One of the greatest joys in life is the gift of serving others. Often in the busyness of work, family, and society we draw boundaries around ourselves so tightly that we don’t make room to love others well. God’s desire is to shepherd us to a place of inward abundance, not only that we might live in the fullness of life, but also that we would be empowered to give of ourselves to others. Philippians 2:4-8 says,
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
In his humble, loving sacrifice, Jesus set before us the perfect example of loving others. God might not call all of us to physically die for the sakes of others, but he absolutely leads us to a lifestyle of dying to self that we might live for the kingdom of God. Loving others always requires sacrifice. The gift of love is never free. But in pursuing a lifestyle of looking to the interests of others we’ll discover an eternal purpose more fulfilling than any fruit selfishness could produce.
Often, in reading or hearing exhortations centered around serving others, I find myself feeling more and more weighed down. I know that I’m called to love people. I know that I’m called to give of myself. And in response to these emotions I typically engage in a few more activities, find myself empty and burnt out, and subsequently give up on the notion of living sacrificially. But after years of going through this cycle I realized that I was giving, not from a place of love, but out of coercion. I was giving, not as a response to receiving the unconditional love of my heavenly father, but to earn the affection of a Christian community that often admires actions over motives.
But we serve a God who looks at the heart. The call of God on our lives to love others well is designed to flow from a place of fullness and satisfaction. God doesn’t ask us to give what we don’t have. If you’re not in a place of health and abundance, the first step is to ask for the leadership of the Holy Spirit in how he wants to shepherd you to a place of restoration and rejuvenation. The world doesn’t need burnt-out givers. God doesn’t ask us to die to ourselves if we don’t have life to begin with.
God has amazing plans to use you to further his kingdom today. And those plans are filled with acts of love and sacrifice. But before you can love others, you need to know that you are loved. Before you can sacrifice for others, you need to know that Jesus sacrificed for you to a far greater measure than you could ever hope to reciprocate. And in response to God’s love and sacrifice, ask him for ways you can love others well. Create boundaries in your life in which you can consistently give of yourself. Seek to look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.
May you find profound joy and purpose in loving others today in response to God’s great love for you.