One of the great delights of seeing someone come to faith, is their fresh and new desire to serve others. Seemingly all of a sudden, they forego personal preferences to prioritise the good of someone else. Or, for the first time, you notice they start to ask questions in conversation (rather than just talk about themselves) and genuinely care about others. Or perhaps they join a serving team at church and you see them using their God-given gifts for the good of others.
Whatever the situation, the difference is remarkable. But on the flip-side, if serving is so innate in the life of a Christian, why do we see so many problems—self-promotion or burnout or something in between?
Why Do We Serve?
Steve Robinson has written a little book that unpacks all this and more: Serve: Loving Your Church with Your Heart, Time and Gifts. He really drills down on one of the main issues that derails the service of the Christian: “Why do we serve?”
Serve: Loving Your Church with Your Heart, Time and Gifts
This book looks at the gospel of Jesus and the example of Jesus to motivate us to serve our church family sacrificially with our energy, time and gifts.
This is a great book for Christians who have grown weary over time, those who need help in identifying their gifts and gaining the confidence to offer them, and church members who are lacking the motivation to get started.
I remember visiting a beach mission team a few years ago and sat across from a number of the leaders. I asked them, “Why are you here? Why take off a couple of weeks of work or annual leave and come and run a kid’s mission?” One replied, “It’s so rewarding to be involved in sharing the gospel with kids who have never heard it before!” I’m really glad it was a rewarding experience, but I remember thinking to myself, “What about when it doesn’t feel rewarding… would she still be here?” What keeps people serving again and again even when it isn’t rewarding—when it’s relentless?
Robinson so helpfully states, “as Christians, the why of our serving can’t be any less (and needn’t be any more) than… Jesus” (32). He goes on to explain that the why of our service is Someone that never changes, even if the circumstances or feelings or fruit of our service does change. This motivation revolutionises our service. It challenges our thoughts of self-promotion. It helps us persevere when times are tough. It guards us against only serving those who love us in return. It fuels our service of others when we feel we have nothing left to give.
What about when it doesn’t feel rewarding… would she still be here?
Serving like Moses
There are many more implications that flow out from this teaching. Robinson’s book continues to unpack what shapes our service. Another helpful section looks at the life of Moses.
We’re challenged to serve as the person God made you to be: you are precious to God. You can serve God with the life He has given you. This includes your weaknesses, quirks, history, and experiences. As a Christian, you are part of the body of Christ and you serve him as you. Moses offered a number of reasons why he was an inappropriate choice for the mission God had for him. But God works through weaknesses and his hand was proven to be mighty and strong through the weakness of Moses. The same is true for Paul, and the same is true for us. We can press on serving knowing we are weak, and praying that God will make himself known.
This is such an encouraging truth because it frees us up from two sins. Firstly, the sin of pride—taking glory for ourselves when our service is fruitful or well-received. And secondly, the sin of false-humility—avoiding service because we feel inadequate for the task ahead. We can fight these temptations knowing that we serve a mighty God who chooses to work through weak humans.
My own service has been sinfully motivated throughout different seasons of my life – Sometimes serving the wrong person. Sometimes serving for the wrong reasons. And sometimes not serving at all! This book has been used by God to help me repent. The gospel reminds us that the grace of God brings forgiveness of the sins of our heart and our actions. Perhaps you can join me in reflecting on your own Christian service and rejoicing in the new and wonderful ways we can serve Christ and his body.