Seeing Jesus as Your Helper, Not Vice Versa

Alan WrightBy Alan Wright9 Minutes

Excerpt taken from Seeing as Jesus Sees: How a New Perspective Can Defeat the Darkness and Awaken Joy by Alan Wright


As a young Christian who wanted to become more like Christ, I paid attention to preachers who highlighted humility and service. I took to heart the command to “do nothing from selfish ambition” and become more like Jesus, who “emptied himself” (Phil. 2:3, 7). I didn’t want to be like one of those disciples arguing about who was the greatest (see Luke 22:24) or like the snooty dinner guest who snagged the good seat at the table (see Luke 14:7–11). I longed to let go of my selfishness so that I could embrace the meaning of Jesus’ words, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

But here’s the problem—what if our noble desire to serve rather than be served keeps us from receiving what God wants to give? It took years of improved spiritual vision before I realized that too much of my “humility” was shame in disguise that was preventing me from gladly embracing the deepest blessings Jesus wanted to impart.

The journey to seeing myself with Jesus’ eyes required a new paradigm for me—a whole new way of welcoming the gifts of God into my life. I needed to learn to receive from Jesus. I needed to learn to see myself as someone Jesus yearned to bless.

Before we can give anything to others, we need to see how much Jesus yearns to give to us.

“Alan, What Do You Want?”

Years ago, a discerning elder in our church approached me and said he wanted to share with me the details of a dream that involved me and God. Our schedules were busy, and it took several weeks before we could get together. When we finally met, my curiosity was high.

“In the dream,” the elder shared, “God appeared to you and said, ‘Alan, what do you want?’”

“Wow. Interesting,” I responded. “Yes, go on. What happened next? What did I say?”

“That’s it,” he said. “That was the end of the dream.”

“That’s it?” I exclaimed. “That’s the whole dream?”

“Yep, that’s it.”

I mumbled and joked about how we didn’t need a long-standing appointment to share a one-sentence dream, and then I asked, “Well, what do you make of it?”

“I think the dream means just what it sounds like. I think the Lord wants to know what you want.”

I was speechless. I didn’t have a category for a response. This didn’t fit into my theology. I lived with the assumption that what I want is the last thing God is interested in. But then the elder reminded me of how the Lord “appeared to Solomon in a dream, and God said, ‘What do you want? Ask, and I will give it to you!’” (1 Kings 3:5 NLT).

“Pastor, I think God wants to know what you want,” he said. “What do you want?”

“Uh, I’m not sure I know what you mean,” I stammered.

“I mean, what do you want for your life and your ministry and your family? What do you want God to do in this church? What do you want God to do in the lives of the people you pastor? What do you want to see happen in the city? What blessings do you want God to pour out?”

“Well, I’ll need to think about it,” I said.

As I walked away, I came to a sobering realization—I didn’t really know what I wanted.

A few days later, I was on the phone with a discerning mentor, brilliant author Gordon Dalbey. I told him about the dream. “Gordon, help me understand what it means. Help me understand why, if God wants to know what I want, I’m not able to tell Him.”

As he always did in our telephone prayer times, Gordon began by saying, “Jesus, what do You have for Alan here? Jesus, show us.” He grew quiet for a few moments, just waiting as he said again, “Jesus, Jesus . . . show us.”

His next words came with life-altering power for me.

“Alan, God cares about what you want because He is your Father. It matters to Him. When I take my son out for ice cream, I want to know what he wants. I care whether he wants chocolate chip or butter pecan or rocky road. I also care about his dreams, his longings. I’m his father and I’m the leader, but because I love him, I really care about what he wants.”

My heart began stirring with wonder. Could it be possible that God cares about my desires because I’m His son, not just His servant?

Gordon continued, “Alan, because of your father’s alcoholism, there wasn’t much time to attend to your wants. In many alcoholic homes, the energy gets directed to ‘fixing’ the problem. When you grow up with dysfunction, it’s easy to start thinking that you exist to take care of other people, and it’s easy to lose touch with your own wants and needs.”

This was a paradigm-shifting revelation for me. The fact that I didn’t know what I wanted wasn’t a reflection of a deep, God-honoring selflessness—it was a symptom of shame.

Had I been muting my desires because I was magnanimous or because I felt guilty for wanting anything? What if my stifling of those desires was keeping me from God’s deeper blessings?

What if rejecting blessing isn’t a mark of maturity in the faith but the opposite?

I began understanding the deeper meaning of Jesus’ own description of His mission: “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve” (Matt. 20:28).

As odd and heretical as it sounds, when Jesus looks at you, what if He isn’t frustrated with your unwillingness to serve Him as much as with your resistance to letting Him serve you?

If it’s hard to imagine Jesus wanting to serve you, come, find your place around the table at the Last Supper. Come, gasp with the other disciples at Jesus’ act of service.

Alan Wright, Seeing as Jesus Sees: How a New Perspective Can Defeat the Darkness and Awaken Joy, Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group. ©2003. Used by permission of Baker Publisher Group.