Sunday, May 03, 2009

Stooping to serve the Lord

All week I’ve been meaning to write about this but other more urgent things seemed to keep crowding it out and so I thought that this morning might be a good time to get my thoughts down on a subject that is rather close to my heart.

Recently I have reading through Nehemiah for my morning devotions. On one particular day, I had come to Nehemiah 3. Looking at it, I sarcastically said to myself, “Oh great.  Another list of names, this time of those who were working on rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. This should be really edifying.”  In fact, I recall saying something to that effect to my wife who was sitting on a nearby sofa.

And so I plunged in, not really expecting to get much out of that morning’s reading, when I came to verse 5.

And next to them the Tekoites repaired, but their nobles would not stoop to serve their Lord.

How often I have seen this attitude expressed by leaders, one that sends out the message, “This task is beneath me.” 

I still remember setting up for the first VOMC conference that I ever helped plan back in 1998.  I was unloading and carrying boxes of books into the conference hall when one of our guest speakers looked at me and said, “What are you doing carrying this stuff?  Leave it for someone else.  Your time is too important for this kind of work.” 

And true to form, he didn’t lift a finger to help us either.  He would not stoop to serve his Lord in this way.  I’m still trying to figure out who he thought would do it.  There were only four of us on staff at the time - the director, his wife, our receptionist, and me.  Did he expect the women to do it??

The same attitude came out a couple of years later when I travelled with him to Sudan where he rebuked me for helping to unload the airplane when we landed in a remote area with relief aid. We needed to hurry and offload the plane so that the pilots could take off before the Sudanese government realized that we were there and possibly intercept the plane. As I jumped was busy handing boxes out of the plane, his attitude was “Leave it to the natives!” meaning the Sudanese Christians who had come to help carry the supplies from the airstrip to the nearby village.

Maybe, it’s part of my growing up as a farm boy in Alberta where if there was work to be done, you did pitched in and did it.  But I like to think that it is also God’s work in my life in developing a servant attitude; one that I am convinced is called for in the life of a Christian leader.  Look how often God calls His key leader servants:

  • Abraham (Gen. 26:24)
  • Moses (Ex. 14:31)
  • Caleb (Num. 14:24)
  • Elijah (2 Kings 9:36)
  • Isaiah (Is. 20:3)
  • Paul (Rom. 1:1)
  • Peter (2 Pet. 1:1)
  • Jude (Jude 1:1)

Jesus is seen in Scripture as God’s Suffering Servant, set forth as a model which we are to emulate (Phil. 2:7). Servanthood requires stooping.

What a contrast is seen a few verses later in Nehemiah 3:12.

Next to him Shallum the son of Hallohesh, ruler of half the district of Jerusalem, repaired, he and his daughters.

Whereas the Tekoite nobles would not stoop to serve the Lord, here was the ruler of half of the Jerusalem district diligently working away with his daughters. If any man had an excuse not to stoop to such manual labour, Shallum did.  He was an important man who had no sons to help him; only daughters.  But the task of securing Jerusalem’s people against their enemies was reason enough for him to get his hands dirty and to recruit whatever help he could muster.

This is the kind of leadership God’s people need to see more of today!

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