The Editor’s Desk by Shawn McMullen
Many years ago I found myself sitting in a doctor’s office listening to an alarming report on my physical health. An episode of heart palpitations led to an echocardiogram, which led to a stress test, which led to my cardiologist’s office.
“We can’t be sure,” the doctor began, “but I’m afraid you might have sustained some damage to your heart. I see a suspicious area on your X-ray. We can’t know for sure until we perform a heart catheterization.”
The procedure was scheduled and for the next several days I wrestled with anxiety over the test and its potential conclusions. I prayed quite a bit, too.
It was a delicate and thorough process. My heart catheterization explored the innermost workings of my physical body in an attempt to assess my condition.
In a spiritual sense, the Christian must subject himself to a thorough examination of his heart en route to becoming a servant. King David willingly submitted to such an examination when he prayed, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts” (Psalm 139:23).
My heart exam searched for flaws in my circulatory system—blockages in my arteries and damaged tissue in my heart. But what does a Christian servant’s heart exam seek to uncover? Paul gives us a clue in Philippians 2.
Selflessness. The apostle wrote, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped” (vv. 5, 6). Although he is God, Jesus Christ didn’t attempt to cling to his divine status. I can’t imagine what he gave up in the incarnation, but he set an example for all servants by willingly relinquishing whatever was necessary to serve others.
Intentionality. “But made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness” (v. 7). Jesus didn’t passively become nothing in order to serve; he made himself nothing. He was in charge. He took the initiative. Christian servants today follow his example by deliberately considering others better than themselves (v. 3).
Humility. “And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (v. 8). As much as Jesus may have wished there were another way to save us (see Matthew 26:36-39), he humbly submitted to the most excruciating punishment to pay for our sins. Following their Lord’s example, today’s Christian servants place themselves at the end of the procession in their service to humankind. No task is too humbling, no service too menial.
Exaltation. As a result of Christ’s sacrificial service, “God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name” (v. 9). This is more a result than a condition, but still it exposes the state of the servant’s heart. “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5). “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up” (James 4:10).
Thankfully my heart catheterization showed no damage and I was given a clean bill of health. I continue to thank the Lord for that. And as the Great Physician examines my heart today, I pray that he, too, will be pleased with the results.