Categories
Articles Service

Seven Reasons to Serve (Part 3)

CONSISTENT WITH OUR DESIGN

Not only do we potentially represent and bring praise to God when we serve, but we live according to our Maker’s design. The various gifts and roles that God has given through the Spirit are “to prepare God’s people for works of service…” (Eph. 4:12) The idea that we were designed for service is reiterated in Ephesians 2:10: “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. (NLT, emphasis added). God has skillfully crafted each one of us like a poem or a work of art. The purpose for which we were so designed is bound up in relating to and serving God and people.  In that purpose, we find joy and meaning. Even when exhausted from serving, a deep sense of shalom, of wholeness and peace, invades our hearts. All humans, regardless of belief seem to experience joy in serving. This effect is borne out in psychological studies.

 “Performing random acts of kindness helps boost your psychological health by activating the release of dopamine, the feel-good neurotransmitter in the brain, often referred to as a “helper’s high” This is based on the theory that giving produces endorphins in the brain that mimic a morphine high. Simply being motivated by generosity can benefit you as much as it does those receiving your help.”[i]

The universality of this experience indicates that our nature as image-bearers of God, regardless of whether we acknowledge him or not, thrives when we act like him in serving and giving of ourselves.  We may wrestle with knowing the specific work our Master Craftsman has fashioned us for but even in the ambiguity, we experience the adventure of walking with God into various kinds of service. We enjoy a sense of purpose consistent with God’s plan.

GROWTH

This sense of joy and purpose however isn’t constant. Invariably, struggles arise beyond our capabilities when we serve God and people. For example, during the Mexico mission trip, communication in a non-native language presented a formidable barrier to sharing God’s love with the orphans. However, he used the “loaves and fish” I could offer: high school Spanish from many years past, enjoyment of soccer, and a desire to love the children. My faith grew with each encounter as God in each moment of need imparted ideas to convey his delight in them. While cleaning the outside windows of a children’s home, the children returned from school. A little boy climbed onto the couch in front of my wiping and put his face on the glass. I smiled and sprayed the Windex at his face. He giggled then moved to another spot on the couch which I also then sprayed. It quickly became a game of Windex tag while he dodged and I chased with both of us laughing with delight. I realized at that moment that God did not need much more from me than to show up. He would find a way for me to communicate his love to those children. Later that same week after providing repairs on a different children’s home, the schedule provided time to play with the children. My husband and children on the trip found ourselves on the soccer field with four middle school boys. We just stared at each other on the field for a brief moment. Then I said questioningly, “Mundial Copa?” The mission trip took place during the year of the Men’s World Cup Soccer. I was trying to ask if they wanted to play soccer like in the world cup tournament. They giggled but nodded yes. I understood why they giggled later when my son translated that I had said “Cup World.” Then I attempted, “cuatro v. cuatro?” I was trying to say we’ll play four against four. To which they miraculously understood and nodded. We then began to play soccer with them for the next hour. My children, who had the privilege of being well trained in soccer earned their respect. I think they just enjoyed my husband and I’s willingness to run and play with them and could sense our shared enjoyment of the game. I experienced great joy in trying to love and serve that week, but the enduring lesson of growth for me was that God will give us what we need in each moment whenever we try to serve.  “The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it” (I Thess. 5:24).  When we experience firsthand, God’s empowering service, and his ability which overcomes our limited natural abilities, faith in Him deepens and we grow in maturity. 

 REWARD

In addition to growing our faith, God will reward us for ministry.  After washing the disciple’s dirty, dust-caked feet, Jesus promised “you will be blessed” (John 13:17) if you do these things. One blessing previously mentioned is the sense of shalom that comes from living consistent with our design to serve. Another blessing is the realization that we have played a role in representing our Father well, resulting in praise to him. We are co-workers with God (1Cor.3:9). To experience his presence and empowering help while serving also feeds our hearts. When we serve others we enjoy the reward of self-forgetfulness. Yes, it is a great blessing to turn my attention away from ourselves and to focus on another person. Some days it is the best lifeline for our sad souls. In the middle of the pandemic where fear and discouragement threatened to overwhelm, God’s Spirit prompted me to call or text at least one other person each day. When I obeyed, such a small act of concern for another personally lifted my spirits.

