We continue our reading of Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life together this week by turning our time and attention to the topic of Serving. If you’d like to know more about what we’re doing, you can read about it here: Will You Read Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life With Me? Last week, we discussed the discipline of evangelism. In that post, we discovered that few aspects of the Christian life generate more anxiety in the life of believers than sharing their faith. We also learned that few things overflow from a heart gripped by God’s grace, like telling others about it.
Each week I issue something similar to the following reminder: “No one,” Whitney said, “makes himself or herself acceptable to God by trying to emulate Jesus' example of service.” While Christ may be the perfect example of how to live, copying Jesus won’t save you; trusting in Him will. Practice the Spiritual Disciplines because they get you more of Jesus and help you become more like Him. Keep this in mind as you study and read this week.
“Serving God,” Whitney said, “ is not a job for the casually interested. It’s costly service. God asks for your life. He requires that service to Him become a priority, not a pastime. He doesn't want servants who offer Him the leftovers after their other commitments.” God places a high call upon the Christian’s life. He wants not parts and parcels but the whole. “When Christ calls a man,” Bonhoeffer said, “he bids him come and die.”
Images of faithful martyrs who put it all on the line are easy to conjure when reading that Christ lays claim to every part of your life. Most often, the daily dying a Christian does is to sin and selfishness. That’s not sexy work however. “We’re drawn to the appeal of service,” Whitney said, “when it holds out the promise of bold adventure, but repelled when it means—as it more often does—feeling banished to serve Christ in a dreary corner of a seemingly inconsequential place.” We want to “play the man” and charge into the fray sword drawn, ready for battle, seldom realizing that to play the man, most often means being faithful in the solitary posting away from the action. “Serving typically looks as unspectacular,” Whitney said, “as the practical needs it seeks to meet.”
This call to denial of self and conquering of the flesh are why serving God takes discipline. We don’t naturally drift towards it. There are occasions where serving flows from our love for God and others, but on the whole serving God requires discipline on our part. We must intentionally seek it. “Those who do,” Whitney said, “will find serving one of the most sure and practical means of growth in grace.”
Service is part of God’s plan for our becoming more like Jesus. He is at work in our service, not just in the tangible things we actually do, but deep in our hearts. You’ve probably heard that mission trips do far more to change the hearts of those who travel and serve, than those of the people on the receiving end. Something similar happens when we serve. God is at work within us.
“Of course, motives matter in the service we offer to God,” Whitney said. He identified six motives for our serving found in Scripture.
1. Obedience — God has called us to serve. At least one of our motivations towards service should spring from a desire to be obedient.
2. Gratitude — When the fire of service to God grows cold, consider what great things the Lord has done for you.
3. Gladness — God expects His servants to serve—not grudgingly, grimly, or glumly—but gladly.
4. Forgiveness not guilt — "The child of God,” Spurgeon said, “works not for life, but from life; he does not work to be saved, he works because he is saved." We work not to merit or earn God’s forgiveness, but because we’ve already been forgiven in Christ.
5. Humility — Christians aren’t to serve in order to receive the applause of men.
6. Love — No fuel for service burns longer and provides more energy than love. It will lead us to do things we wouldn’t do for money, but that serve others extremely well. A missionary to Africa put it like this, "But is a man to do nothing for Christ he does not like?...Liking or disliking has nothing to do with it. We have orders to 'Go' and we go. Love constrains us."
While service to God and others should spring forth from the redeemed heart unbidden and unplanned, more often than not effort will be required. “For most Christians,” Jerry White said, “serving requires conscious effort.”
Serving is part of what we do as Christians. At least it should be. I was reminded of this as I read this week, and what a great reminder it is. There is a direct link between our growth in godliness and our being of service to God and others. Those who give much of themselves in service, will have gained much in growth and maturation.
What does my level of serving say about my walk with Christ? Do I serve in a manner commensurate with the blessings and grace I have received from the Lord? Or do I take and take and take from the Lord without moving forward to serve? Do I serve only when it’s convenient?
These questions and a hundred like them challenged me to take a long hard look at what motivates me to serve, and I’m thankful for it.
"Fellowship with God,” A.W. Tozer said, “leads straight to obedience and good works. That is the divine order and it can never be reversed."
We will continue with the next chapter (chapter eight) of the book next Sunday. We’re in the middle of a series on Spiritual Disciplines, and would love for you to get the book and join in. Click here to see what we’ve covered so far.