The Discipline of Service
Pastor Steve Ellison
John 13 records an amazing act of service by the Lord Jesus. On the evening before He would be crucified, knowing that His disciples would desert, forsake, and betray Him, Jesus still served them in a very humbling way. Jesus commanded His disciples, including us today, to serve others but He made it very clear that they could not serve others until He had served them. Jesus had already made it plain that serving others was in fact serving Him. He said in Matthew 25:37-40, “The righteous will answer Him, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? 'And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 'When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?' "The King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.” (NASU)
We cannot refresh, encourage, or help others until we have submitted to Christ doing those things for us. Furthermore, we will need to discipline ourselves to serve others. It will not come easy. Serving God is not for the casually interested. We need to be honest with people. God asks for the whole life. He expects that our service will be a priority not a pastime. If we do not discipline ourselves to serve, we will only serve occasionally and when it is convenient or even worse, when it is self-serving. Donald Whitney rightly points out in his book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, “The flesh connives against hiddenness and sameness. Two of our deadliest sins – sloth and pride- loathe serving.” Whitney is correct (and much of this article is drawn from his book). Most of Christian service is routine, ordinary, mundane, lonely, and thankless. TeachingSunday School, washing dishes, driving the bus, setting up tables, keeping records, mowing the grass, painting, filling out reports, operating the sound equipment, etc. often seem much less than exciting or fulfilling. Our psyche hates this. Surely, we are called to serve out of love for the One who loved us first, but without discipline we will soon find the ordinariness more than we can bear. Perhaps Colossians 3:23-24 will provide extra motivation and encouragement, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.” (NASU) Reward will come later but for the most part not now.
As fallen human beings, we desire to serve when it benefits us, which is really not serving at all. We hate the hiddenness of Christian service. We want to be thanked, lauded, and rewarded for our service. Jesus spoke plainly in Matthew 6:1, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.” (NASU) Perhaps it would be helpful to pause and remember what God has done for us.
First Samuel 12:24 states, “Fear the Lord and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you.” (NASU) Have you considered lately what it was like to be without God and without hope in the world? Have you considered lately what it was like to stand guilty before God and without forgiveness? Have you considered lately what it was like to be only one heartbeat away from hell? Those questions should greatly ease the discomfort of hidden, unexciting serving.