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When we think about “serving”, depending on who we are, we can be thinking of different things. For some, it could mean jury duty or time in a detention center. For others, it could mean volunteerism and community work. Still to others, it could also mean a quantity of food. Depending on the person and the context, there are many ways to serve.
Biblically speaking, however, what does it mean to serve? The Bible is divinely inspired by God and one could view it as a message addressed to God’s people. In Ephesians 5:1, Apostle Paul calls Christians to be imitators of God. In 1 Peter 2:21, Christ, the Son of God, is the example that Christians ought to follow. Throughout scripture, believers of God are called to be as the Father because believers regard themselves as the children of God. Much as how we resemble our biological parents, Christians must also resemble their spiritual Father.
Therefore, the question goes: How did God and Jesus serve? Did they volunteer in soup kitchens? Perhaps served in jury duty? There are many people out there who serve in this way but as believers, we are called not to be followers of man but be imitators of Christ.
Let’s look at the example we are to follow: Jesus the Christ. There is something that he did wherever he went— the reason why he was sent, and it is indeed to serve. But let us see how:
Luke 4:43 But Jesus told them, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well, because that is why I was sent.”
Jesus served God’s people by presenting to them the greatest gift: the good news of the kingdom of God. To serve, by definition, means “to perform duties or services for”. Jesus was sent by God for a purpose: to preach of God’s kingdom, the hope of believers where there will be “no more death, mourning, crying, or pain” (Revelation 21:4). In other words, heaven and eternal life.
Similarly, the disciples and apostles served as well, not just by helping others with their physical lives but they, too, carried out the work of preaching to others about the kingdom of heaven which Jesus shared with them and commanded them to also share to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:3, 7-8). They helped others spiritually so that others may also attain eternal life in the kingdom of God.
So, where do we start?
There is a question that servants must ask themselves first and foremost: what service do I have to provide? In other words, “What can I offer?”
As followers of God and Christ, we must first be clear as to the purpose of our service.
Is it just to satisfy others with their needs in this passing and temporary world? Though it is kind work to help others by helping them obtain shelter, or giving them food, or giving encouraging words, what good is a house if it does not last forever? What good is food, if it runs out sooner or later? What good are encouraging words, if they fade away like mist? The God we believe in is One who does not perish but live eternally, and to those who know Him and the one He has sent also has eternal life (John 17:3).
This is not something that can be obtained or given by anything or anyone else in this world. Rather, the service we offer others is something that does not pass but something that will remain for eternity. Housing can be given by others even not of the Christian faith. Food can also be given by those who do not follow Jesus. Encouraging words can be easily shared by anyone.
But Jesus and the disciples served something that could not be obtained from anyone else. As disciple Peter was able to confess, there was something Jesus had that no one else on earth had.
In John 6:68, he says, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
If we want to be servants of God, we, too, must learn to share these words of eternal life. Greater than anything that fades or spoils, the hope of a child of God is one that lasts forever.
Therefore, let us first understand and seek these words of eternal life that makes known the kingdom of God.
Who benefits from this service?
This can be summed up in one sentence. As found in 1 Timothy 2:3-4 This is good and pleases God our savior, who wants all to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
Let us believers first be the ones to recognize the value of the Word of God, and know that within it contains an everlasting hope.
Psalms 138:2 – I bow down toward Your holy temple and give thanks to Your name for Your loving devotion and Your faithfulness; You have exalted Your name and Your word above all else.
John 3:16 – For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
Matthew 6:33 – But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Matthew 10:7 – And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand’.
Romans 14:17 – For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
Daniel 2:44 – And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever
Matthew 4:17 – From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
John 3:3 – Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Matthew 6:10 – Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Preaching God’s Word can be very intimidating, especially if one does not know where to even begin. However, before you grab the nearest Bible, flip to a random page, and start preaching to your neighbor, you must remember that, according to 2 Tim 2:15, you must “Make every effort to present yourself approved to God, an unashamed workman who correctly handles the Word of truth.”
Meaning, God’s Word should not be treated like English literature where anyone can interpret the words within it. To correctly handle the Word of truth, you must understand the Word and convey it according to the author’s point of view.
In other words, you must be a messenger who simply conveys the sender’s message, not a messenger who conveys his own message.
Therefore, in order to correctly preach the Word of God, the first thing you must ask is: do I understand God’s intention as recorded in the Bible?
How do you know if you understand it? It’s simple. Because the author is the same throughout the 66 books of the Bible, the message is also consistent– there is a thread of connection found within the Bible.
For instance, if God’s will within the New Testament is for His people to have life through His Word, would it make sense for His will within the Old Testament for His people to obey His Word and die?
No, this does not make sense because it is inconsistent. Rather, through verses from the Old Testament and the New Testament such as Genesis 2:15-17, Deuteronomy 30:19, John 3:16, or Revelation 22:17, whether it is a message from the time of Adam to the time of Revelation, the message is consistent:
the Lord wants His people to have eternal life.
In order to put the Word to practice and serve God properly by preaching the Word of God, therefore, you must first be equipped with the knowledge of the Word. As it says in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “all scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
To serve God is to be able to properly carry out His good work of conveying His message so all may have eternal life. However, just as the disciples who first had to learn what God’s message is, believers who desire to follow after the same footsteps should also do the same and first seek understanding of God’s Word.
Hosea 6:6 warns us that God “desires mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgement of God rather than burnt offerings.” Before one can start sacrificing for God, one must first know how to do so.
For instance, if a colleague’s birthday is coming up and you are thinking of buying them a gift, would you choose the gift based on your own interests or would you first get to know what your colleague’s interests are? What if you buy your colleague a bouquet of roses but then when they receive it, you find out they are allergic to the flowers?
In the same way, if one wishes to serve God, shouldn’t one first know what it is that God desires?
One can say that “it’s the thought that counts” but sometimes, this is not the case. If one starts serving God without knowing what God’s desires are, how does one know if the service isn’t benefiting somebody else?
For an example:
The King’s army serves the King, meaning it carries out the King’s bidding. If they follow the King’s commands, then they serve him well. However, if they are disobedient, whether knowingly or unknowingly, the actions of that disobedient and ignorant soldier could result in the advantage of the King’s enemy. Perhaps the soldier meant well but the results say different.
In the same way, believers are considered servants and soldiers of God who carry out His commands. Without knowing His commands clearly, one could unknowingly be giving God’s enemy, the Devil, an advantage.
How, then, does one know if they know and understand God’s Word correctly? There are a few questions to ask oneself:
If some or all of these questions are difficult to answer according to scripture, meaning providing references from the old testament to the new testament, then to first understand the scripture is the proper thing to do in order to serve God and His people well. Let us not take the easy shortcut of doing it our own way but rather go on the journey to discover the King’s will.
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