And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul
– Deuteronomy 10:12, NIV
There seems to be great focus in many churches on the concept and practice of “serving God”. This idea can take many forms. We can “serve God” by lending someone a hand when it’s needed, or by sharing our faith with a friend, or by giving time or money to a charity, or by volunteering to wash up the mugs after church coffee time, or by “being a good person”… These things are wonderful. But somehow I get the feeling that this isn’t the extent of what God wants when He calls us to serve Him.
I know so many people who consider Christianity to be all about being a good person, doing nice things. We should indeed aim to be good people, and do good things – but is there not infinitely more to our faith than just that? Should ‘good deeds’ be the focus of our faith, or should they be more of a by-product of a living relationship with our loving Creator?
God has instructed us to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with Him (Micah 6:8 NIV). I believe that the former two commands happen as a result of the latter: when we walk humbly with God, seeking Him and deliberately developing relationship with Him, He plants His mindsets and attitudes and desires within us, and we begin to act justly and love mercy: it becomes a part of who we are, an integral part of our personality. It seems to me that throughout the pages of Scripture the priority is that we as God’s people love Him and live our lives in response to His love, serving Him and living in a way that pleases Him because of our love for Him.
I have visited churches whose services and sermons do not seem to mention relationship with God at all, and focus entirely on work – being morally upright, giving and doing. Why take the good deeds and the moral lifestyle out of the context of loving God?! Good works are most beautiful within the context of this active, personal relationship. That is where everything else should come from: if He is at the centre then He can lead us to serve Him in the ways He wants.
We cannot do it alone: serving God for the sake of serving will lead to burnout. When we keep on doing and doing and doing, for the sake of “serving” rather than out of love for God, we end up absolutely exhausted and unable to balance it all. When our service comes from the overflow of living relationship with God, with Him and our relationship with Him as the priority, then we grow, and our service is a pleasing offering to Him.
One of the reasons for this, I believe, is that it keeps us humble. When people “serve God” in their own strength, off their own backs, for the sake of serving, people can very easily become proud, proud of themselves and of all that they do for God and for others. This pride leads people away from depending on God, and can even lead people into a habit of demanding things from God as if He owes them. We owe our whole lives, our salvation, our very existence to God and there is no way that we can ever repay Him. We can, however, love Him and out of that love we can choose to serve Him. May we surrender to God our service, and let Him teach us to serve with the right attitude and the right motivation. May we surrender to Him our love for Him, our relationship with Him, and let Him shape us and show us the right things to focus on.
Prayer is the human response to the perpetual outpouring of love by which God lays siege to every soul. When our reply to God is most direct of all, it is called adoration. Adoration is the spontaneous yearning of the heart to worship, honour, magnify, and bless God. We ask nothing but to cherish him. We seek nothing but his exaltation. We focus on nothing but his goodness.
– Richard J. Foster
Let us consider the image in John 15 of the vine and the branches. If the branches try and try and try to produce fruit independently and by their own efforts, instead of producing fruit the branch will simply get tired, making it more difficult to produce fruit naturally. If the branch simply remains in the vine, surrendered to the vine and allowing the vine to work in the branch providing nutrients and everything it needs for healthy growth, then it will produce fruit. May we surrender to God our hands and let Him shape us to serve Him with true love and humility, not for our own gain or in order to win His favour or the respect of others, but as a natural result of relationship with Him.
How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!
– Hebrews 9:14, NIV
God my Father,
Thank You that in the life and death of Jesus on earth You showed us the way to live.
Thank You for being the humble King, showing us how to serve You.
I’m sorry for sometimes not knowing (or living) the right way to serve.
I surrender to You my hands and ask that You would teach me.
Help me to let every thought and deed of service come from Your love in me.
May I live in Your ways, serving You the way You want me to.