Although I have listed many rewards for serving, God promises more. Jesus assured, “My father will honor the one who serves me” (John 12:26).   Paul reminded the Ephesians: “Serve wholeheartedly as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free” (6:7). To the servants who invest their talents well, the master will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matt. 25:21, 23). In addition to praise and honor from God, we “will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward” (Col. 3:24). What this inheritance will be is not specifically clear. We have a few descriptions. After receiving praise from God, we are told that as a result of our faithfulness “in a few things”, God will “put us in charge of many things.” We are then invited to share in the Master’s happiness (Matt. 25:21, 23).  We also know this inheritance, “kept in heaven” for us, will never perish, spoil or fade (1 Pet. 1:4). 

CONCLUSION

            When we feel uninspired or weary, when we’ve forgotten the great gifts of forgiveness and every spiritual blessing, and when we’re tempted to give in to selfishness, recalling and reflecting on these biblical reasons can re-energize and once again motivate us to “always give ourselves fully to the work of the Lord because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:58).


[i] https://www.medicaldaily.com/random-acts-kindness-sweet-emotion-helping-others-dopamine-levels-383563 accessed Nov. 23, 2020.

Categories
Articles Service

Seven Reasons to Serve (Part 2)

LOGIC


In Romans 12:1 Paul urges us “in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is your spiritual service of worship.” The word ‘spiritual’ is translated from the Greek word, logikos, and can be understood as logical or reasonable. ‘Bodies’ encompasses the complete person. God’s mercy, in sending his Son to die on the cross, saves us from what we deserve: death and punishment and instead gives life and forgiveness. When the chasm between what we deserve and what God has done for us is understood, the logical response is to offer him service, to offer ourselves and our lives.

If someone gave me ten dollars, I would be grateful but if someone gave me a million, I would be speechless. I might not feel compelled to respond to the giver of ten dollars with anything but a grateful thank you. But I would feel compelled to express gratitude with my life to the million-dollar giver. God is the million-dollar giver. His mercy and grace fill the separation between what I deserve which is judgment and death, and what I receive: an intimate relationship with my Father God and every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realm. Therefore, Paul asserts that presenting our entire person to God for service is the logical response.

Service is Worship

Though a lifestyle of service seems small, God calls it worship. It is often small. Sometimes the service is no bigger than walking a recycling bin up a steep driveway or sending a text. However, in the words of Francis Schaeffer, “With God there are no little places.” And even in a small offering we are saying to God, this is a little thing you have asked but whatever, whenever, however you ask, yes of course. I’ll do anything for you, my merciful Father and Redeemer. I want to show how worthy you are by my actions.
In addition to the logic of worship, another logical reason to serve God is that everything we have comes from him anyway. David eloquently describes this when he and the people give to the building of the temple.

David praised the LORD in the presence of the whole assembly, saying, Praise be to you, LORD, the God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Yours, LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, LORD, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all.

Now, our God, we give you thanks and praise your glorious name. But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand. We are foreigners and strangers in your sight, as were all our ancestors. Our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope. LORD our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building you a temple for your Holy Name comes from your hand, and all of it belongs to you (I Chron. 29: 10-16 Emphasis added).

Paul succinctly expresses the same idea in two sentences: “He himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else” (Acts 17:25). “What do you have that you did not receive?” (I Cor. 4:7). Whether we serve with our time, money, or abilities, it all comes from him. Offering service as worship is a reasonable or logical response to the magnitude of who God is, what he has given, and done for us.

GRATITUDE

Similar to logic, gratitude is a reason to serve. While the logic of service originates primarily in our minds, gratitude springs from a deeper place in the heart. Logic says “serving God is rational, it makes sense in light of all he has done for me.” Gratitude wells up from the heart when we comprehend his blessings. Gratitude moves us. Hebrews 12:28 expresses the connection between gratitude and service; that gratitude for God’s enduring gifts will issue forth in service. “Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe” (NASB).

