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As You Wish! - Week 8 Lecture

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I’m not a very good servant. I don’t like picking up, cleaning up, or serving up for people in general. Do any of you identify? But it’s different when I care about the people I am serving. I have never minded serving my kids. Right now I am in the midst of last minute preparations for my daughter’s wedding, which comes up in another week. Helping her has been a joy! That’s what serving God should be.

That reminded me of one of my all-time favorite fun movies. Let’s watch a short clip from it.

I’m not a very good servant. I don’t like picking up, cleaning up, or serving up for people in general. Do any of you identify? But it’s different when I care about the people I am serving. I have never minded serving my kids. Right now I am in the midst of last minute preparations for my daughter’s wedding, which comes up in another week. Helping her has been a joy! That’s what serving God should be.

That reminded me of one of my all-time favorite fun movies. Let’s watch a short clip from it.

Princess Bride clip

How many of you are Princess Bride fans? My family can quote many of the lines because we have seen it so many times! I’m not very good at remembering lines from movies, but this one of Wesley’s is an exception. Each time he served Buttercup his words were, “As you wish!” As women we are drawn to that kind of sacrificial service because it says, “I love you!”

That is also what brings joy to Jesus—when we serve him because we love him and desire to do anything he needs. Saying “as you wish” to Jesus is a response to serve inspired by love for him.

A response to serve inspired by love

 

Jesus taught this principle to Peter. Look at Jn. 21:15-17:

Then when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these do?” He replied, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.” Jesus told him, “Feed my lambs.” Jesus said a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He replied, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.” Jesus told him, “Shepherd my sheep.” Jesus said a third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was distressed that Jesus asked him a third time, “Do you love me?” and said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” Jesus replied, “Feed my sheep.”

Jesus called Peter and us, by extension, to love him and then serve others out of that love. Because we love him, we say, “As you wish, Lord!”

I have someone in my extended family who has truly been a servant, always doing for others. Only the family, however, realizes that this person does it to get attention and praise, not because of love. There is a big difference.

The Bible says that our service amounts to nothing without love. Look at 1 Cor. 13:1-3. In chapters 12-14 Paul talks about the importance of serving others in the church with our spiritual gifts. Here in the midst of that passage he says this:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but I do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so that I can remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I give over my body in order to boast, but do not have love, I receive no benefit.

All our service is useless if we do it for any reason other than love. We may have great gifts but without love, they count for nothing.

Jesus loved us unselfishly, sacrificially, and unconditionally. As we serve others, we are to do the same. We are to serve people who don’t deserve it, people who don’t appreciate it, and people who require us to sacrifice time and energy for them. This is God’s calling for every believer—to say “as you wish” even when those we serve treat us as Buttercup did Wesley. Saying as you wish is a response to serve sacrificially.

A response to serve sacrificially

We have been talking about showing glimpses of godliness and increasingly look more like Jesus as we walk with him through life. As I mentioned in the introductory lesson, one way we do that is to die more and more to self. It is about what is best for others rather than what is easy for me.

But sacrifice is a joy when we remember that we serve Jesus. He is the one we love. It is for him that we serve others. We say, “As you wish” to Jesus.

This week we looked at two women who model sacrificial service. Let’s look at the Bible’s introduction to Priscilla in Acts 18:1-3. Turn to this passage because we’ll read more in this chapter than any other place.

After this Paul departed from Athens and went to Corinth. There he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all the Jews to depart from Rome. Paul approached them, and because he worked at the same trade, he stayed with them and worked with them (for they were tentmakers by trade).

We learn here that Priscilla and her husband were tentmakers, like Paul. They had a family business, as most businesses were in those days. Women either farmed with their husbands or worked alongside them in a business. Aquila and Priscilla were new in Corinth, just as Paul was, because Aquila had been forced out of Italy when Emperor Claudius expelled all the Jews about 49 or 50 A.D. This couple was making their way in a new land, forced from their old home and business to begin anew.

Look at vv. 18-19 in the same chapter:

Paul, after staying many more days in Corinth, said farewell to the brothers and sailed away to Syria accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila. He had his hair cut off at Cenchrea because he had made a vow. When they reached Ephesus, Paul left Priscilla and Aquila behind there, but he himself went into the synagogue and addressed the Jews.

After some time Paul decided that God was leading him to leave Corinth, and he took Aquila and Priscilla with him. Apparently, they went to serve and follow God, starting over once again. But then he left them behind in Ephesus. That is sacrifice. They were willing to go with Paul and then willing to stay behind, starting over once again.

I am not very good at starting over. I like the comfort of what I know. I told you some weeks back that coming here on staff was a leap of faith because I was comfortable where I was. But as you wish means that we follow God’s call to serve even when we must sacrifice comfort or long-term relationships.

