While we are constantly taught to serve, sacrifice, and give of ourselves, we’re not told enough that ministering to others comes at a great cost. We see right away in the Book of Acts the fulfillment of Jesus’ statement regarding persecution and what believers will endure because of Him. Saul (Paul) of Tarsus “was going everywhere to devastate the church.” But interestingly, God chose to use this murderous Pharisee for His glory. In the midst of his murderous rampage, Paul had an encounter with Christ that left him reeling on the ground. (Acts 9:3-16).
So what is the cost for being obedient? Freedom perhaps. Our will, our comfort, maybe even our dignity. Possibly the surrender of our dreams for the sake of boosting someone else and ultimately to glorify God.
Serving gets us dirty. “…a light from heaven flashed around him. HE FELL TO THE GROUND ” (v.3b-4). Paul was an arrogant and prideful man and had great reason to be cocky. He had the qualifications and the intellectual prowess to back up his claims (Phil. 3:4-6). He was a religious celebrity, people would bow before him, get out of the way, and give up their chair for him. Everyone would eat up his words because he was a man of power and influence, even the authority to condemn people to die. God planned to use him mightily but first, he needed to be knocked off his high horse, literally. This caused a major change him that produce an eternal change in others. (Phil. 3:7-8). It wouldn’t be easy to go through the humbling, breaking process. God was saying, “Paul, You’ve got talents and giftings…but they’re worthless without my touch and anointing.”
Serving requires surrender. “Get up, go into the city, and YOU WILL BE TOLD WHAT YOU MUST DO” (v. 4). This was a major paradigm shift for Paul who was used to being the one in charge and telling everyone what to do. He was blinded and had to be led around like a child which must have been humiliating to have to depend on others.
“Get up!” This is part of God’s plan so suck it up and accept it: it’s time for character development. Oh Boy! Then he was told to “go into the city.” He was forced to face his mistakes and those whom he meant to harm, eventually becoming his greatest helpers.
Serving Leads to sacrifice. “I will show him how much he must suffer for me” (v. 16). While an amazing journey was about to begin, it would also be one wrought with emotional agony and vulnerability.
- People will question us. Are you sure you’re called into full-time ministry? What do you do all day?
- People will blame us…for their problems and woes, and inability to solve them. Everything is our fault: global warming, famine, the recession, Mount Vesuvias, and Hurricane Sandy.
- People will hurt us. In fact, he ones we invest the most in will hurt us the most. There’s no sting greater than betrayal. We paid the greatest price for these and it seems wasted.
- People will criticize us. They’ll expect us to be perfect but remind us we’re not. It doesn’t take long to realize we don’t walk on water. “You’re arrogant, prideful, timid, meek, ambitious, selfish, controlling, aloof/withdrawn, invasive, not spiritual enough, too deep, too harsh, I’m not getting fed!”
- People will turn on us. If they don’t get what they want, they will try to take us down.
- People will misunderstand us. It’s so easy to take our words and spin them.
- People will use us. Too often, people have relationship with us because of what we can produce or offer.
- People will take advantage of us. They want us to offer 24/7 availability. They will try to manipulate us: If you really love God…you’ll help! My favorite is: “Aren’t you a pastor?”
- People will get us dirty. Physically through practical assistance. Emotionally because we carry people’s burdens, and spiritually because we’re waging warfare for and with people.
- People will take us for granted. We shouldn’t serve if we’re afraid of hard work, late hours, and early mornings;or if we long to find fulfillment, purpose, and gratification. We could be the hero, the person of power for the hour, then forgotten tomorrow.
Serving produces confidence. “…This man is my chosen instrument…” (v. 15). Paul spent 30 years of ministry in Antioch, Pisidian, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe, Philippi, Thessalonica, Macedonia, Corinth, Galatia, Achia, etc. Disciples started to fall away, churches waned in passion for Christ. There was probably a lot of questioning: WAS IT ALL WORTH IT? We hear his immortal words: “I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me…the task of testifying to the Gospel of God’s Grace” (Acts 20:24)