Focus On Christ’s Unselfish Sacrifice

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus…He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:3a,4a,5,8a)

Our congregation was a focal point for flood relief during the Great Flood of ’93. Volunteers of all ages came from all over the United States and the world (i.e. Luxembourg and the Ukraine) to help people in our community. Flood survivors and volunteers would meet in our basement for breakfast before being teamed up and sent out with a lunch, tools, and materials to work the rest of the day. When they returned for supper they were tired, muddy, and smelly, but they had smiles on their faces. It was hard work. It was gross. It was heartbreaking to watch folks who had lost their homes. But it was satisfying for the workers who helped, and it was gratifying to watch youth groups learning to serve.

Being Christian servants ain’t for sissies; neither is teaching it. It takes spiritual, mental/emotional, and physical fortitude and focus. Not only is the work hard, but our culture is working against us. When we try teaching leadership or service, our world is like a levy that is being leveled from two directions during a flood. The rain erodes it from the top and swift streams cut at it from the bottom.

So much of reality TV reinforces a “me-first” mentality for leaders these days. But Donald Trump’s TV show, “The Apprentice,” seems to be one of the worst. In the episode I watched, contestants who were conniving and self-serving survived. The one who was sincerely trying to help the team was fired. Mr. Trump and his protégés didn’t think she had what it takes to lead.

On the other side, we see an unwillingness to serve. A recent Gallup poll shows 71 percent of American workers are “not engaged” in their work. This two year study confirmed what customers have experienced for years: most workers don’t know how to serve. They are in it for themselves. Their customers are treated like necessary adversaries who make their time at work difficult and get in the way of their well-being.

The evidence of this erosion is not just found in the workplace. It is flooding our families and churches as well. “What’s in it for me?” is a question that characterizes “the theology of glory” that is so common in Christian churches today. It is appealing to people who want God to make them happier, healthier, and more powerful than they were without God. It flows with the world’s philosophy that says success is measured by size and impact of the group or event rather than faithfulness to God’s Word. Such teaching has a strong draw for youth who want to succeed in the current culture. But Christianity is founded on a “theology of the cross” that is counter culture. Christ’s work on the cross is our focus.

My final FOCUS acronym of this article series is a tool for that. When we Focus On Christ’s Unselfish Sacrifice, we are not just looking at Jesus as a model of servanthood. He is the means that breaks our desire to be served, and makes us servants for Him. His sacrifice earned the forgiveness we need when we fail to serve God, or seek our glory rather than God’s glory given on the cross.

Are we a part of the 71 percent of America’s self-centered slackers? Are we “engaged” in our work as youth leaders? If not, we are perpetuating the problem. Our job as leaders and mentors is not just getting kids out to get stuff done. It is to foster an environment where these young people can be and become the people God wants them to be at home, at work, at school, and at church. We want them to be Christ’s disciples and not Don Trump’s apprentices. That is the focus of our service in Christ’s church.
Published April 2004