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The Spiritual Means, book by H. H. Pope Shenouda III

45- Conditions of the successful service

  

They perished in the service

Not each service is a spiritual means. There are those who perished in the field of service and fell and were troubled..

For example, the older son who did not rejoice for the return of his lost brother. He refused to enter the house and when his father came out and pleaded with him, he said to his father: Lo these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends... (Lk 1: 28-30 ).

He was in the service for many years, but still his will was different from his fathers will and his heart towards his brother was not pure.

St-Takla.org Image: Wheat ears صورة في موقع الأنبا تكلا: عيدان قمح، حنطة، سنابل القمح

St-Takla.org Image: Wheat ears.

صورة في موقع الأنبا تكلا: عيدان قمح، حنطة، سنابل القمح.

The sayings to the angels of the seven churches are another example.

Although they were shepherds of churches, the Lord said to one of them, You have a name that you are alive, but you are dead ( Rev 3:1 ) . And said to another, Because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot , I will spew you out of my mouth ( Rev 3:16) . And to a third , the Lord said, You have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent (Rev 2:4,5).

Others who were among the helpers of St Paul the Apostle, completely perished.

Those about whom he said: For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction... and whose glory is in their shame - who set their mind on earthly things, (Phil 3:18-19). Maybe one of those was Demas who forsook St. Paul, having loved this present world (2Tim 4:10). All these were lost, and others have fallen and repented.

The service was not the cause of their loss, but they forgot their spirituality in the field of the service, so they fell and some perished...

What then are the conditions of the spiritual service?

Love:

You love God, love the kingdom and love the people.

Love brings forth love. But if you serve and annoyance and weariness are involved, or if you feel obliged to give and serve without feeling joy, then do you think you will benefit spiritually?!

It happens sometimes that some people can start the service without having the correct spiritual goal, as we have discussed this issue before here on st-takla.org in other sections. But when they see the needs of those whom they serve and notice their pain and hardships, their hearts are touched by kindness and sympathy, so theyll serve them with a loving heart. This love is a result of the service. Love is intermingled with their service and hence teaches them to serve with feeling.

Some serve the poor and find that those who are in need turn to lying and stealing. Their requests involve tiring insistence and raised voice... So in turn, servants sometimes become fed up with them. They may even send them away and treat them cruelly...

As for the loving heart, it endures their troubles... Because love bears all things (1Cor 13:7).

So if you serve and feel that your nerves begin to tire, and you become angry and impatient with those who stir trouble, you should know that there is something inside you that needs to be treated and that the service has uncovered in you a defect that needs correcting...

Do not say that the fault is in the service, but it is in you...

Say to yourself: I must be more tolerant, more patient and bearing of others, no matter how wrong they are. My endurance will be an example for them to follow.

Or you may say: service showed me that those who are poor are not only in need of money to cover their needs but they are also in need of spiritual work to lead them to repentance, to know God and to behave correctly... And so you start a spiritual service with them so theyll benefit both materially and spiritually...

The same thing with problem students or those who do not keep order during meetings...

Thus, spiritual service requires endurance.

Endurance

Each service has troubles and each servant, as the Apostle said, will receive his own reward according to his own labour (1Cor 3:8). Our fathers the Apostles laboured much in their service. St Paul the Apostle says about his service and those who laboured with him: But in all things we commend ourselves ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in sleeplessness, in fastings... By honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report... (2Cor 6:4-8).

He also says: We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed (2Cor 4:8,9). And the Apostle endured many hardships, In labours more abundant..., but he endured all things and gained glorious crowns because of his endurance.

And as we refer to St Paul the Apostle, we also refer to many personalities in the Bible.

For example, the suffering endured by St John the Evangelist during his exile on the island of Patmos, where he wrote the Book of Revelation :I, John, both your brother and companion in tribulation (Rev 1:9), and also the Prophet Daniel who was cast into the den of lions (Dan 6), and the three youths who were cast into the burning fiery furnace (Dan 3). Yet, we should not forget the saying of the Lord Jesus Christ to His Disciples: Behold, I send you as sheep in the midst of wolves... They will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues. And you will be brought before governors and kings for My sake... And you will be hated by all for My names sake (Mt 10:12-22). The Apostles endured all things in patience.

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Perseverance gives the servant spiritual strength from God.

It gives him strength in hope so he would not despair. It also strengthens him in hope, believing that God will intervene and solve everything. He also acquires another virtue, which is to wait on the Lord, as the Psalmist said: Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say! (Ps 27:17). He also described his deep spiritual experience: My soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning (Ps 130). Another point which characterizes the successful service is :

Spirituality and depth.

