Service or Serve-Us?
Acts 20.18, 19
By Don Ruhl
On Friday, January 20, 1961, President John F. Kennedy said toward the end of his inaugural speech,
In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility—I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it—and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.
And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.
My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.
Likewise, my fellow Christians: ask not what the church can do for you—ask what you can do for the church. Again, my fellow disciples: ask not what the church and her leaders will do for you, but what together we can do for the salvation of man.
What was the spirit of Jesus Christ? We call ourselves Christians after His name! We claim to be His disciples! Mark recorded something that Jesus said in Mark 10 that exemplifies the life of Christ, and if He is our Master and Teacher, it should exemplify our lives also, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10.45).
We did not become members of the church to be served, but to serve, and to give our lives for one another.
Yet what is the prevailing opinion about looking for a church? People look for a church that will serve them. People in a church complain if they are not being served.
What was the spirit of Paul, a representative of Jesus Christ? Paul said something in Acts 20 that shows he followed in the steps of His Lord Jesus Christ. Are we better than Paul that we do not have to have the spirit spoken of here? He explained to the Ephesian elders how he conducted his ministry. Let us be able to explain the same thing to our elders about our time here. “You know, from the first day that I came to Asia, in what manner I always lived among you, serving the Lord with all humility, with many tears and trials which happened to me by the plotting of the Jews” (Acts 20.18, 19).
Do I expect to be catered to or to find opportunities to serve others?
How do you pronounce S-E-R-V-I-C-E? Do you say, “service”? Or do you say, “serve-us”?
Serve the Lord By Serving Brethren
That was what Paul did in Asia. Christianity is not a self-serving religion. A servant of God does His bidding. However, does God need anything that we can supply? Why does a rich man have servants? To give him what he lacks? No, they fulfill his wishes and do his bidding. God has servants for the same reason. We do not supply what God lacks, because He lacks nothing, but He is rich and has servants, and it is our privilege to fulfill His wishes out here in the field, and then we can join Him later in His mansion.
Serve the Lord Humbly
The Master gets the glory and credit, not the servant. Our concern is for the One we serve. Therefore, we keep a low profile. Luke 17 has the words of Jesus that puts our service to God in perspective. What is our reason for being? “And which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and sit down to eat’? But will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not. So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do’” (Luke 17.7–10).
Can we ever do more than what God requires of us? Should He thank us? Have you been served by a humble waitress or waiter? Did you remember her or his name years later? Probably not, but you remembered the place and wanted to go back.
Since we serve without expecting to be served, Second Timothy 2 shows the proper disposition of a servant of God. This applies first to preachers, but if you listen carefully you will note that it applies to preachers so that it can apply to those he teaches. “And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth (2Ti 2.24, 25).
Serve the Lord with Many Tears
Do not separate your emotions from your service to the Lord. When people reject our service that we do in the name of the Lord, it hurts.
Rivers of water run down from my eyes,
Because men do not keep Your law.
Now while Ezra was praying, and while he was confessing, weeping, and bowing down before the house of God… (Ezra 10.1a).
How much does our service to God mean to us? If you cannot say with Jesus, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10.45), is it because you say, I have come to be served and you cannot expect me to serve? Where did you pick up that attitude? Did you secure it from reading the Bible?
Serve the Lord in Trials
When people persecuted Paul, he did not quit, but served the Lord with tears and in trials. Many Christians fall away when they encounter problems. Someone criticized them. Someone offended them. They expected certain kind of help, (though they rarely gave it themselves). Do the servants of our country quit because they encounter problems? Politicians? Soldiers? Police? Do they not determine to do a better job?
Serving the Lord and His people will anger the servants of Satan. Therefore serving the Lord and His church will not always be easy or convenient. “And I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I am loved” (2Co 12.15). “Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all” (Phi 2.17).
Let us together ask what we can do for the church. It is not about telling others what they must do. The question we asked before our conversions, should not stop, but should increase in intensity, that is, What must I do to be saved? Now ask: What must I do to stay saved? Rededicate yourself as a servant of God.