Tuesday, August 28, 2012

“What do you want me to do for you?”

It was half-time. The Twins were playing the Tigers at Comerica Park in Detroit. The man went to the refreshment stand in order to purchase a pop for his handicapped friend, and a bottle of water for himself. Desiring to be good to his friend, as well as quench his own thirst, he had already decided to have a good attitude towards the significantly higher prices of soft drinks and water.

He was surprised at the refreshing attitude of the clerk at the counter, “What do you want me to do for you?”

It occurred to him that when people are willing to have an attitude of service, they are far more likely to be treated as a good customer!

Farmers can teach us much by a service approach to the food needs of people. For example, Psalm 126:4-6 demonstrates that the Israelites saw hope for aching hearts in captivity, when they related it to a farmer’s attitude, “Return our people from exile, Adonai, as streams fill vadis in the Negev. Those who sow in tears will reap with cries of joy. He who goes out weeping as he carries his sack of seed will come home with cries of joy as he carries his sheaves of grain.” (CJB)

Interestingly, a friend had just sent me an e-mail indicating that he had seen Jesus from a new light, as he responded to blind Bartimaeus when he used those very same words, “What do you want me to do for you?”

As I studied the 10th chapter of Mark to review the story, I was surprised that the Lord would remind me of a principle I have often seen in the Gospels: Jesus’ words to religious leaders were often followed by a miracle illustrating the same point!

Jesus actually used the same phrase, “What do you want me to do for you”, in addressing James and John, Zebedee’s sons, who had just asked to sit on his right and left hand in his coming glory!

Isn’t it ironic that they wanted a little favor – that of sitting on His right and left hand in the kingdom – when he was about ready to die as a seed in their perception of eternal life, and in preparation for an eternal kingdom! That is like asking for a pair of glasses when you cannot see at all!

Someone reminded me a few days later of the remarkable resemblance of the words of John F. Kennedy, in his inaugural address on Friday, January 20th, 1961, “Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.”

Jesus’ gentle reminder comes back, “What do you want me to do for you?” In fact, Jesus reminds us that a desire to be first, implies that we should be asking others how we can make them first. It is, after all, the “Golden Rule”.

The implication of this section of scripture is that people can be blind in more than one way! James and John were blind when it came to the real reasons for positions of trust. They were blind to Jesus’ ultimate mission – to pay the price of redemption, and save the world.

They would also demonstrate, with the other disciples, that they did not understand that physically blind people, like the rest of us, could be blind to their own attitudes that tend to surround handicaps. For example, Bartimaeus didn’t even treat Jesus as one who could actually do something about the problem.

So how does this apply to other areas of life? When facing any kind of a crisis, would it be good to view the Lord as the One who asks to serve us in our crisis? When running short of funds, does He not ask first how he can serve us, then shows us what is involved? When in an emotional crisis, is it not appropriate to tell him the whole story, and then allow Him to show us the way?

Crisis experiences are sometimes reflections of what is really going on in the background. We become frantic trying to fix the small problems that tend to keep arising. It can be like trying to tighten a misaligned nozzle on a hose, after the water is already turned on! Stop, turn the water off so as to care for the small problems, and the irritation goes away. That is so often the case in prayer. He longs to serve us, so that our lives are useful and not in total disarray.

The heart craves the satisfaction that only godly contentment can provide. It keeps relentlessly seeking our souls. Saint Augustine wrote, “Our hearts are only satisfied when they are satisfied with God.”

King David pursued many things passionately, including women, kingdoms, and power. His pursuit had its effect on succeeding generations, as borne out in his son, Solomon. His thirst was not quenched until he fell to his knees and admitted that he needed to passionately pursue the touch of God more than these things.

His thirst was not quenched until he was brought to the place of falling on his knees to admit the main need – the touch of God. John Wesley said that we should not “seek a ministry”, but rather the “fruit of a disciplined life”.

He writes in Psalm 63, “O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you, my soul thirsts for you.” When God is seen clearly, the hope that our world seems to promise comes into focus. “My soul longs for you,” writes David, “in a dry and weary land where there is no water.”

Jesus once said to anyone who would listen, “If anyone is thirsty, let them come to me and drink.” Generations of thirsting pilgrims have prayed that all would find their way to these waters: “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:19)