I think of the sacrifices missionaries make. They don’t just change churches, like I did, but they live like Priscilla, seeing home as the place where God leads.

We read another description of Priscilla in Rom. 16:3-4:

Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their own necks for my life. Not only I, but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them.

Prisca is a shortened form of the name Priscilla, or basically a nickname. At this point in their lives she and her husband were living in Rome. They had moved once again. But what I want you to notice here is that Paul praises them for risking their own necks to save his life. They were willing to die so that Paul could continue serving God. That is sacrifice!

Priscilla and her husband served sacrificially, just as Jesus did for us. We are inspired by love to serve as they did, and we are also motivated by knowing we are essential to the kingdom work of the church.

Knowing you are essential to the kingdom work of the church

In his letter to the believers in Corinth, Paul used the analogy of a physical body for people in the church. Each person who trusts Jesus becomes a part of that body, placed strategically by God to serve his kingdom. Look 1 Cor. 12:14-21:

For in fact the body is not a single member, but many. If the foot says, “Since I am not a hand, I am not part of the body,” it does not lose its membership in the body because of that. And if the ear says, “Since I am not an eye, I am not part of the body,” it does not lose its membership in the body because of that. If the whole body were an eye, what part would do the hearing? If the whole were an ear, what part would exercise the sense of smell? But as a matter of fact, God has placed each of the members in the body just as he decided. If they were all the same member, where would the body be? So now there are many members, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I do not need you,” nor in turn can the head say to the foot, “I do not need you.”

So often, people suggest that they aren’t important to the church because they aren’t gifted as others are. I hear women say, “I don’t have anything to give.” Paul showed how ridiculous that attitude is! How can a foot suggest that it’s not really a part of the body because it’s not a hand, or for the ear to say it’s not a part because it’s not an eye? Then, Paul pictured a body as all one big eye. One big eye! This is humorous, ladies! That body would be unable to hear or speak. What about a body of all one big ear? It would not be able to smell a thing!

God’s kingdom work depends on every part of the body functioning according to its design. We are each essential for God’s kingdom to be built and so we willingly serve sacrificially. But we also serve knowing we are privileged to be God’s stewards.

Knowing you are privileged to be God’s steward

We don’t use the word steward very often; we might use the word manager. My husband and I have a manager for our retirement funds, or the part we have left! That is what a steward is—someone who manages what belongs to someone else. A steward is entrusted by the owner to care for his money and possessions. It is a privilege to be so trusted!

God calls us stewards of our gifts in 1 Peter 4:10:

“Just as each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of the varied grace of God.”

We are privileged to be part of God’s kingdom work on earth. There is no greater purpose or work in life. As stewards, we are responsible to God to use our gifts and use them well. We can’t sit back and do nothing, hanging onto our gifts and saving them for some later time. The day will come when we stand before Jesus and give an account of how we have used what he has given us.

That brings us to our next point of sacrificial service. We must not only understand that we are essential to God’s kingdom work and that we are privileged as stewards, but we must also know that our lifelong purpose is to serve God. There is no retirement in God’s kingdom.

Knowing your lifelong purpose is to serve

That brings us to the story of Anna. We know very little about her. There are only three verses in the book of Luke which describe her in the temple when Mary and Joseph took baby Jesus there. Jewish law required a mother to be purified after her child was 40 days old, and it necessitated that the father bring a sacrifice for his firstborn. Anna was there when they went to do one or both of those things.

Look at Lk. 2:36-38:

There was also a prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old, having been married to her husband for seven years until his death. She had lived as a widow since then for eighty-four years. She never left the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. At that moment, she came up to them and began to give thanks to God and to speak about the child to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.

We see that Anna was a prophetess. As such God gave her insight into Jesus’ identity; she knew he was the promised Messiah. We also note that Anna was very old. Apparently the Greek here is not totally clear; it could mean that she was then 84 years old, as about half the translations I read suggest. You may have noticed that the translation I just read says that she was married seven years and a widow for 84 years. Several notes I read indicate that this is the more probable translation of the Greek. If that is correct, she would have been approximately 105 years old. And I would call that very old!

But she never quit serving God in all that time! Because of her life situation, she was able to give all of her time to God, which we may not be able to do. But we are to serve in some way for the rest of our lives as she did. We don’t reach 65 and say that it’s someone else’s turn to serve; we are here to serve a lifetime.

“As you wish” is our response inspired by love for God; it is a sacrificial response. It is also a response to the knowledge that all we have belongs to God.

