First Baptist Church

FBCW – “Body Builder” 5/08 

Spiritual Disciplines

This will be our next-to-last article on the subject of Spiritual Disciplines.  Next month we will focus on the Discipline of Stewardship and then move on to a new subject, but for now…the Discipline of Serving!In the 1860’s when the Pony Express was looking for riders, a San Francisco newspaper ran this ad: Wanted: Young skinny wiry fellows not over 18.  Must be expert riders willing to risk daily.  Orphans preferred.”  Why were these the ideal specs for would be mail carriers on horseback?  Because it was an extremely difficult, hardworking and dangerous job.  Riders needed to be as light as possible and be able to easily maneuver a horse through all kinds of situations and through every kind of terrain and do it at break-neck speeds.  A letter that cost $2.50 needed to be able to go from the Pony Express’s eastern border of St. Joseph Missouri to it’s most western destination of Sacramento, CA in a speedy 10 days with a rider expected to ride 70-100 miles a day.  This would be accomplished by changing horses every 15-20 minutes and keeping the weight down on the horse.  For this reason a rider carried very few provisions with him: a kit of flour, cornmeal and bacon and a medical pack with turpentine, borax and cream of tartar.  Dangers also included things like bad weather and Indian attacks.  However, despite the dangers and difficulties of the job, the Pony Express never had a shortage of riders.   Donald Whitney, in His book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life  that this study is based on says, “Like the Pony Express, serving God is not a job for the casually interested.  He asks for your life.  He asks for service to Him to become a priority, not a pastime.  He doesn’t want servers who will give Him the leftovers of their life’s commitments.  Serving isn’t a short-term responsibility either.”[1]  While serving our Savior, Jesus Christ, may be the noblest calling we can have, it also may not necessarily have the glitz and glamour we might expect.  In fact at times it may seem downright mundane.  There is a pastor I know of whose church threw a 50th anniversary party commemorating the 50 years of the church.  In doing so, they invited the original founder’s son to return and be the guest of honor.  This son had since gone onto become sort of a Christian celebrity as a very well-known church pastor, author and speaker.  Anyway, after the program was finished, there formed a long line of people who wanted to meet or talk with the guest of honor.  In the meantime, the church’s own pastor was seen joyfully folding up tables and chairs and putting them away; helping the cleaning crew while this other man was the one in the lime-light.  In my book, that is humble servitude.  That is what Jesus meant when he told the disciples they needed to humble themselves and wash each other’s feet.  Our service in ministry will not often be the big, splashy, in-the-public-eye kind; we won’t usually get our pictures in the paper, especially for things like serving in the nursery, running the sound and lights, folding bulletins, re-filling cards and sharpening pencils for the pews, or even visiting the sick or encouraging the faint-hearted.  In fact, we may not even receive a slap on the back or a “job well done” but we will be giving glory to God and in addition, storing up treasure for ourselves in heaven (Matt. 6:20)! Why Not Serve?Do you ever think about why someone would not serve or why someone would only sporadically serve?  Whitney believes it’s for two main reasons or more accurately, “sins” - the sins of ‘sloth’ and ‘pride’ and I believe he’s right.  If we don’t discipline ourselves in some way for service, it can be very easy to succumb to these sins and only serve occasionally or when it’s convenient for us to do so or when it will benefit us in someway.  In this sense, we are actually becoming self-serving instead of being oriented towards serving God or others.   Who should serve?The first question we want to ask is who is expected to serve?  Answer: Every Christian is expected to serve.  Hebrews 9:14 sets the tone when it tells us that for everyone for whom the blood of Christ has cleansed their conscience from dead works, they are to now serve the Living God.  Psalm 100:2 says, “Serve the Lord with gladness.”  This should be every Christians mantra; it should be apart of their mission or purpose statement!  Now, in order to accomplish serving the Lord with gladness, of course one needs the most important thing which the Hebrews passage speaks to, and that is to be a regenerated believer.  Before anyone can serve God, let alone do it with gladness, they must accept Jesus’ free grace-gift of salvation by repenting of their sins and placing their faith and trust in Him as the savior of those sins.  Furthermore, they must acknowledge that, yes, Jesus died on the cross in their place as punishment for their sins and because he resurrected from the dead three days later, this means they too will resurrect from the dead  and live for all eternity with Christ.  Only then can someone truly start serving God.  But what might be some other motivations for serving God?  Let us look briefly at six. 1.      Motivated by Obedience In Deuteronomy 13:4 Moses wrote, “You shall follow the Lord your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him.”  This verse is all about obedience to God, including the reason we serve Him.  Paul writes in Colossians 3:23-24 “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, 24knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.”  Here we see the command to work heartily for God but also the blessing; this is an additional motivator because we will “receive the reward of the inheritance.”  Isn’t that always the way?  Yes, we are commanded to serve Him but in the process He blesses us! 2.      Motivated by Gratitude Listen to what Samuel said in 1 Samuel 12:24 “Only fear the Lord and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you.”  Of course this side of the cross, we know of even greater things God has done for us by saving us from the guilt of our sin and the consequence of eternal death through the precious blood of His Son as well as the promise of eternal life with that same Son!  This should change the way we live each day in that now we have that eternal hope and therefore gratitude that we can express to God in service to Him.  Whenever you feel the fire in your soul going cold, call to mind those great and wonderful things He has done for you both in a spiritual as well as temporal sense here on this earth and then serve Him some more!  3.      Motivated by Gladness 

