Suffering to Serve

I served at Passion 2014 in Houston, and it takes a small army of door holders—Passion’s phrase for volunteers—who don’t just hold doors. We literally and spiritually open doors for the thousands of college students ushered into the arena and God’s presence for the weekend. I personally served on a resource team, working what seemed to be endless hours, connecting with one student after another.

Why should you care? Well, regardless of whether or not you’ve served at Passion or another large conference, you’ve likely experienced some of the same challenges and thrills I did over the weekend. And there are always lessons we can learn in order to serve better.

Here’s a highlight reel…

  • I talked with young men who came on their own from the Netherlands, Brazil, and Seattle to personally experience an international corporate worship and teaching event. They differed in accents, clothing, and travel times, but each spoke with a sparkle of excitement in his eyes.
  • I heard the word “awesome” more than I think I have ever heard it in my life, and that’s saying a lot, since I grew up in the 80s! It wasn’t an overdramatic description of mundane, daily stuff. It described Jesus and the power of God in and around the lives of thousands of students. And God was (and is) awesome!
  • I had a street corner conversation with a group of girls who can’t wait until they’re old enough to serve as door holders. Well…that’s certainly a new perspective!

choiceI could go on and one, but can’t we all jump up and down about the excitement of events and experiences? Is everything always wonderful?

No.

While I worked with many sacrificial servants who gave up sleep and travel expenses just because they wanted to help provide an environment for students, I also worked among some with different motives. Since serving as a door holder is the only way for adults over 26 to attend, there were some who regularly snuck away or blatantly declared a personal “right” to not miss out on what was going on in the arena. When we signed up to serve, we were told on the front end that we would work long hours with little sleep and few breaks, but because different teams had different schedules, there soon became a stirring of unfairness and entitlement.

I’m not going to point my finger at everyone else without admitting that there were times I thought about trying to slip away unnoticed for an extended break or wondered how I could be sure to get on a less demanding team the next time. But as that attitude began to creep in, God reminded me of the parable of the workers in Matthew 20.

The lesson is that as God’s workers, we’re not entitled to what we think we are. We don’t get to sign up to serve then demand how we serve. Serving is, by definition, selfless. There’s no such thing as selfish serving. If we’re being selfish while serving, we’re not serving.

So, consider…

  • Why do you serve? Why do you do the things you say you do for God? Are they really for God? Have you truly set aside yourself, including convenience and comfort?
  • How do you serve? Do you serve with any reluctance, or do you hold up your hand and jump up and down yelling, “Me, Lord! Pick me!”?
  • Who do you serve? Avoid giving the Sunday school answer. We often deceive ourselves to claim we’re serving God when his name is attached to something like church or missions. In reality, we’re doing what we want and asking him to bless it.

God gives us many opportunities to serve. Sometimes we’ll actually enjoy it, and sometimes we won’t. Sometimes we’ll actually suffer as we serve. I often hear people sarcastically declare they’re “suffering for Jesus,” getting to do something that’s enjoyable while attaching God’s name to it, but let’s be honest. Jesus knows what suffering is. We really have no clue. Until we get a clue, our service isn’t as rich and selfless as it can be.

Let God decide how you’ll serve today. Choose selflessness…with a good attitude.