An Unshakeable Inheritance

According to this verse, the gift we have received is an unshakable kingdom. Earthquakes remind us that the world in which we are grounded is moving, able to be shaken and passing away. By contrast, the kingdom we have been given is steady, secure, eternal, and unshakeable. The author of Hebrews describes the kingdom as a “heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God…to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven” (Heb. 12:22-23).

Moreover, our permanent inheritance in Christ includes every spiritual blessing (Eph. 1:3) and eternal life (Rom. 6:23). This inheritance is one “that can never perish, spoil or fade-kept in heaven for you…” (1 Pet. 1:3). Moreover, we do not even have to try to grasp the magnitude of these gifts by ourselves. The Holy Spirit, another gift from God, helps us understand this inheritance. “What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God so that we may understand what God has freely given us” (1 Cor. 4:12). Meditating with the help of the Holy Spirit on our unalterable eternal heritage swells our heart with gratitude to the Giver of all good things and overflows into acts of service toward others for Him.


REPRESENTATION of GOD


While our future inheritance is established in heaven, we serve in the present time and space in the world. In serving, we accurately represent God in our current culture where his true nature and character is misunderstood. The essence of God is love (I John 4:8). The Bible defines love not as emotion but by action. “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down over lives for our brothers” (I John 3:16). When we lay down our lives to serve others, we are sacrificing on a small scale like Jesus on the cross. We are expressing love-love as a reflection of the nature of God. We resemble, even if dimly, our generous, giving, sacrificing God and his Son.

Our Service Can Result in Praise to God

Even more amazing is that our service can result in praise to God. “Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else” (2 Cor. 9:13). The immeasurable privilege to reflect the character of God to a watching and hurting world, and the knowledge that our service might result in praise to God, can encourage perseverance in the crosses we willingly bear to love like God.

(Next Post: Part Three: Design, Growth, Reward)



Categories
Articles Service

Seven Reasons to Serve (Part 1)

The remnant dust from the dry Mexican ground on my sandals reminded me of the heat, hard work, and intense schedule of my week-long mission trip. Typically, such discomforts trigger the question, “Why am I doing this?” But in Monterrey, Mexico, God’s majesty in the surrounding mountains and the faces of the orphans provided the answer. Yet in the day to day and ordinary ministry to our brothers and sisters in Christ, aging parents, young children, coworkers, neighbors, or the community at large, the question resurfaces. Particularly when my efforts are unnoticed or costly to my selfish agenda, the honest question, “why am I doing this?” plagues my heart.
Or in those times when my attempts to serve someone fail because of my stupidity or impatience or some other humbling reason: like the time I put dish detergent for the sink into the dishwasher of my friend in an attempt to help clear her sink of dishes while babysitting. Or today when I returned my elderly neighbor’s recycling up her steep driveway thinking the recycling truck had already emptied it.

When I realized my error, I then dragged her bin back down and across the street and retrieved our bin to meet at the bottom of our driveway. Then I understood why they use trucks to lift the bins. No easy dump and return. I had to lay my bin down and her bin down and lift it little by little using my hands to help things along. It was mostly paper thankfully until I got to the bottom where milk cartons and cat food containers rested. I was grateful at least that it was early morning and not too many people were witnessing this fiasco. Then along comes a neighbor and his wife walking on the sidewalk who stop and ask. Couldn’t they have just smiled politely and moved along? And then I realize I am going to have to explain to my husband why our recycling is mostly full two weeks before they come again. So much for anonymous failures.

These examples fall in the category of “Let No Good Deed Go Unpunished;” a category I have filled throughout a lifetime. In these moments when hands and feet are immersed in the mess of someone else, I need to remind myself why I am expending time, money, and energy on work that does not immediately and directly benefit me which is my default reason for doing anything. Seven biblical reasons have helped correct my tendency toward selfishness and revive a proper motivation to serve God and His people.


