Everybody is talking about the decline in quality customer service, so I looked up some of the worst facts concerning this. Would you believe that in 2012, a customer was placed on hold for over 5 hours by an Australian airline? But there’s more–a Zappos employee holds the record for the world’s longest customer service call at 10 hours and 43 minutes!
That fact really made me do some soul-searching. I claim to be a Christian, but I usually run out of patients after just 15 minutes. Why anyone would wait for over 10 hours on the phone is truly beyond me.
Then, there’s the story of a waitress who dropped a tray. Besides food, it allegedly held dressing and other condiments, which splattered all over her uniform. I wonder if anyone posted that on Facebook.
Now before we really start pointing fingers, we need to ask ourselves if the art of Christian service isn’t also on the decline. To examine this, let’s use the three words contained in our blog title: Conflicted, Convicted and Restricted.
Many times, we all become conflicted, because we try to listen to God while keeping one ear on the voice of the world. In order to describe what I mean, I’d like to draw a word picture, because this is an easy trap to fall into.
Imagine yourself standing by a pool of water on a cool day. The pool is in the shade, and you face a dilemma: To jump or not to jump? In the end, you just stand there wondering what to do until your friend calls out. With a sigh, you put your toe in, and then wade in gradually.
The decision to get into the water is a decision of the will, and it is ongoing. That is, every time you go near a pool of water, you have to decide all over again whether to go in or not. In terms of serving Christ, if we go into the pool at all, most of us just stick our toes in cautiously.
That is exactly what I did when I first got out of seminary. Everything was new then, and I felt conflicted. I was trying to tackle everything under my own power, instead of asking God to control my life on a daily basis. On the one hand, I halfheartedly watched as Jesus modeled service towards others in His Word. On the other hand, however, I let the world’s voice creep in. Without asking God to fill me with His spirit, putting others ahead of self seemed ludicrous. I don’t mind telling you that I was confused, and this kind of lifestyle still seemed like quite a foreign concept.
I don’t mean to claim a full understanding of this topic by any means, for all of us will be growing in God’s image until we get to heaven. I would have denied that back then, but service takes all of us out of our comfort zone. It means relinquishing my own will, and asking God for His will to be done. We don’t necessarily like the aspect of discomfort in our own strength, as it may mean going places we wouldn’t otherwise go, or being introduced to sights and smells that we might otherwise avoid. So while I loved God, and I knew He had called me into the ministry, I was going in the other direction with my life. My studies were more about me and the fancy position I wanted to get one day. I admit that glorifying God was definitely not my priority. Some of the passion of walking with Christ was subtly slipping away, but God dealt with me back then, and He continues to deal with me now in His classroom.
Here’s a nugget of truth for you. The Bible says that God disciplines those whom He loves. When He deals with you in this way, it is an aspect of His love, because He only wants our best.
You might think about it like this. If you loved a child, you would certainly tell them not to cross the street alone. Now they might cry and whine about this, but you stick to your guns for safety’s sake.
We are God’s children, and He wants us to live on a higher plane than the rest of the world.
So don’t be stubborn like I was. Instead, be pliable in God’s hands.
I told you that God had a lot of work to do on me, and here is how he accomplished it. Instead of my dream job, full of people hanging on my every word and cameras flashing, God put me into some pretty humbling situations. This was further complicated because I am a person who is blind. God had to make me rethink why I went to school in the first place, because I thought I could live my life as well as the next person. So instead of living to honor Him, I was trying to prove myself.
Instead of preaching in a mega-church, I found myself speaking in front of one or two people in a nursing home. Like king David in the Old Testament, I had become lost in the numbers game. Therefore, I felt conflicted about my service, because I wasn’t doing anything in my own eyes.
In this world, where everything is based on statistics, I think we all need to stop and take a hard look at ourselves. Are you questioning the value of your service based on small numbers? God wants to speak to your heart in a new way, because He loves you with an everlasting love.
He reminds each of us of the principle in Psalm 20:7: “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.”
Also, you might want to rethink the parable of the lone sheep which Jesus told:
“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”
Here, we see God’s care and concern for each individual. When you read the gospels, take deliberate notice of how many times Jesus focused on one lone person. We need to ask God to change our hearts, for our reliance needs to be fully on Him.
ile it is true that learning to serve is a life long process, Christ wants it to be one of joy and not of duty. The Bible says that our love for God, is a result of Him loving us first, and because God served us, we can serve one another. I have met some phenomenal people that I wouldn’t have otherwise met, and had some amazing experiences, that I wouldn’t have other wise had. So I hope that in writing this, the pitfalls I have experienced will help you, and be signs on a rewarding journey, to service.
The next step we come to is the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Since God often uses His Word to bring this about, I would like to share two verses which have stood out in my life.
“If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little ones, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities.” (Luke 16:10 NLT)
Or, look at these words from the apostle Paul:
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” (Col 3:23 NIV)
I’m glad that service is a journey, because God is always pointing out areas of my life that need improvement. Before we go on, however, we need to look briefly at God’s conviction versus Satan’s condemnation. Unfortunately, this is an issue which many people have misunderstood, and it can have detrimental effects.
God’s conviction may make you uncomfortable, but it is ultimately meant to lift up, encourage and guide. His Spirit is freeing, and the source of lasting peace.
Conviction guides you away from your own plans, allowing you to experience the full riches of Christ. Condemnation, on the other hand, has a paralyzing effect. It guides you away from the cross, and it offers chains of guilt, self-incrimination and defeat.
Think of a heavy blanket smothering out a fire. It is like that when you make a mistake–Satan is right there to squeze the abundant life which Christ offers right out of you.
Luckily, God is there to forgive you. The Bible says that He separates our sin from us as far as the east is from the west. Proverbs 24:16 also tells us, “For a righteous man falls seven times, and gets up again.” (ASV)
Therefore, I now see conviction as a friend, guiding me to true freedom in Christ–the freedom to put others first, and the freedom to be who God created me to be. I no longer have to measure up to the standards of others, for the Bible tells me that I am accepted in the beloved. Find your acceptance there and you, too, can experience the richness of Christ in your life.
Lastly, I saw that I had held a restricted view of life. I wasn’t allowing God to expand my vision. Instead, I told Him what I thought would be the best thing to do.
Rather than following my example, I encourage you to learn to listen to God, and search the scriptures. Then, watch for the opportunities He sends your way. And don’t forget to keep your eyes wide open–those opportunities may be packaged differently than you expect.
I challenge you to listen to God in an unconflicted manner, learn to expect His loving discipline, and allow Him to unblock any restrictions you may have put on His plans for your life.
Thank you for reading this, and may the Lord give you a wonderful week! We are trying to reach people who are hurting, so if God lays it on your heart, please consider becoming a partner with us. If you would like to make a donation, please visit www.hcmachaplains.org and click on the Donate Now link. You can also send donations by mail to HCMA (Healthcare Chaplains Ministry Association). Our ID number is 560. The address is 101 S Kraemer BLVD, Suite 123A, Placentia, CA 92870.
Finally, you’re always welcome to join our Tuesday night Bible study. These studies are conducted by conference call, and they take place at 6:30 PM Arizona time. Our conference number is 313-209-8800. Our PIN is 8699032. We hope to talk with you soon!
If you have questions, comments or prayer requests for Timothy or Stephanie Burdick, please call 507-369-6861.