When we take our gaze off of ourselves and place God in the center of the frame, fullness of life can finally be found. I wish I could tell you that my desire has always been to put God and other’s needs before my own, but it has not been quite so simple. Every day is a battle to change my perspective, to roll out of bed and re-set my focus on Jesus, to walk through the day in a manner honoring to Him. Like many things we learn in a journey with Christ, when we follow what He urges us to do the outcome is what is best, even if it’s not in the way we want it to be at that moment. Immense freedom can be found when we let go of our selfishness and allow our self-centered desires to fade into the background.

In central Asia, God shook up my world, and it wasn’t the first time He did. Our team was working adjacent to the nation’s capital city where a nearby landfill was located. A local missionary visited the landfill often, bringing food and gifts. He spoke to us of his early days when he first started working there and began developing relationships at the landfill, where he would drive down the potholed, dusty roads and would see people running and hiding because of the abuse they had faced in the past from people seeking to take advantage of them. Now, thanks to his persistence, patience, and love for these people, children came running when they saw his car slowly rolling towards the landfill. When we visited we found ourselves completely surrounded by faces with broad smiles before we could even open the car’s doors. We removed dozens of shoeboxes stored in the back of the car that had been carefully put together by generous people around the world and sent here with these children in mind. I recalled how when I was younger I had helped put one of these boxes together. Seeing the gifts from the other side and watching the children receive and open their gifts, full of gratitude and with pure joy, was such an honor. 

A few days later, we woke up early in the morning to go shopping for groceries and we went to the landfill once again. We brought the groceries to a nearby church and spent the next couple of hours preparing a popular, local dish of rice, vegetables, and beef. After this, we made our way to the landfill and brought food that was served to all who had need. As we served the food to the people around us, I noticed a young girl who was probably no older than thirteen. She was bringing food to everyone around her- from elders to young children- simply serving. There were some people fighting their way to the front of the line trying to make sure they received something to eat, but I was impressed by this young girl who served and put herself last. 

 

-Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.

Philippians 2:3

 

After finishing handing out the food, we proceeded to visit a small home on the edge of the dump where a woman was living with her two children. Her husband, the father of her daughters, had abandoned their family and they were struggling to feed themselves. On top of this, they were just days away from being removed from their home as they couldn’t afford rent. Our hearts were broken for this family and we prayed for them. As we walked towards the car verses from James 2 would not quit ringing in my head.

 

-If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? -James 2:15-16

 

We sat down in the car and I asked everyone if we could pool some money together among our group. There was enough cash on us to cover the family’s rent and for them to have money leftover. We made our way back down the dirt path to her house and handed her the money. She was incredibly thankful and her eyes filled with tears as she thanked us!

Life can be found when we die to ourselves and let Christ shine through us. It is the times when we serve and love those around us that we find true life. It is easy to be caught up in self-centeredness, but it is better to daily give up these comforts and surrender them to God so we can find a full life with Jesus.

-I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for –Galatians 2:20

 

 

Written by Josh Gustafson