Day 27 – Thanksgiving and Service

Mark 9:35; 2 Corinthians 4:5; Galatians 5:13; Philippians 4:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:16–18

I am a second, possibly third, career pastor. I felt called to ministry from a very early age, but when it was time to commit to that call, I ran like Jonah! I became a chemical engineer and worked for 3M for seven years (Scotch tape, Command strips . . . you know them). Then I worked alongside my lifelong friend in his family business as the general manager. During that time, God did some amazing work in my life and then brought the call back around to me. I had a family and a mortgage, so I began attending Asbury Theological Seminary while still working, taking advantage of their extended learning program online and their July/January intensive terms. A local church hired me as their discipleship pastor while I was still working through the slow one-class-at-a-time process. While I wouldn’t recommend it as the best way to get one’s master of divinity, it did have its advantages. I want to highlight two of them.

The first is that I could immediately apply what I was learning and what God was doing in me to my work in the church. The second is a bit harder to explain. I have many friends who say that their sequestered time in ­seminary was rich in community and fertile ground to prepare for ministry. However, they also said they had difficulty after graduation because they were never going to find the environment in which they had spent the last three to four years, an environment that was in some ways very focused on them.

That’s a long introduction to make this important point. The spiritual formation process can become self-absorbed and inwardly focused because it involves asking God to show us where we need to grow in knowledge, faith, love, forgiveness, etcetera. Preventing the process from becoming solely about us requires a two-­ingredient antidote—gratitude and service to others.

Being grateful in every situation, in the midst of mountaintop or desert circumstances, helps us keep a long-term and God-centered perspective on our lives and spiritual growth. Serving others regularly in tangible ways, with no expectation of reward or recognition, allows us to immediately apply what God is doing in us. It helps us remember that we love and serve him when we love and serve others. We are growing, maturing, and becoming more like Christ for his purposes in the world and the people around us, not for ourselves.

Abiding, obeying, giving thanks, and serving are ways we cooperate with God’s Spirit as he transforms us more and more into the image of Christ.

Closing Exercise

Share with your group members which of the two—giving thanks or serving others—is more natural for you. Challenge yourself and one another to give thanks each day for what God is doing in your life (even the hard things), and to find a way to serve someone in the next week in a practical way with kindness.