Five days after my return from India, I was still in the “processing” stage of returning from a third-world mission.
And five days after my return, I also remained in the “jet lag” stage.
A year ago, I would have never pictured spending my 28th birthday in another country — let alone India. I’ve become quite comfortable with my birthday tradition that typically includes a round of golf and a teppanyaki dinner. But a personal invite to join a handful of other pastors to go and serve the “least of these” led me towards something far different.
And far greater.
For awhile now, I’ve felt as if my heart was being prepared for change. I’ve wrestled with clarity in a number of different areas of my life for quite some time now, and while the work of full-time ministry was fulfilling in many ways, I still felt as if something was missing.
As I prepared to travel half way around the world, I knew that God would use my experiences there to deal with those things. But how He would use those experiences wasn’t exactly clear as I would have liked it to be.
Would I become more generous after seeing poverty and basic human needs that needed to be met?
Would he use my time there to reveal how my digestive system will never be compatible with curry?
After spending five days working alongside Harvest India, an amazing organization that reaches out to be the hands of feet of Jesus to the lower castes of the Indian nation, I’m convinced of one thing: our lives are specifically designed to serve other people.
There’s something about humbling yourself to meet the needs of others. No matter the experiences I’ve had in my lifetime, nothing seems to bring the joy that’s experienced through service. No amount of money, no success or accomplishment, and so far in my short-lived 28 years, no worship service or conference can hold a candle to serving the broken, the lonely, and the weak.
The clarity of Jesus’ words when he tells His disciples that He “came not to be served, but to serve” bring this reality to life — that we will find joy, purpose, and meaning when we lay our lives down for the betterment of other people.
Looking all the way back to creation and knowing that we were made in God’s image, we were created with characteristics of the divine. You and I have it wired within us to be loving, giving, and sacrificial, just as He has been towards us. It’s when we tap into those areas of our heart that we find the true joy we were designed to experience.
It was clear to me what had been the missing piece for so long. As we dedicated clean water wells in villages, prayed over the fingerless hands of lepers, and shared joy with hundreds of orphans that know only their heavenly father, this one thing remained — God is calling me to die to myself every day as I seek to serve those who are in need.
I’m more convinced than ever why Jesus taught and modeled a theme of service and sacrifice — just like in Matthew 16, where He tells His disciples that those who give up their lives for His sake will finally find it.
J.I. Packer puts it this way: “To seek pleasure, comfort and happiness is to guarantee that you will miss them all. The seeds of happiness, it has truly been said, grow most strongly in the soil of service.”
So I leave you with this: Which soil are you planting in?