Have you ever had the experience where you learn a particular truth, or are reminded of a particular truth, and then you seem to hear that very truth on the radio, in books, on television, and even in casual conversations? When I have such an experience I wonder if God is trying to tell me something, or whether it is just some random chance experience. Maybe such experiences can be explained by our minds attention being filtered to hear that particular truth, and so it just seems like we are hearing it is more frequently.
Whatever the case may be, I have recently been hearing a particular truth quite frequently. Here is just one random example in reading an article about art that surprised me with my frequently heard truth: “That the joyful life must be nourished by participation of the individual in a story larger than his own is everywhere a theme . . . The individual who makes a choice for life, and for others, finds joy in others and thus in life.” The truth I seem to be hearing frequently is the need to serve others in order to flourish as a human being.
Now you may think to yourself, “Wow Terry, you are just now coming to the realization of the fundamental need to serve others in order to live fully?” I can say that I realized the necessity of this truth and even preached and taught it over the years. For instance, I have often drew attention to passages like Ephesians where the apostle Paul says, “But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift . . . .And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (4:7, 11-13).
I have long recognized we cannot reach the fullness of Christ as individual Christians. We need the gifts Christ has given others and others need the gifts Christ has given us. Only together as brothers and sisters in Christ participating corporately can we mature into “the stature of the fullness of Christ.” What I think has changed for me personally is the appreciation of the necessity of others in my own spiritual growth.
What I mean is that while I acknowledged the need for the gifts of others, I looked at that need as for the congregation and not for myself. “Yes,” I would think to myself, “we need the gifts of all for the local congregation to grow.” What I have now come to understand is that I have up until recently still been a selfish Christian in my attitude about the gifts others. In other words, I had been thinking the congregation needs the gifts of others, but I do not need the gifts of others. I was looking at the congregation almost like a sick patient that needs my services and even the services of others to get well. My problem is that I never saw myself as the sick patient needing the services of others.
The sin of pride kept me from seeing that not only does the corporate body of Christ need the gifts of all to grow, I personally need the gifts of others to grow into the full stature of Christ. May we all run into this truth with ever increasing frequency.