What can we do for a God so generous that he died for us, created us, and gives us being? Shouldn’t we consider ourselves lucky to be able to repay something of what we owe him for his service toward us? I say these words “his service toward us” unwillingly; but the fact is that he did nothing else but serve us all the time he lived in this world. And yet we ask him again for favors and gifts? (Teresa of Avila: Third Mansions: Book One: Translation by Kavanaugh and Rodriguez)
Asking God for things is a normal and healthy part of spiritual life. But when our asking becomes consuming, and we quit serving, we cease to be like Jesus. Teresa says, “[H]e did nothing else but serve us all the time he lived in this world.”
The service of Jesus was not just for His time on earth but the eternal mindset of the Master: Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. (Luke 12.37). Jesus shows up unannounced whenever he choses. When he visits he will either find us prepared or unprepared. Giving or taking. Producing or consuming. Attentive or distracted. Our preparation determines the outcome of His visit. Those serving will be served.
Spiritual favors do not come through consuming and acquiring. Nor will they come through the next book, the next church program, the next four steps to spiritual growth, or by trying harder. They come on God’s timeline when we are alert in humility, love, and service. Sometimes the longer we wait “the better the service”. Note these stories from the Book of Luke:
Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and then when the parents brought in the child Jesus . . . Simeon took him in his arms and praised God”.
There was also a prophet, Anna . . . she was of a great age . . . She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. At that moment she came and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.
Simeon and Anna attentively practiced service and humility for years — then they received a visit from Jesus — then they spoke with power. I encourage you to quit trying so hard to earn spiritual favors or create some kind of spiritual ecstasy (corporate or individual). The only road to “ecstasy” is appropriate spiritual “self-care” and serving God and others in humility. Sooner or later Jesus will show up and serve the servants. I want that to be you.