“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps.” 1 Peter 2:21
Peter wrote the verse above some thirty years after walking through Israel with Jesus. He obviously had come to a point in his life when he realized that only by giving do we really receive. The way of service is the way out from under the crushing weight of self-centeredness. At this late point in his life, Peter understood. But it was not always this way.
Look back a few years in his life, and you will find him on a road leading south to Jerusalem. Jesus walked ahead. The disciples grouped behind him were speaking among themselves, sometimes a little too loudly. When they stopped for the day, Jesus calls them to him and asked, “What were you talking about as we walked?” They did not want to say, because they were talking about who was greatest.
I imagine Peter was right in the middle of that discussion, nominated himself and seconded the nomination. Jesus knew that Peter was a self-made man. He knew that Peter was the kind that would work hard at establishing himself and getting his way. Jesus must have also trusted that he would later discover that he had gone down the wrong road.
So Jesus tried to get through to this hard-headed disciple and his companions. “If any of you wants to be first he must be last of all and servant of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many.” It does not make sense from any worldly perspective, but you must realize that you will never have any sense of significance until you find it serving others.
Jesus underscored this point so many times in his teaching. He spoke of a truth that will set you free (John 8:31-32). Here it is. It is found in following Him and serving as He served. He said many times and in many ways that in order to find real life you must be willing to let go of that life you thought was so precious and important. It is only in letting go of all your definitions of importance that you will find true significance. It is only through meekness that you inherit the earth.
Douglas Coupland, author of several self-help books writes that ultimately self-help never works. He wrote, “Now—here is my secret. I tell it to you with an openness of heart that I doubt I shall ever achieve again, so I pray that you are in a quiet room as you hear these words. My secret is that I need God—that I am sick and can no longer make it alone. I need God to help me give, because I no longer seem to be capable of giving; to help me be kind, as I no longer seem capable of kindness; to help me love, as I seem beyond being able to love.” (Life After God, p. 359)
Are you self-made? We all try at least for a while until we run up against the futility of trying to live in our own strength, according to our own will, fulfilling our own desires. Broken by life and by our own broken promises we fall to our knees, and say “Thy will be done.” Then we turn back to life and find it full and meaningful as we serve others.
Dr. Terry Ellis
January 9, 2016