In the story of the woman at the well, the disciples leave Jesus sitting at a well in Samaria as they go off to buy food. Now, most attention and study usually goes to the Samaritan woman and not to the dialogue Jesus has with the disciples after she leaves. If you read the story too fast, you might miss an important lesson.
The disciples return with the food and try to give it to Jesus, and He gives them a most peculiar reply: “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”
The disciples are confused! They ask each other, “Who could have brought him food?” Then Jesus says, “The food that keeps me going is that I do the will of the One who sent me, finishing the work He started.” Huh?
Jesus implies here that He receives something from serving God. Isn’t that the opposite of what we generally assume? As a full-time pastor, I have seen many people go through difficult seasons of life: The loss of a job. The death of a loved one. Struggles in their marriage. People often make the decision to withdraw from the areas that they are serving in, in order to focus on “getting their lives in order.” They say, “I just need to take a break.” “I just need to focus on me for a little bit.”
So often, this is the beginning of the end. I see them withdraw from the community of faith. They stop being involved in a community group. Their attendance on Sunday mornings wanes. They stop serving in whatever ministries they have been serving in.
Now, I am not saying that there are not seasons of life to step out of a ministry you have been serving in, but many times when life is difficult this is actually the last thing you should do!
It’s a dangerous trap we can fall into, when we stop asking the question, “How can I serve God and others?” and start asking the question, “What about me? What about my needs?!?!” Then we become inwardly-focused instead of outwardly-focused. Are you feeling disconnected from your faith community? Are you depressed? Are you feeling like nobody cares about you? Perhaps what you need is not for your church to “feed you better,” but for you to “eat the food” God has placed in front of you — by serving others!
It’s an interesting paradox God has made. The ways of God always seem backwards. In His Kingdom, we receive by giving. This is not generally what any of us want to hear when we are feeling this way; but consider that perhaps it is exactly what we need to hear.
For example, the times in my marriage when I am the least happy and the least pleased with my wife are those times when I fall into the trap of the “What about me?” question. When I take my eyes off serving my wife and focus on how she is not meeting my needs, I am always left unhappy. No matter how good my wife is at serving me, when I am focused on what she isn’t doing, I will always find something wrong and will always be left wanting.
This idea is exactly the opposite of our normal, logical thinking, but over and over it proves true. The less I focus on myself and the more I focus on serving others, the more fulfilled I am. The more I focus on how my needs are not being met, the less happy I am, and the more I continue to look for even more ways that I am not being fulfilled.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:5-8)