life that even in loss there is victory, where we live as if, in that defeat, it was victory.  For only in defeat, when things are not going according to plan, do we get the compelling opportunity to show how different our lives are, living joyously for hope in spite of loss, for the sake of Christ!
This is why there is more to celebrate in despair than in hope, for in despair our attitude should rise on the wings of hope.  The more we’re thwarted, the more God is with us through a joy that overcomes that thwarting through patient perseverance.
But responding in this gospel way is so counterintuitive that it’s hard even when we know it’s God’s will that we respond that way.
Yet we only need to respond this way once, and we experience its power.
We only need to respond in this counterintuitive way once to experience Christ’s gospel power.  Likewise, we only need to cry out to God in our distress once, for one night, and finally we experience the truth of God’s promise; a joy indwelling relief that comes after an exhaustingly despairing lament, simply because we’ve knelt before God’s honour in pleasing Him.  God’s Presence in and through us, having pleased Him in surrendering to His will, becomes its own compelling evidence.  Such strength in comparative weakness to obey, not to be overcome by our own screaming desires!
This is why this gospel way works: faith goes ahead of reason, knowing that God is faithful, and, in doing what is right, faith alone is revealed as blessed — despite how we feel when things are so wrong.
The more things appear to be against us, whilst we know God is for us, the more our hope shines in spite of myriad despairs and difficulties.  Nothing is truly against us in the totality of all spiritual realms when God is for us.
Trust in His Spirit, rely on His strength, obey His Word, and all will go well, especially when there are many hardships.
Nothing else works like it in all of God’s creation: the greater our despair, the deeper is the gospel’s reach through grace into our lives.
The more we’re touched by grief and loss, the more we’re reached by grace and love.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.