The closing of a year and the beginning of a new one are opportune times for self-examination. Since our culture is so fast-paced, it’s easy to simply keep doing what we’ve always done without stopping to consider whether we need a course correction. This is true in almost every area of life but especially in the spiritual realm because we’re bombarded with all sorts of messages regarding what to believe, value, and pursue.
There is a tremendous contrast between what the world promotes and what God’s Word teaches. And the tragedy is that many Christians have been influenced more by culture than by Scripture, often without even realizing it. For instance, the world values power, prominence, and prestige, but Jesus said, “If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him” (John 12:26). It’s not the high-powered executive, celebrity, or prominent politician who receives honor in God’s eyes, but the Christian who lives for Christ and serves the Lord.
When Jesus’ disciples wanted places of prominence in His kingdom, He corrected them by saying, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant” (Matt. 20:25-26). This is the opposite of what our world promotes, but it should be the ambition of every believer—to serve the Lord in whatever manner, place, time, or position He chooses.
But what does it mean to serve God? We often think it only applies to pastors or missionaries or is limited to service within the church, but according to Colossians 3:23-24, it encompasses all of life: “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men ... . It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.” In the home, on the job, at school, in the neighborhood, or in church, we are called to serve God by obeying Him and serving others.
So the next question is, Why are we to serve God? First of all, we should consider it a privilege because of the greatness of the One we serve. He is our Creator and “the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light” (1 Tim. 6:15-16). We aren’t serving a cruel, heartless despot but a loving heavenly Father who sent His beloved Son to rescue us from the condemnation of sin (John 3:16). We join with the patriarchs, Job, Moses, David, the prophets, and the apostles, who all counted it an honor to serve the Most High God.
Second, we are to serve the Lord because we are following in Christ’s footsteps. Paul tells us to have the same attitude as Christ Jesus, “who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant” (Phil. 2:5-7). Jesus was first and foremost a servant of His Father because He never acted on His own initiative, doing only that which the Father told Him (John 8:28). But He also came to serve mankind by giving His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).
But what does it mean to serve God?
The third reason we should serve God is because it’s a prelude of what we will be doing for all eternity. In many ways, this earthly life is just a rehearsal for heaven because, according to the last chapter in the Bible, we will serve the Lord forever (Rev. 22:3). When we stand before Christ, He will evaluate our service, and if we’ve been faithful with the little He’s entrusted to us, He will entrust more to us in His kingdom (Matt. 25:21).
Fourth, we serve God out of love for Him and gratitude for our salvation. Service cannot earn our salvation but it should be our grateful response to our Savior. Instead of offering excuses or thinking of service as a burden or duty, it becomes a delight when our hearts are overflowing with love and gratitude for all God has done for us (Ps. 40:8).
How we go about serving the Lord varies from person to person because we are each uniquely created and gifted by God. And the way we serve also differs according to seasons of life. For instance, a young mother serves the Lord by caring for her children, but this changes as her children grow up. However, there is one thing that stays the same. We serve Christ by serving people. After Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, we might have expected Him to say, “Now you must wash My feet,” but instead He said, “You also ought to wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14).
Are you taking advantage of the opportunities God places before you to serve Him? Perhaps in the coming year you could commit to being alert to the doors of service God opens for you. Instead of quickly closing them because you don’t think you have adequate time, talent, or treasure, remember that being a willing and faithful servant of Almighty God is the highest possible calling in life. So don’t let the opportunities pass you by.
Charles F. Stanley
P.S. I truly hope that you have been blessed this past year through the ministry of In Touch. Our goal is to faithfully serve the Lord and His people through biblical teaching and encouragement. We are thankful for the privilege of serving you, and look forward to another fruitful year of service.