Is the Discipline of Service Working in You?
Principle Scriptures on the Discipline of Christian Service: Deuteronomy 6:13; Psalm 100:2; Matthew 20:27-28; John 13:1-17; Romans 12:1-31; 1 Corinthians 4:1-2; 2 Corinthians 5:14-15; Ephesians 4:9-13; Hebrews 9:14; 1 Peter 2:16; 4:10.
Here is how you can find out. Take a careful look at this Discipline of Service from God's most precious Word by examining your life and the passages above. Now ask yourself:
- How do I exhibit a life of daily Service to God and others?
- How can I develop the willingness to be a more disciplined person and realize I have a call to serve?
- What blocks the willingness to Serve from working and being exhibited in me?
- How can I initiate Service, and discipline myself to carry it out?
- What can I do to make Service function better, stronger, and faster, even in times of uncertainty and stress?
- Here are positive examples from Scripture: 1 Sam. 12:24; Rom. 1:2; 1 Cor. 3:5-9; Gal. 5:13-15; Phil 2:1-4; 1 Thess. 1:2-8; 4:9-10; Titus 1:1
- Here are negative examples from Scripture: Deut. 7:1-6; Luke 10:38-42; 12:45-47; Gal. 4:8-11; James 2:26
The Discipline of Service means we are committed to serving others as Jesus called and exemplified. Our service is a response as we look at what we do. This is not about salvation; it is about our response to God. This is about duty; it is about allowing our love for the Lord to backwash us, that is, to flow in us from Him and then to others around us. Service builds and prepares us to be stronger in character and in fulfilling our responsibility for His Kingdom. Service also nurtures and strengthens us as a means of grace; as we grow, we serve. The more we serve, the more Christ-like we become. This is about using the best of what God has given to us, being obedient to Him, and serving Him. We are all called to serve, not as just pastors or Christian professionals, but as our relationship with Christ is woven into all that we do in life.
What Service is not: apathy, indifference, a backslidden mentality (a lack of concern and involvement), or just plain laziness. All of these are the direct opposites of God's call for us. It is the mindset of I don't care! Service should not be an activity we do because of guilt or because it is compulsory, or our caring nothing about others, ministry, spiritual growth, or what God wants of us. This would be a misconception of the magnitude of His incredible gifts and His grace to us. And, as a result, we could become lukewarm, disinterested, and/or non-committal! Or else, we would serve with a grudging attitude or with complaining, something that can be caused by being over-worked and over-whelmed from all the stresses and struggles in life-school, work, family, friends, media, and such, even ministry to the point of shrugging our shoulders and giving up. It can be caused by the lack of willingness to move forward in our spiritual formation, perhaps because of fear of what may be ahead or a lack of trust in God, and then even discouraging others from doing so, too! It can be just laziness, being a "slacker," and not wanting to be convicted or have concern because we do not want to be moved ahead or be involved. All of this comes because we do not realize that God has a plan or we cannot or will not take hold of His promises and call for our daily lives (Psalm 84:10; Isa. 6:6-8; Matt. 13:25-26; John 13:12-16; Hosea 13:6; Rom. 13; Eph. 1:13-14; James 5:11-20; 1 John 4: 7-8; Rev. 3:1-6; 14-18).
There is a danger for the Christian to sit in a pew, learn all that he/she can, take comfort in that knowledge, but never do anything with it. Thus, we become "fat sheep, who are not exercising our precepts from Him to serve Him. This is the church that refuses to evangelize, and the Christians who refuse to share their faith, or model Christ on Mondays as well as Sundays. Be aware that these will be harshly judged; they are no better than the Pharisees (Hos.6:6; Mica. 6:6-8; Matt. 12 9-14; James 1:21-27)! The proof test is this: do you use people, or do you serve them? Do you just gather information, or do you apply it? If you think this does not apply to you, consider that if you are not helping or being a part of a solution of growing in Christ and helping others do so too, then you are in apathy, or maybe have a skewed entitlement mentality!
How can we Practice this Discipline? The key is to realize that this is not a burden or a chore we must do. It is a response from our love and gratitude, and in humility. It is our Fruit and character in action. And, it is a discipline because it is not something we are to do occasionally or when it is convenient. When there is an opportunity, we jump in. And, we are open for opportunities on a regular basis.
