Repeatedly in Scripture, God calls his people to fear, worship, and serve Him. In Exodus, Moses records that Israel is redeemed in order to serve the Lord. So does Titus 2:14, which says that Christ redeemed a people who are zealous for good works. Likewise, Paul says that those who were once slaves of sin are now slaves of righteousness (Rom 6:17-19).
These verses give us a starting place for understanding how we should serve. But we need to dig a little deeper to understand how God intends for us to serve him.
True Service Is Radically Dependent on God
First, we must serve God as those who abide in Christ. Jesus says, “I am the vine, you are the branches; if a man abide in me, and I in him, he will bear much fruit. Apart from me he can do nothing” (John 15:5). We cannot serve unless we are getting are united to him. God does not commission us to go and do great things for him. He calls us to join him in his work; he gives us his Word and his Spirit; and he expects that we would daily feed on his grace and truth.
Second, we must come to get before we give. We are leaky buckets and we need to be filled with the Spirit of God daily. Too many churches have a history of putting people in places of service prematurely, and sadly these young believers never grow up (cf. Heb 5:11-6:3). They burn out, fade out, or just eek it out. Instead, churches need to do a better job shepherding the hearts of their servants so they serve out of overflow.
Third, service is as an extension of worship. Church work should never detach itself from or replace worship. Worship must always be the fountainhead of good works. In fact, when Christians lose an appetite for worshiping God and put in its place works of service, their soul will soon shrink. And what’s worse—they may not even be aware of their deadly condition. By contrast, those who enjoy the Lord most are ready to serve—just as Psalm 100 indicates.
Psalm 100: A Hymn of God-Pleasing Service
In this hymn of praise, the Psalmist calls believers to “Make a joyful noise to the LORD!” Thus, service falls under the banner of praise and worship. Verse 2 extols: “Serve the LORD with gladness!” which presumes that joy is not self-generated but is a result of feasting on the grace of God (Ps 16:9-11; 32:11).
Verse 3 continues, “Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his sheep; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.” In this verse, there are a number of things that inform our service before to God.
First, you and I must “know” the Lord. This is at the heart of what it means to be a Christian. We do not know God like we know long division; we know God as a lover knows his beloved. This personal knowledge requires conversation and the sweet exchange of personal knowledge. Thus, if we are to serve God rightly, it must flow from love to him.
Second, God is our maker and we are his sheep (v. 3b). We cannot serve unless he empowers and leads us. In John 10, Jesus as the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep, describes how his sheep “go in and out and find pasture” (v. 9). Applied to the question of service, this bucolic scene pictures God’s people feeding from the Lord and then going out to serve him. Extremes fail in both directions. Sheep who only feed grow lethargic and fat, while sheep who busy with empty-hearted service grow anemic and irritable. Service needs sustenance, and true servants learn how to live on and for God.
Third, the location of service is in the presence of God. In Israel, this was the temple courts (v. 4), but today, with God present wherever his saints gather, the location is the gathered church. Many good Christians give their attention to ministries outside the church, but rarely should these Bible studies, missions, and para-church ministries overshadow service to the local body. God has given Spiritual gifts for the upbuilding of his church (1 Cor 12:7), not other invented forms of ministry.
Last, thanksgiving is the fuel that drives God-pleasing service. Psalm 100 describes thanksgiving as both a condition and a command (v. 4). It is not an optional aspect of service; it is a requirement. When Christians do service with ungrateful hearts, they do a disservice to God and those whom they serve (cf. Deut 28:47). God’s people are a thankful people—thankful for the forgiveness and love found in Christ. Those who please God with their service are effusive in their thanksgiving.
Overall, there is no greater gift than knowing God. And by divine design, that knowledge leads to effervescent service. Sometimes suh service is hard, even painful and deadly, but on the whole, the promise of serving with God brings the greater reward of resting with Him when the age closes.
This is our calling. As you come to church this Sunday may you come thirsty for Christ, but may you also come with towel and basin ready to meet the needs of others. In embracing such service, you are not only becoming like Christ, you are pleasing your heavenly father, who has redeemed you, given good works to do, and supplied you with his Spirit to accomplish those good works. Rejoice in the Lord and perspire in his work—this is how we please God with our service.
Soli Deo Gloria, dss