When you think about serving God, does the story of Cinderella come to mind? Do you picture a young girl in a tattered dress and worn shoes? Perhaps her hair is tied back but some strands have come loose as she worked to carry out the commands of her selfish stepmother and stepsisters.
Her services are performed out of duty. The actions are there, but her motivation does not come from the heart. Cinderella does not worship or love her “masters.” She serves them only because it is her duty.
For those who follow Jesus, serving God is not like Cinderella at all. It is not intended to be a duty we must fulfill in order to maintain our position or to move up in status. Christians endeavor to make themselves servants of God to honor and glorify him because of what they believe he has done for all people.
In the Bible, 1 Samuel 12:24 says, “But be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you.” When we focus on all that God has done for us, our service can flow from a heart of gratitude, not from a feeling of obligation or duty.
Why Should We Serve God?
Make no mistake: God does not need us to serve him. He is capable of accomplishing anything on his own.1 If by four small words—“Let there be light”— God made the first light that ever existed, does he need me to strive to spread electricity to more remote parts of the world?2 If from the dust of the ground, God created a full-grown human being, does he need me to help care for an elderly grandparent?3
Our service cannot add to what God does; it can only magnify who he is, spread his love to those around us, and express our gratitude for what he has done. The more I recognize how greatly flawed I am and how deeply God loves me in spite of this, the more I will take on the right mind-set about service.
I will become less concerned about my service making me look good or even about accomplishing something good for my fellow man. The focus of my service will be on putting God in the spotlight, on pointing other people to God by demonstrating his marvelous love.
An Example to Follow
We can find illustrations of what it looks like to serve God by examining the life of Jesus. The whole goal of Jesus’ life was to carry out the will of God the Father—to be a servant of God. He could do this because he intimately knew the Father's heart.4
Jesus valued what the Father valued. His life demonstrates that throughout the New Testament. Jesus showed the Father's heart when he served various groups of people, such as:
- His family. When Jesus was dying on the cross, he asked his friend to care for his mother after his death.5
- His friends. Jesus went to be with his friends Mary and Martha when their brother died. He cared for them. He even cried with them—and then brought their brother back from the dead.6
- The sick. The Bible says Jesus healed every disease among the people.7
- Children. Jesus was busy teaching, healing, and traveling, yet he took time to be with children and show that he cared for them.8
In order to serve God, we have to know him. In The Gospel-Centered Life, Robert H. Thune and Will Walker explain the relationship between understanding what God has done for us and our service to him this way: “When God’s grace is working on us and in us, it will also work itself out through us. The internal renewal of our minds and hearts creates an external propulsion that moves us out in love and service to others.”9
The authors go on to say that the grace of God enables us to respond by turning our focus from serving ourselves to trusting the greatness and goodness of God. In light of the grace of God, I can examine my own heart. That not only opens my eyes to the opportunities for service around me, it also allows me to experience joy as I see God work through me.10
The things I do because of my recognition of God’s grace are my service to him. This means I can constantly serve God in my daily activity if I am simply conscious of his greatness as I live out my life. On the flip side, I might never be truly serving him if my actions come from a place of working to earn his acceptance or approval—or the acceptance or approval of others.
How Can I Serve God?
For example, I can serve God in my marriage if I forgive and continue to pursue my spouse even when he has wronged me, because I realize that God continues to pursue me lovingly even when I do him wrong. I can serve God at work when I genuinely celebrate a coworker’s promotion—even if I had been hoping to get it myself—because I recognize that though Jesus was God, he was humble enough to wash his friends’ dirty feet.11
As Christians understand it, Jesus was God in the flesh; he was perfect, so he could serve all people perfectly. We are human, so we have some limitations. But don’t let that stop you from making much of God—from worshipping him by serving him.
Serving God will look different for everyone. God works in us at different times and in different ways and he works through us at different times and in different ways.
One person may be a gifted speaker who serves God by proclaiming God’s greatness to huge audiences. Another may be a gifted chef who takes meals to sick neighbors. Another may have a musical talent that is used to demonstrate God’s beauty.
Or it may be that God has given someone a resource to use. God may give someone an unexpected free hour in the day, which can be used to visit a lonely neighbor. Or he may give someone an abundance so that the blessings can be shared with others.12
Strength to Serve
In addition to providing the talents and resources to serve him, God promises to give us the strength to serve him. First Peter 4:11 says, “If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.”
So, you see, even our ability to serve God comes from him—our talents, resources, and strength. When we serve him, we are doing what we were designed to do—intimately know and enjoy God. We are most satisfied when we are doing what we are made to do. Because we were made to bring glory to God, our acts of service feel deeply satisfying.
What did God make you to do? What can you use to bring glory to God through service to him and to others?
- See The Holy Bible, New International Version © 2011, Luke 1:37.
- The Holy Bible, Genesis 1:3.
- See The Holy Bible, Genesis 1–2.
- Ibid., John 17:4, 25.
- Ibid., John 19:25–27.
- Ibid., John 11.
- Ibid., Matthew 4:23.
- Ibid., Matthew 19:14.
- Robert H. Thune and Will Walker, The Gospel-Centered Life (Greensboro, NC: World Harvest Mission, 2009), 54.
- See The Holy Bible, John 13:5.
- Ibid., Matthew 10:42; 25:34–40.
- Photo Credit: J. R. Photography / Stocksy.com