What happens when we do not practice this discipline? We will remain within ourselves, closed off to the opportunities and call Christ has given us. Thus, we miss out on so much; our faults will end up resounding into eternity rather than our faith in action. We have to be careful to watch our attitude and composure. Our bad experiences can be like a prison, keeping us within the bars we have made from fear, anxiety, and stress. Such a prison prevents our being stretched or experiencing any growth from learning, and therefore preventing us from taking what we have been through and making it into motivation and fuel to serve God and others-that sweet and productive service. Having persevered in the past, we are able to persevere in the future. The key is to hold on even when we do not see any handles to grasp. When we hold on to Him and Him alone, Christ will reward and keep us, and we will be victorious! When we feel weak, we still have His strength, and our faith and resolve to continue to grow our faith will become a mighty pillar that others can look to as an example and encouragement. We are His example to others; even at our lowest, we can excel for His highest. Let us understand what He has done for us so we can do our best to be faithful even in times of pressures, waiting, and uncertainty (Rev. 3: 7-13).
- How would you define the Discipline of Service? Are you a person who desires to give it all to our Lord? If not, why not?
- What role does Service play in your relationships with church members, friends, coworkers, and family?
- What is the cost to your life personally and to the people around you when you refuse to Serve Christ or others?
- What happens when your church leaders refuse to Serve, so their position is just for power and control for their will, not for God's Will?
- What are some of the self-will that you need to give over to God so you can follow Him and live not just to yourself but to serve others with your time, talents, and treasures?
- When have you exercised Service the most? What is the difference between Service and apathy? What causes Christians to be apathetic or have an entitlement mentality?
- In what situation did you fail to Serve when you should have? If someone wrote a one-sentence summary of your life, what would it say?
- What are the benefits to Christ when you Serve? How can the Discipline of Service help you gain happiness apart from accomplishing your own will or seeking what you want?
- What would real, authentic Service look like in your life? How about in your church?
- What issue is in your life that would improve with more Service? How can this Discipline of Service help reveal the motives of your heart?
- How can this Discipline of Service enable you to receive Jesus, not just as Savior, but as Lord, so He can empower you? How can you receive His work in you and become His worker for others?
- Think through the steps that you need to take to put Service into action in a specific instance. For example, how can you use this Discipline of Service to improve your church? Think of an opportunity that may fit your Spiritual gifts or talents. How much time are you willing to set aside each week for the Lord and His needs that can be done through you? When will you do it? Remember, this is a discipline, and we have to keep at it!
When Jesus took a towel to wash His disciples' feet, He completely redefined what leadership and service are. He made the point that they are not about pride or position in the world, but rather our position in Him. A bowl and towel would be perfect because they represent service, as our ultimate Server, Christ, washed His disciple's feet. Christ came to serve to exemplify service. True service is a response, just as our Lord demonstrated. It comes from our gratitude in realizing who Christ is, what He has shown us we can do, and our opportunities and our response in gladness (Mat 20:27-28; Luke 22:27; John 12:25-26; 13:2-5; Phil 2:1-4).
It is all about gratitude. It is what Jesus has done for me so I can ask the question what can I do for Him? and, What would Jesus have me do in character, Fruit, hands on application, or even getting my hands dirty to do what I would not normally desire to do? How much impact has your Christian faith had in your relationships with others and the work you do? What about in the world outside of the church? These questions will help you determine to what extent Christ is real and working in you. In addition, you can conclude to what capacity of service you have engaged and what is missing. The way we live our life in response to what Christ has done for us is the key to living as a Christian. Service does not save us, of course; it is a fruit of our obedience.
Consider the Apostle Paul's depiction of himself as a bondservant (Rom. 1:1; 9:3)! This was the lowest form of a slave in Greek times, totally at the master's disposal and even expendable. An indentured servant, instead of leaving when he/she gained freedom, could decide to stay with the master and serve him. This meant total, surrendered devotion. The slave/disciple of the Lord has a will that has been sacrificed to God's will and thus is totally at the disposal of our Lord. For us, this refers to being a sacrifice and extending mercy to others, and is a part of our worship to Christ, part of who we are and must be. Keep in mind, Paul's slavery was his freedom (Gal. 1:15; 2:20)!His title was Apostle, which means "one who is sent with authority," and in Paul's case, by the Holy Spirit.Paul's driving force was not his personality or position, but his being separated for Christ's service. If we focus only upon ourselves, we will fail terribly. We are called to be imitators of our Lord in character and in service, as a disciple, one who learns and applies what he/she learns. In the Bible, the word servant means one who waits on tables (versus a slave.) This is where we get our word for deacon. A deacon is called and ordained to serve, and to train and motivate others in their church to do so too, but as Christians, we are all called to serve in some way, shape, or form (Acts 6:1-6; Rom. 12:7; Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 2:8-3:13; 4:6).
