A Prisoner Raises the “Serving Others” Bar

by Joe Plemon on April 28, 2014

Hurricane Rick / October 20, 2009
Creative Commons License photo credit: Ani Carrington

He was a political hot potato – a prisoner accused of organizing a coup to overthrow the government. Because of death threats by his enemies, a soldier was assigned to escort him to the court venue where he would stand trial. Part of the travel itinerary included passage via ship; it was on this leg of the trip where our prisoner was put to the test.

A massive storm overtook the ship, an unrelenting storm, a storm that caused even the most experienced crew members to lose heart. After fourteen days, our prisoner spoke up, encouraging the men and assuring that them that not a single life would be lost. The very next day, his prediction came true as the ship was propelled to an island and into a reef where the waves tore it apart. The soldier’s first inclination was to kill his prisoners lest they escape and he be held responsible, but he had learned to respect this prisoner and therefore barked the order to swim to shore.

It was here that the real test took place. Our prisoner – cold, miserable, and hungry – did not consider escaping. He instead did the unthinkable. He gathered sticks to build a fire.

Prisoner is a hero

Many of you have already surmised that our hero is the Apostle Paul. Why do I say that gathering sticks was his true test? Simple: in the direst of circumstances, he chose to serve others. Even though the island natives had already kindled a fire, Paul decided to do his part. Think about it: no one would have objected if he has simply sat close to the fire and soaked up the heat. But Paul wasn’t like that. Cold, weak and wet, he gathered sticks. In the rain. (Acts 28: 2-3).

Paul did many great things throughout his life. He was the original and ultimate missionary, performing miracles and starting many churches. He wrote more books of the New Testament than any other author. Yet, in my thinking, none of these grandiose accomplishments were greater than the day he gathered sticks. Why? Because the small deeds of life, the ones that earn us nothing, the ones that are often overlooked, are the deeds that tell the true character of a person.  When Paul gathered sticks, we learned who he really was.

How about me?

I confess that, had I been there, I probably would have been soaking up the heat from the fire. But I also confess that I am inspired by Paul. I may never change the world like Paul did, but I can choose to serve, even if the service seems insignificant.

Serving others is the route to success.

I have recently joined a group of bloggers who have accepted what is called the Yakezie Challenge. This group has come together (and continues to grow) under the inspiration of Financial Samurai. I love the philosophy: “write great content and promote (serve) others”. This simple motto is making huge differences with the blogging members; nearly all of the sites are growing like crazy! My guess is the ones who promote others the most are the ones who are growing the fastest…reminding me of these words from Jesus, “Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back–given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity.” from The Message, Luke 6:38

Final Thoughts

Paul was serving others when he gathered sticks. It was the right thing to do. But we are all in the service industry. Whether you run your own business or work for someone else, you will succeed if you serve and you probably won’t if you don’t.

Opportunities present themselves every day; usually in ways that appear insignificant. Most of the time, you would not be faulted by not stepping up. But the question is this, “How can I serve?”

Paul gathered sticks. What do you do?

This post has been included in the following Carnivals:

Carnival of Money Stories #49 hosted by Foreigner’s Finances

Christian Carnival 323 hosted by You Can’t Mean That


{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Arthur @ FinancialBondage.org April 9, 2010 at 10:59 am

Good post. We live in a society where putting others first is not the norm. Everyone is always looking out for number one. I admit I am guilty of this at times. I think it’s human nature, but our society does not help much to get us “other centered”. I have noticed that putting others first comes easier for women than men. This is an area I am always trying to improve on.


joeplemon April 9, 2010 at 7:35 pm

Yes, putting others first is not human nature. That is why serving is so rare. I haven’t really thought about the women-men comparison, but you make a good observation. Most women seem more compassionate and caring than most men.

Hey. I am trying to improve in serving others also. This post is a form of self therapy. 🙂


Jason @ Redeeming Riches April 12, 2010 at 9:35 am

Great post Joe! Thanks for the reminder of serving others…that’s what it’s all about – viewing others as greater than ourselves and doing what we can to love them and help them.


joeplemon April 13, 2010 at 7:56 am

Thanks for the good word. As I mentioned in my reply to Arthur, when I write about serving, I am really preaching to myself. My desire is to do as you say: view others as greater than myself. Sometimes I do pretty well; many times I could do much better.


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