Is a response to the knowledge that all that you have belongs to God

We specifically saw this when we read that we are stewards of our gifts. We don’t own them; God does. So the question becomes what has he given me? What do I have that really belongs to God?

First, our time belongs to God.

Your time

Anna had a lot of time on her hands and she used it for God. Those of you who are at home rather in the workplace each day have to answer for how you spend that time. It is not yours to use as you please, but it belongs to God. However he shows you to spend it, your answer should be “as you wish.”

Of course, we are all called to minister to family, but we are also all called to serve sacrificially in God’s kingdom apart from family. Model for your family the truth that life is about kingdom business and not simply about them by serving others. Take your children with you to serve. Show them how to pray for others and be hospitable with the people in your church body.

But what about those of you who spend your week in the workplace? Your life is more like Priscilla’s who was busy with a family business. How would God have you use your time at work? Priscilla met Paul there and ministered to him. Are there people around you each day whom God would have you love and serve? You are there for a reason. But you are also to serve in your church so that the body is fully functioning. God isn’t asking you to do the things that women in other life situations do. You are called to use your gifts in the body at the same time you are called to give out glimpses of godliness in your workplace by seeing it as part of your ministry.

“As you wish” is a response to knowing that all we have belongs to God; that includes our time and our resources.

Your resources

We already saw in Acts 18:1-3 that Paul stayed with Priscilla and her husband. They used their home for God’s kingdom by ministering to God’s apostle.

In Rom. 16:5, Paul said this about Priscilla and Aquila:

“Also greet the church in their house.”

In Rome they used their home as a house church. God had given it to them as a resource for others, and they were responsible to use it for the kingdom’s sake.

What resources do you have? What opportunities do you have? What stuff has God given you? What do you own that you could use for the kingdom?

Every year at this time we talk about our women’s Christmas Luncheon. It is a great opportunity to bring neighbors, friends, and co-workers who do not go to church. Here they will hear the good news about who Jesus really is, not simply a baby in a manger but Lord of the universe who wants to have a personal love relationship with them. We need women to step up and hostess tables just using the stuff God has already given them to decorate their own houses. This is a chance to use your treasures for God’s kingdom; this is an easy way to obey God’s command to show hospitality to strangers; this is a way of saying “as you wish” inspired by love for God. Please sign up outside tonight to serve this way.

The response “as you wish” understands that all we have belongs to God, not only our time and our resources, but also our gifts.

Your gifts

We see Priscilla use her gifts in Acts 18:24-26 after Paul left them in Ephesus.

Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, arrived in Ephesus. He was an eloquent speaker, well-versed in the scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and with great enthusiasm he spoke and taught accurately the facts about Jesus, although he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak out fearlessly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained the way of God to him more accurately.

Apparently, Apollos was a very gifted speaker who came to Ephesus and taught about Jesus, but he only knew what John the Baptist had said about him. Perhaps Apollos had left Israel before Jesus’ death and resurrection and never learned what had happened. After all, this was before the days of Fox News! So when Priscilla and her husband heard Apollos speak, they took him aside and privately taught him the rest of the story, as we might call it.

The fact that Priscilla was the primary teacher rather than Aquila is clear from the Greek because she is mentioned first. She was gifted by God to teach, and she focused on doing so, just as Anna served in her giftedness as a prophetess by telling others in the temple that Jesus was the one promised to redeem Israel.

God expects each of us to see our gifts as his steward. In order to do that, you need to know what your gifts are.

The Bible gives us lists of gifts that you may want to study. Just be cautious about the spiritual gifts tests out there. They are not always accurate and should only be used as a pointer—to suggest areas to try, not to confirm that you have certain gifts. The only way to confirm your gifts is to minister in those areas, ask mature believers what gifts they see in you, and watch for fruit. If you are confused about your gifts, talk to me. I would love to help you because of my own experience.

As a young adult I was simply muddling through ways to serve. I didn’t know anything about my gifts. So, I took my turn in the nursery; I worked at VBS; and I did some nursing home visitation. Serving in those places was a nightmare for me and for them! With the kids I was stressed and bored; at the nursing home I simply sat there in silence wondering what to say. Once I realized that I am to use the gifts God gave me, not just serve anywhere, and once I figured out what those gifts were, service became fun! It became easy to say to God, “As you wish.”

Will you respond to serve out of love for God? Will you sacrificially serve for the sake of God’s kingdom? Will you use your home, your possessions, your job, your time, your talents, your training, and your giftedness? Will you recognize Jesus as Lord of all that you have and say “as you wish”? If so, you will give forth glimpses of godliness that draw others to Jesus.

Related Topics: Spiritual Life, Discipleship, Character Study, Curriculum, Sacrifice, Women's Articles