Through Jesus, we can escape our selfish desires and ambitions and live a life a service to Christ and others.
Donald W. Patterson
What does it mean to have “arrived” in life? For some, it’s finding that recognition, acclaim, respect, success, and contentment.
Not by earthly accomplishments
I have wasted way too much time finding out what it does not mean. I remember the backyard football games and fighting to “arrive” by desperately trying to win every game. I used to think that when I finally scored a touchdown in a peewee football game that I would “arrive.” After four years of hard work I did score, but I did not “arrive.” I wanted more. I thought if I could knock a homerun over the fence in Little League baseball that I would “arrive.” I did hit a homer when I was 12. It cleared the fence by two feet! (I used to think that was a lot.) But I still didn’t “arrive.” I wanted more.
I thought learning to drive would do it. Nope. Maybe getting a scholarship would do it. Nope. How about marriage? Not that either. When we had children and someone called me “Dad,” maybe then I would feel like I had “arrived.” It still eluded me. Would home ownership do it? Nope. How about more responsibility at work? Not there either.
The realization of countless wasted years and misspent moments saddens me.
By serving others
For a Christian, “arriving” is not seeing all of your self-centered ambitions come true. It’s coming to that place where you step off the path of selfish desire to find a whole new path with Jesus. “Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (John 12:25). You lose yourself in serving Christ and everyone else. In this way, you find your life when you lose it. In other words, human beings don’t “arrive” until they stop striving to arrive and start serving.
Being a servant changes everything. You no longer worry about how you look in the eyes of others. Instead, you’re always thinking about how you can make their lives better. You don’t want to be known as the best servant either. Exploited service is not service at all. Serving is truly considering others better than oneself. It is nipping in the bud every thought of how someone would return your love. It is selfless and self-forgetful at the core. It is freedom from all the ways that envy and ambition make you angry with others.
How could any of us ever hope to be this kind of selfless servant? It only happens by meeting Jesus. He has the power to show us how to serve while giving us the love that makes us want to.
Jesus “arrived” the day he was born. “Arriving” meant he would serve everyone. When you look at Jesus, you see love and feel love changing you from the inside out.
What does it mean to “arrive?” It means to find freedom in Christ from your selfish desires to live a life of joyful service to everyone else. Anyone can “arrive” on any day of their lives as long as their hearts are focused on Jesus. That’s what Jesus meant when he said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31,32).
Jesus doesn’t just free us from our sin and guilt. He also frees us from ourselves.
Donald Patterson, the South Central District president, is pastor at Holy Word, Austin, Texas.
Do you have a manuscript, idea, or story from your own life you’d like to share for use in Forward in Christ or on wels.net? Use our online form to share it to our editorial office for consideration.
Get inspirational stories, spiritual help, and synod news from Forward in Christ every month. Print and digital subscriptions are available from Northwestern Publishing House.
Author: Donald W. Patterson
Volume 103, Number 8
Issue: August 2016
Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2021
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us