Sunday, May 29, 2016, Nathan Williams preached on Deacons: Patterned after Christ. Listen to the audio here:
Lindie’s marriage had been crumbling slowly over the past three years, ever since her husband Charles had decided to take a high-profile and demanding position at a local law firm. Slowly, their time for walking in the neighborhood, holding hands, and reading together in the evenings evaporated. She had suspected for a while that he’d been unfaithful, but she couldn’t prove it.
Her job was wearing her thin, as her boss continued to pile on extra responsibility with little extra pay. No longer did she covet the corporate life; now she just wanted to stay home and rest for a while, but Charles insisted she hold out for just a little while longer until they were financially sound. When will that be? she wondered. When will he be ready to have the kids we talked about before we married?
One weekend the perfect storm seemed to be brewing, as her overbearing boss demanded she finish a project over the weekend, her husband texted that he’d be flying to Chicago for a weekend work thing, and a sore throat was coming on. Life was the pits.
Lindie decided to call Sally, a spiritually-minded friend from church, and ask her to meet at a nearby Starbucks. Sally arrived to find Lindie almost in tears.
“What’s going on?” she asked, concern ringing in her tone.
Lindie proceeded to unload her worries, concerns, and headaches right out on that little Starbucks table. As she unpacked each one, Sally felt more and more deeply the weight of Lindie’s life situation. Finally, Lindie took a breath.
“How long have you been keeping all this bottled up?” Sally asked. Lindie managed a small shrug. “Lindie, you don’t need to carry all this yourself!”
“I know. But Charlie–”
“I’m not talking about Charlie right now; I’m talking about me and the church! That’s what we’re here for, Lindie. And I’m talking about God. Have you shared any of this with Him?”
That question startled Lindie. In fact, she was surprised at herself. She had not even thought to pray about this for quite some time. Maybe she didn’t want to bother God with her situation. Maybe she felt it would reveal her weakness, her failure as a wife and a woman, to have to ask God for help in this. She felt like it was her duty to deal with all of it because it was her life.
“No,” she finally admitted, “I haven’t. But I now see I should. I suppose my life has finally come to the point where all I can do is pray.”
Sally smiled at her friend, but her head was gently shaking from side to side. “No, Lindie, I want to show you something.” She opened her purse and pulled out a small Bible, flipping to the middle. “Here it is. Psalm 103. I just read it this morning:
“Bless the LORD, O my soul;
And all that is within me, bless His holy name!
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits:
Who forgives all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from destruction,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies,
Who satisfies your mouth with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”
After a pause, Sally asked, “Does it sound to you like David’s prayer here was a prayer of last resort?”
“You just said it seems like all you have left is prayer–like it’s your last resort. Does it sound like David prayed that way?”
“I guess not,” Lindie admitted. “But what’s your point?”
Sally looked into Lindie’s eyes. “I think you haven’t been talking to God about your life at all, Lindie. You are walking this life as if you have the power to figure everything out all by yourself and bear the whole load all by yourself…and God never intended for you to live like that! If you read the rest of Psalm 103, you find out that God loves His people very much.” Sally began scanning the chapter again. “He does not deal with us according to our sins. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His steadfast love toward those who fear Him. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear Him. For He knows our frame, He remembers that we are dust.
“Doesn’t that make you swell up with just little bit of pride in God? Doesn’t that make you want to love Him?”
Lindie had to admit those ancient words did cause a certain swelling of joy in her heart. As she listened to her friend read, she began to realize how small she was…and how BIG God is.
There would be much more conversation between the two friends, but that moment served as a catalyst to begin changing her thinking. She shouldn’t just pray to God when things seemed the worst, when the night was darkest, when she had no alternative. She had been walking a lonely and (she had to admit) sinful walk by keeping her Creator at arms length. She began to see how much she needed God every single day, every step of the way, in both the bad times and the good. And God really did care about her. Her! Not because she was so special, but because God is so awesomely kind and merciful!
Indeed, bless His holy name! she thought to herself, feeling hope.
- Maralyn Monroe overdosed on barbiturates and was found dead in her bed clutching a telephone receiver on August 5, 1962.
- The king of rock ‘n roll, Elvis Presley, overdosed on prescription drugs on August 16, 1977, and died of cardiac arrest.
- The king of pop, Michael Jackson, overdosed on a cocktail of antidepressants and pain killers and died on June 25, 2009.
- Robin Williams was found on August 11, 2014, hanging by a nylon belt with wrists partially slashed after having dosed himself with antidepressants, caffeine, and a drug for Parkinson’s disease.
The world loved (and many sill love) these icons for their ability to perform, entertain, shock, and amuse. All were top of their game, making headlines, and amazingly successful as this world counts success.
What went wrong?
Obviously drugs were a major factor in each and every case.
But why the drugs? These were not illegal drugs; they were prescription. After brief consideration, you may easily observe that these women and men were not happy with their super-successful lives! In fact, we might conclude they were actually not successful in life.
These folks were, evidently, seeking happiness in all the wrong places. They did not find joy in their beauty, sexuality, money, or fame–yet upon those things it seems they centered their lives. They built upon a shifting foundation of lies.
From where, then, does true worth and abiding happiness come?
7 I will bless the LORD who has given me counsel;
My heart also instructs me in the night seasons.
8 I have set the LORD always before me;
Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved.
9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices;
My flesh also will rest in hope.
10 For You will not leave my soul in Sheol,
Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.
11 You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
It saddens me to think of all in this world who are so far away from true spiritual blessing. How gracious God has been to me in showing me this path to peace, for I surely don’t deserve it. To be allowed into God’s presence boggles the mind, doesn’t it? For Him to forgive our sins and give us the opportunity to experience the fullness of joy and everlasting pleasures, does it not fill you with inexpressible delight, humble thanksgiving, and the motivation to serve Him forevermore?
So spread the gospel, the good news of our Savior, who makes it possible for us to approach God’s throne of grace (Heb. 4.16), because millions of fellow men and women are searching for their lives’ meaning. They won’t find it in themselves, in their friends, or in their fans, and they certainly won’t find it in those pills they pop every day to mask their pain and depression.
Jesus has the words of eternal life (John 6.68-39), and He has commissioned us to spread it. Let’s get to work!
Well…that’s often what the world looks for in a leader.
Jesus challenges and colors our understanding of leadership and greatness in His kingdom:
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Matt. 20.25-28)
It’s not about lording it over others, getting them to do what we want. It’s not about exercising authority over others, always getting our way.
Godly leadership centers on serving others. In fact, Jesus used two words in our passage above—servant and slave—to express this thought. Servant in the Greek is diakonos, from which we get the word “deacon.” Slave in the Greek is the word doulos, from which derives the modern-day “doula,” one who assists during childbirth.
The diakonos was a minister of some sort; the word was often used of a waiter serving tables. Jesus used the verb form (diakoneō) of Himself: He “did not come to be served, but to serve.” Jesus was a deacon servant to us, going so far as to wash His disciples’ feet in John 13 and then offer His body as a crucified sacrifice!
How ought we, then, to serve one another?