Many characteristics may define a Christian life. Many things may be signs that someone truly lives their faith in correspondence with the Gospel. In this reflection series, we’ll explore how different Scriptures emphasize service as a defining character trait of the Christian.
Service can be defined as what you do for something or someone. But in the Gospel context, service is much larger than that. Service, according to the teaching of Jesus, is a way of life. More than an aspect Christian character, it IS Christian character. In these reflections, we’ll discover five elements of service that please God.
- Serving with Obedience
- Serving with Strength
- Serving with Suffering
- Serving with Priorities
- Serving with Change
When it comes to serving people or doing good deeds, the old debate springs up if any truly selfless act exists. Most people acknowledge that behind every act of goodwill is always some self-serving motivation. As we do good things or serve others, motivation is always in question. If our motivation is for ourselves, we negate self-less service for others.
But God in Scripture demands selfless service from his followers. This makes us wonder: does God not understand to whom he is talking? Does he not understand our limited ability to do such things? The answer to this comes through the word of God, where we can see that God does know exactly to whom he is talking, and he fully understands our limited potential without him.
Service can usually be divided into two categories. On one side, you serve to gain something for yourself. On the other, you serve to pay what you owe.
Serving with the hopes of gaining something in return for the service is, at its core, selfish. The true motivation behind this has everything to do with you, rather than those you serve, making this so-called “charity” sinful at its core. Unfortunately, this is the outlook of many churchgoing Christians. Behind the façade of their busy “service” schedule is the desire to ultimately cash in on all of the good deeds for future rewards. Going to church is a way to gain points. Sharing the Gospel with people on the street gains points. Opening the door for a co-worker gains points. Regardless of the method, selfishness and self-centeredness lurk behind each righteous deed. Serving God in this way has nothing to do with God at all. In all honesty, God is simply the man at the carnival stand who cashes in your tickets for stuffed animals and goofy pens.
Serving to pay a debt comes with entirely different motivation. Serving because we expect something in return allows us to occupy the center of all of our deeds for others. However, serving because you are in debt puts the focus on the one you are serving, rather than on you. Awareness that you are heavily indebted to someone adjusts the heart and soul into “payback” mode. For example, if someone went two hours out of their way to help you on the side of the road because your car broke down, you would naturally have a desire to do something, big or small, to thank them for their assistance and effort. The most effective way to feel love is to give it. The most powerful motivation to serve is to receive outrageous mercy and love.
In Psalm 62, repeatedly the psalmist refers to God as a “rock” and a “fortress.” The psalmist repeats that in God alone are safety, strength and hope. The psalmist has clearly experienced the personal, tangible power and mercy of God, and stands boldly upon this foundation. It is clear to the writer that it was not in his own strength that he was serving God, and it was not as a result of his strength that he was so cared for and protected. This individual understood that the true strength came from one place alone.
Each Sunday Christians pour into churches around the world under the banner of Christ. The question that lies at the foundation of this fact is, “Why?”
For some, perhaps, this devotion is motivated by hope of future reward or praise. Going to church is simply a requirement by which to garner favor with God and admittance into heaven. But the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, indeed the whole body of the Scriptures, shows that no one person can ever do enough to justify admittance into heaven. Nor can we receive any righteous reward out of human effort. The truth is that we are ultimately and completely justified only by the perfect sacrifice. Only by his wounds, his selfless service, are we completely healed. Serving God can never stem from a desire to earn our reward or our glory. Serving God the way that Jesus preached is by God alone and for God alone. It is in Jesus we find a reason to serve. It is in his life that we find the strength to serve.