We serve because…..

OBEDIENCE: God tells us to serve.

LOGIC: It is the reasonable response to God’s mercy and grace.

GRATITUDE: We are grateful for what God has given and done for us.

REPRESENTATION: We reflect the heart of God to the world.

DESIGN: Our lives align with God’s plan for us.

GROWTH: Serving helps us grow in faith.

REWARD: God promises reward for service.


OBEDIENCE

Serving is a matter of obedience. We are commanded to serve God. “But be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you: to love the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to obey his commands, to hold fast to him and to serve him with all your heart and all your soul (Josh. 22:5 emphasis added). God, through his word, commands us. God, who spoke the mountains into existence, commands us to serve.
We are also commanded to serve people. “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather serve one another in love” (Gal. 5:13). God is the Ultimate Authority and in reality our Supreme Lord and Master, and if he is Lord in our hearts, we need no other reason but that he tells us to serve.

Yet, I hesitate to begin with this reason as if it was most important. Perhaps it is since God is who he is. He is God. And we are who we are, his creatures. For this reason, I should obey and serve. Obey is something I should do. This is the noise in my head and my will rebels at this thought. I think it is the word, should. It feels like a club or a whip. Should implies that I am not currently good enough to God; that he wants something more. It seems to contradict that my standing before God is solely and completely on the ground of the Cross of Jesus Christ who was already beaten and died in my place. Or maybe it is the word, obey. The word, obey, calls to mind images of a tyrant demanding compliance or an impersonal authority figure who will inflict harm for failures.

Whether these ideas are merely my distortions or widely held notions about obedience, the Bible paints a different emphasis. Overwhelmingly the word obedience is a relational concept. In the NIV translation, the word obedience is rarely translated without the word walk, as in “walking in obedience.” Other translations repeatedly convey the idea of obedience by using the phrase “walk in all his ways.” Contrary to the idea of God as an impersonal tyrant, walking in obedience is a rich relational term.

WALKING IN OBEDIENCE

Walking with another person always involves talking with them. God has spoken the big commands, the all-we-need-to-know commands, in his word. A walk through the Bible will result in much clarity about how to live. Yet, walking in obedience conveys the idea that each of us will need to daily listen for our specific marching orders. God in his word says to “love one another” (Jn. 13:34). Does that mean today I take my neighbor’s recycling and garbage cans back up her driveway and call a friend who is hurting? Yes, today it did. Does it mean we show up to the job which we may or may not enjoy to provide for a family? Does it mean to feed, clothe, read to, and discipline our children? God’s command to love has a million different expressions in each of our lives and we must walk closely with him to listen and obey.
Walking is also continuous. When we obey God for today, we are not done. Life and choices about what to do and how to serve are ever new and evolving. What it looks like to serve in each daily situation requires God’s regular input. After the recycling truck drove by, I had to once again choose what serving my neighbor entailed: leaving her recycling in her bin because she did not quite fill it up or make it right by emptying her bin into ours. Life is not static and neither is our obedient serving.
Walking in obedience to God is also dependent. When walking alone, we choose our path. Walking with God requires following his steps, his direction when we might want to go a different way. It requires keeping our eyes on him, remaining flexible and quick to turn when God’s direction changes.

Thus, one reason to serve is out of obedience to God. But we must be careful to understand biblical obedience is relational walking with him. We do not want to denigrate God to a caricature of his true reality as a distant, harsh tyrant; but to understand that even though he is God and all that word entails, he has revealed himself as He who wants to be with us to help and guide us and to walk with him in our service. Like a teenager however who forgets the basis for any command as the depth of a parent’s love, my heart still often rebels. Sometimes, the very thought of what I am supposed to do stimulates a desire not to do it. In that resolute willfulness, God graciously gives more reasons to serve and persuades that a lifestyle of serving is reasonable.

(Next post: More reasons to serve: Logic, Gratitude and Representation of God)