While at a sports conference for Christian athletes a few months ago, I heard Francis Chan relay a story of an interaction he recently had with Joni Eareckson Tada. He described how she had to excuse herself in the middle of a conversation they were having because of intense pain. Later on, Francis received a note from Joni, during a time when she was greatly suffering from both cancer and pneumonia. The note was filled with encouragement as she praised his ministry and the work he is doing for the sake of the Kingdom.
Amazed at her ability to think of others at a time when she herself was suffering — on top of what she has already had to endure living the life of a paraplegic for 40-plus years — he called her. He wanted to say how much her words meant at a time when it would be easy to focus on oneself and try to simply get through the day.
Her response was enlightening. She said, “Francis, I have to keep praising Jesus otherwise I could sink into deep sadness.”
As I considered her wise words and the impact they had on a teacher who has imparted so much wisdom, something became apparent to me. Each one of us has the choice to either serve God or serve themselves. Joni sought the former and in doing so, she was able to serve Him by serving others.
As professional athletes, we live in a fantasy world in which people are constantly serving us every day. From clubhouse attendants to front office people and various other assistants, so many of our needs are taken care of. If we’re not careful, this culture can create an unhealthy attitude of entitlement. We can easily start to think we are a big deal and expect others to do our dirty work.
In the book of Matthew, chapter 20 gives an account of a conversation between Jesus and the mother of James and John, two of His disciples. Their mother makes a plea for her sons, asking Jesus to grant them a position of power in His future Kingdom. To counter that inappropriate request, Jesus says in verse 26, “But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whomever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve.”
So let me ask this question: If the Lord of all creation gave His life as a ransom for many, how much more should we seek to serve Him?
Two weeks ago, I traveled to Haiti with some MLB athletes who are partnering with Water Mission to bring safe water to poverty-stricken areas of the island. I listened as they spoke about the joy they receive from sharing the blessings God has given them with others by funding these water projects. Serving, by giving of their wealth, becomes one of the primary remedies for selfishness and a demand to be served.
God gives us incredible opportunities to use our time, talent and treasure to bring Him glory. This life is merely a test to examine the true nature of our hearts and see how we will use what God gives us. The option is simple — serve or be served. Which will you do?
— Scott Linebrink, former MLB pitcher