Spirituality of the service

For many people, the service is just an activity that consumes all their energy; they are like a moving flame of production and work, but with no spirit. Such a service does not benefit you spiritually because God has no share in it... It is quite common for the dynamic activity to hinder the spiritual work.

You will find, for example, a Sunday School supervisor who has great energy in compiling programs and preparation books, arranging for servants meetings, youth-group meetings, looking after the library and the club, summer activities... But you ask him about his spiritual life, and he will respond that he has no time for it! His spiritual life is lukewarm and consequently his service becomes lukewarm. It becomes a giant collection of organizations, without spirit. It does not benefit his life and it does not benefit others.

The service turns into purely administrative matters.

This may also happen in areas of social service, the service of orphanages, old peoples homes, strangers and church committees... And in this administrative work, there are many discussions, arguments, noise and shouting. There could also be competition and partiality. The spirit of the servant gets lost in all this because the service did not contain any spiritual characteristics. God was not a partner in it. Prayer and applying the word of God did not take place.

Try then in any service you are involved in to keep away from routine and formalities and bring God into it. Let it have spiritual characteristics... Even in administrative tasks, let them have the spirituality of administration. This phrase needs a special topic to explain its details...

There is a big difference between a man of God when he administers and men of the world in their administration.

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Therefore, in your service, keep away from spiritual errors.

Keep away from ordering and prohibiting. Have the spirit of humility and good manners when addressing the young just as when you address the old. No matter how much authority you are given in the service, do not talk to people in a superior manner or become haughty. Do not let the spirit of control and domination enter your heart. Remember the Lords saying: ...He who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be abased, and he who humbles himself will be exalted (Mt 23:11). And also, ...The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many (Mt 20:28).

Therefore do not let the service make you lose your gentleness and humility.

If you find that the tone of your voice is getting loud and sharp in the service, beware and examine yourself. If you find that you talk about yourself and the great tasks that you do, beware also, lest the devil of vain glory gathers all that you have sowed in the service. If you look with despise to another, comparing his standard with yours, then you should know that pride has entered within you... Place before you the Apostles saying, Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you (1 Tim 4:16). Always tell yourself, I did not enter the service to fall into new sins but to grow spiritually!

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In the service, beware also of the Ego

Do not use the service as a means to boost your ego and dignity. You are a servant of the Lord, and so together with John the Baptist say, He must increase, but I must decrease (Jn 3:30). And also what was said in the Psalm, Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but to Your name give glory (Ps 115:1).

Beware of the Lords warning to the irresponsible shepherds who feed themselves (Ezek 34:8-10), and let your aim in the service be the kingdom of God and the salvation of people... and not the puffing up of your ego and your dignity.

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The service that is of benefit spiritually is the one in which you forget the word I..

The servant who forgets the word I also forgets his own comfort and his time. He does not seek praise or dignity and he does not mourn for the lack of them. He also prefers others to himself in all the matters of the service, as the Apostle said: ...In honour giving preference to one another (Rom 12:10). If the servant does this, he will be loved by all and at the same time, he will not lose his humility in the service...

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The service that is of benefit spiritually is also the one that is far from policies.

Many enter the service and after a while, neglect themselves and their spirituality and involve themselves in managing the service. They then clash with the church, the priest, the committee and all those who are involved. They start talking about the behaviour of others; what they do -the right and the wrong- but they tend to concentrate on the wrong! This in turn results in their continuous gossiping about others, judging and defaming others, and ultimately destroying others.

Yet the amazing thing is that they do all this in the disguise of defending the truth!

And in the name of defending the truth they fall into countless sins. Quarrels and divisions can also occur as a result, and in order to win their wars, they try to gain as many as possible on their side, to join in on the judgment and defamation. The atmosphere of the service becomes troubled, losing its spirituality, losing the spirit of love and losing gentleness and simplicity! Is all this for the sake of defending the truth?! Yet in all this, does anyone stop to ask himself : do I have the right to say that? Or, am I creating a spiritual atmosphere in which to defend the truth?! How many were lost and caused others to become lost, as a result of this negligence in the service!!

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To benefit spiritually, pay more attention to the positives and not to the negatives in your service.

Place before yourself the proverb that says: Instead of cursing the darkness, light a candle. Be an example for all and be certain that this, in itself, is a message and a service... You must know that positive work is constructive and will always remain. No one will criticize you for it, and in this way you will do harm to no one. As for being occupied with negative thoughts in the service, they will trouble your thoughts and your spirit and may lead you to the way of destruction and cause you to fall into many sins.

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It is then better for you not to serve, than to serve in a manner that causes you to fall into sin!

For in this case, you will become a stumbling-block for others, and the Lord said: Woe to him through whom offences come (Lk 17:1).


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