The Psalmist writes in Psalm 100:2 “Serve the Lord with gladness; Come before Him with joyful singing.”  Do you know what this psalm means?  Just what it says, we are to serve the Lord with glad and joyful hearts, not grudge filled or pouty ones!  What have I to be thankful for you ask?  Oh, how about God creating a way that you could be forgiven of your sins and spend all of eternity in fellowship with Him and other believers on a brand new, re-created and perfect earth with a brand new, re-created and perfect body?  How does that sound?  How about also living your life right now knowing that the worst that will ever happen to you will happen in this life which the Bible says is but a vapor but the best is still to come and will last forever?  Consider serving God to be a privilege, not a burden.

 4.      Motivated by Forgiveness, Not Guilt Consider Isaiah’s extraordinary vision of God in heaven with all of the seraphim flying around when one of them took a burning coal held with tongs and touched it to the lips of a sinful and guilt ridden Isaiah telling him ““your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven.”  Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me (Is. 6:7-8)!””  Was Isaiah volunteering for service because he felt guilty?  No, because he felt the forgiveness of God!  The great English preacher  Charles Spurgeon said, “The heir of heaven serves his Lord simply out of gratitude; he has no salvation to gain, no heaven to lose;…now, out of love to the God who chose him, and who gave so great a price for his redemption, he desires to lay out himself entirely to his Master’s service.  O you who are seeking salvation by the works of the law, what a miserable life yours must be…The child of God works not for life, but from life; he does not work to be saved, he works because he is saved.”  We serve not to be forgiven, but because we have been forgiven.  5.      Motivated by Humility Jesus gave us the ultimate lesson in humble service when He washed the feet of His disciples.  Him a king, washing average, ordinary men’s feet!  12So when He had washed their feet, and taken His garments and reclined at the table again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13“You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. 14“If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15“For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. 16“Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him. 17“If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them (Jn. 13:12-17).”  There’s that blessing again!  Whitney says you need to ask yourself, “Can I serve my boss in a godly way even though I was passed up for a promotion that I thought I deserved?  Can I make others look good while not being concerned how I come off?  Can I minister to those whom God exalts and men praise and not be filled with envy?  Can I pray for the ministry of others even if mine is in the shadows?  Am I always weighing my service to see what I’ll get out of it?”[2]  Whitney continues, “By the power of the Holy Spirit we must reject self-righteous service as sinful motivation, and serve “in humility,” considering “others better” than ourselves (Phil. 2:3).”[3]  Remember, serving in humility will bring about Christ-likeness. 6.      Motivated by Love Paul writes in Galatians 5:13 “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”  Love should be at the root of all service.  I remember when I first started acting, I loved it so much I didn’t care if anyone ever paid me to act - I always just thought I would do it for free!  When you have that kind of a love for something, then that love will serve to fuel and energize you more than the energizer bunny!  You’ll be able to keep going and going and going…Christ was able to serve His Father and consequently all of us by going to the terrible cross because of His love; love for His Father as well as for you and me.  What motivation!  When we let our love for Christ overwhelm us and control us, then we stop living selfishly for ourselves and start living for Him who died for us and was raised again (see 2 Cor. 5:14-15).  It stands to reason that the more we love God (the first great command), the more we will desire to serve Him and the more we love others (the second greatest command), the more we will desire to serve others. Serving is Work!  Someone once sang, “I never promised you a rose garden…” and while God has given us many wonderfully great promises, He never said that serving would be easy.  Remember how Paul puts it in Ephesians 4:12 “for the equipping of the saints for the work of service (emphasis mine).”  He also wrote in Colossians 1:29 “For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me (emphasis mine).”  Notice also where we get our strength for serving…from the power of the Holy Spirit!Yes, service unto the Lord can be exhausting and even taxing, both physically and mentally, but it is also the most incredibly rewarding kind of service you will ever do.  As Jesus pointed out to the woman at the well in John 4, His food, that which strengthens and sustains Him, is to do the Father’s will.  This should be our food as well, to serve the Father in obedience.Lastly, service to the Lord is also enduring work.  Unlike many of the things we do, it is never in vain, it has lasting eternal consequences.  “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58).”  Who knows, you may never see some of the fruits of your service, but God does and He knows every second of service that you give to Him with a pure heart and you will be rewarded accordingly.  Listen to Hebrews 6:10 “For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints.”Your service to the Lord may be hard, difficult, wearying and even costly but it will never be for nothing as it will always be counted for God’s eternal kingdom.  Are you ready and willing to serve?      

[1] Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald S. Whitney, p. 116.

[2] paraphrased, p. 122.

[3] p. 122.