The apostles, many of the early Christians, and even many Christians today lose their lives in service to our Lord! How much does service mean to you? What is your devotion to the One who saved you for eternity? What does the person around you who needs your help and care mean to you? This is all about our willingness to set aside time to find our gifts and use them for Him. Make sure you are not a pew-sitter, sleeping away your faith and the precious gift of grace.
Can We get God to Love us More if we Serve Him More?
We cannot! Service and the Discipline of Service is not about what we get; it is what we have already been given and what we will do with it. Jesus said He did not come to be served but to serve! Seems like a strange answer, that we are servants who consider obedience the way to reach perfection. It is not possible to please God by our deeds. We earn nothing for doing what we are required to do; our merit is the great gift of grace counteracting the uncountable sins and demerits we have accumulated. Jesus showed us how as He submitted; He alone is a profitable servant taking pleasure in pleasing God, so we serve out of gratitude and not to earn anything. We can bring nothing to the cross; we cling to it by His merits only and serve out of a response to what He has done for us. We need to see the joy in serving Him out of gratitude and delight, not just out of duty or obedience. Our obedience is motivated by what we have already have gained and have, not to get more. He does not owe us anything, yet He rewards us abundantly.
To be like Christ, we must serve as He taught and showed us. The key to being a good servant with good service is to keep our eyes on Christ-not on the whims of our hearts, or the wiles of the world, or even what other Christians may say and preach. It is upon Him only that our eyes should be focused. This will enable us to use the best of our talents, gifts, and abilities God has given to us so we can be obedient to Him and better serve Him.
The Discipline of Service is an Aspect of Hospitality
How is your service? Are you chasing your desires or our Lord? The answer to these questions will determine what direction in life you go. We can either be a blessing to others or we can ignore them. However, we cannot be that blessing if we are not following Christ and taking heed of His example, His grace, and His love so we have the desire to respond. Otherwise, our own plans will fill that gap and will get the best of us. The sins of others and the sins of our heart will break us down and take us over unless we focus on Christ, His ways, and His path.
Hospitality in the Bible specifically refers to taking in travelers with a generous heart-not grudgingly or with complaining. In general, since we have Christ's love flowing in us, it should flow to others around us. This means we give preference to others, we look out for and look after one another, and we share with discernment what God has given us, including our family, home, finances, and food. We are to have an attitude of stewardship, aware that we do not own anything; we are merely the caretakers for God, the real owner. He desires that we share His stuff, and we comply out of reverence and gratitude to Him. Thus, as we come along side others, we are to welcome them and act out our faith in real and helpful kindness, generosity, and deeds. This includes providing assistance and lodging to fellow Christians, supporting those who are being persecuted, and helping out in our communities (Matt. 25:34-43; Luke 10:30-37; Rom. 12: 3-8, 13: 16:33; 1 Cor. 12:1-7; 1 Timothy 3:2; 5:10; Titus 1:8; Hebrews 13:2; 1 Pet. 4:1-11; 3 John 1:5-8).
The Discipline of Service is an Aspect of Leaning and Applying our Spiritual Gifts
We are called to use whatever means we can to practice our spiritual gifts and realize that the diversity we have is beneficial for one another. We are to be charitable and generous to others with what Christ has given us, and serve Him without being held back by fear or lack of time or of talents. As Christians, we are to typify both faith and reason so we exhibit the maturity needed to make wise decisions and have a purpose in life. This also includes directly caring for those in need, such as the sick, infirmed, and poor. However, some Christians will have a specific call and empowerment to do this. People in the world may be more concerned for their own needs and agendas than they are for God's clear doctrine and purpose, but as Christians, we are called to go beyond ourselves to serve others well (Titus 2). Kindness is the proof of authenticity (Rom. 2:1-4; 12:4-21; 16:1; 1 Cor. 12:7-11; Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:12-14; 1 John 3:16-23)!
God did not save us to be self-centered; He saved us to be His ambassadors wherever we are and whenever we go!
Remember, the Discipline of Service is not to please people, but to please God with all our heart! It is not about getting public opinion or people on our side; it is leaning on God's side (Eph 6:5)!