Christian Service

Christian Service

Dr. James Naismith

Basic Studies in Christian Living for Young Believers, #7

“Ye serve the Lord Christ” (Col. 3:24). It was not to a group of missionaries engaged in some great pioneer work that this message was given, nor yet to a conference of evangelists, nor even to a meeting of Sunday school teachers; the Apostle Paul penned the words to slaves employed in different households in Colosse and thus reminded them—and us— that in carrying out their responsibilities to their earthly masters, they were actually engaging in a far higher service for a heavenly Lord. So today, every Christian, however humble his sphere and lowly his earthly calling, and however few and limited may seem his qualifications for spiritual service, is called into the noblest and best of all service for the Greatest of all Masters. None of us is exempt from the responsibility of serving Him; nor is any one of us deprived, by our limited ability, of the privilege of engaging in His service. Whether we have one, two or five talents, we are all entrusted with the responsibility of doing His business with His goods till He comes.

Salvation is not of works. The work of salvation has been fully accomplished on our behalf, and Ephesians 2:4-9, with many other New Testament passages, makes it abundantly clear that we are saved entirely on the principle of God’s grace. Yet verse 10 of the same passage declares God’s purpose in saving us by grace—”We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works.” Works, then, though not the means of salvation, should be the manifestation of it. We have a responsibility to show that we have been saved by grace by the works we practise. We are not saved by serving but we are saved to serve.

If someone had delivered us from drowning or some other disaster, we should wish to express our gratitude by doing something for our rescuer. While we might never fully recompense the one who had done so much for us, we would at least show our appreciation thereby. None of us can repay the Lord Jesus for the price He paid — with His own blood —to save us from the greatest of all disasters — perishing for ever in hell. But we can express our appreciation and gratitude not only with our lips, but by lives of devotion and service.

Among the basic essentials for a healthy physical life are food, air and exercise. Our spiritual lives too require to be maintained by the food of the Word of God, the atmosphere of communion with Him, and the spiritual exercise of serving him. Spiritual atrophy will be the outcome of failure to engage in spiritual exercise, and, alas, there are too many atrophied Christians.

In the natural realm, some form of occupation is necessary, not only because of the remuneration it provides, but also because of the happiness and satisfaction that come from being occupied in useful activity. In the spiritual sphere also, our joy in the Lord will be affected by our service for Him — or lack of it; and so will our reward, both here on earth and hereafter in Heaven. Using this analogy of our daily work, let us apply the principles of our natural employment in our study of our service for God. In considering the characteristics and relative advantages of any earthly employment, we take four aspects of it into consideration: (a) the master — what kind of employer is he, hard and difficult, or gentle and considerate? (b) the servant — what qualifications and responsibilities are expected of him? (c) the work — what are the manner, circumstances and hours of employment? (d) the reward — what wages are paid for work rendered? All these matters are of importance in studying our work for the Lord.

THE MASTER. Study Joshua 24:14-24 — the message of a servant approaching the end of his task and encouraging others in their service; and Isaiah 6:1-9 — the record of the call of a servant at the beginning of his service.

His Claims. Our heavenly Master is “the Lord” (Josh. 24:14-21; Is. 6:1), “a jealous God” (Josh. 24:19), who claims our undivided allegiance. He sits upon a throne high and lifted up in Heaven and should occupy the throne of our lives and direct and control our service. He brooks no rival. He will not share the supreme place in our lives with any other. He must be absolutely pre-eminent.

His character He is a “holy God” (Josh. 24.19). “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts” (Isa. 6:3). The throne and the temple of Isaiah’s vision (6:1) indicate respectively the sovereign claims and the holy character of the One into whose service we are called. Before such a Master we must all confess, with Isaiah, our utter unworthiness (v.5), and claim the cleansing which He Himself provides and for which He stooped from the throne to the altar (vv. 6,7). As we engage in His service, we should keep the vision of His holiness ever before us and manifest it in our lives (1 Pet. 1:15-17). “Holiness becometh Thine house, O Lord, for ever” (Ps. 93.5).

THE SERVANT. (1) His Devotion. A good servant is marked by devotion to his master, whoever the master may be. This devotion is expressed in his readiness to respond immediately and implicitly to his every wish. How devoted to our Master should we be who “serve the Lord Christ” — who is not only supreme in the universe, but whose love is as great as His power! Devotion to Him springs not only from recognition of His greatness and worth but especially out of deep and true love for Him who first loved us. A human illustration of such devotion is seen in the Hebrew slave (Ex. 21:1-6) who, because of his love for his master, was willing to “serve him for ever” and, as a token, had his ear bored through with an awl. One of the greatest of all servants of Christ was the Apostle Paul. Consider his devotion — expressed, for example, in the words by which he committed himself to the service of his heavenly Lord, “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” (Acts 9:6). Are we as willing to place our lives at His disposal, regardless of the implications and cost? This is true devotion.

(2) His Deportment As a representative of his Master, the Christian is responsible to conduct himself in a way that befits this great service. The character of the Master should be reflected in the conduct of the servant. Study carefully the characteristics of “the servant of the Lord” seen in 2 Timothy 2:19-26, a passage written to a younger servant by one who was mature and experienced. Note, especially, verse 21 and the emphasis it lays on the servant’s separation from evil (in the context, evil associations — false teachers —but applicable to all forms of evil) in order that he may be of service to his Master, and “prepared unto every good work.”

THE WORK. (1) The Strength. However humble may seem the service the Lord has entrusted to us, we should ever remember that the Lord’s work must be done in the Lord’s strength. Many Christians excuse themselves from service to which they have been called on the plea of lack of ability and strength. No less a man than Moses with all his Egyptian training and ability used this very excuse and reiterated it despite repeated assurances of God’s presence, power and wisdom — see Exodus 3:11, 13; 4:1, 10, 13. The Lord who entrusts a task to us enables us to do it (see 1 Tim. 1:11, 12 for Paul’s own testimony of this), by placing all His infinite resources at our disposal. In all our service we can be confident that God is in us (Phil. 2:13), with us (Mark 16:20), and for us (Rom. 8:31), and that His strength is made perfect in weakness (2 Cor. 12,9), so that we can confidently declare, with Paul, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Phil. 4:13).

(2) The Sphere. The Christian servant is never off duty. In every sphere of life — whether at work or in leisure, in company or alone, in the Church or in the world, on holiday or at home — his Master has work for him to do. (a) In church in fellowship with others, it is important for us to discover the particular sphere for which God has fitted us to serve Him, and to use the gift He has given us to carry out our responsibilities. See Romans 12:4-8; 1 Corinthians 12. 4.10,11. (b) At work we serve the Lord by our conscientious devotion to duty, by the spirit and manner in which we perform our tasks, and supremely by doing whatsoever we do “heartily as to the Lord” — see Colossians 3:22-25; Ephesians 6:5-8.

(c) Everywhere we can manifest our work for the Lord by our good works towards men. The importance of “good works” in the life of the believer is indicated by the frequency with which the New Testament writers exhort the readers to be “zealous,” “rich,” “fruitful” etc. in them — for example, Ephesians 2:10; Colossians 1:10; 1 Timothy 6:18; 2 Timothy 2:21; 3:17; Titus 2:7, 14; 3:8, 14, etc.

THE REWARD Were we to do all things that are commanded us, we would at best be “unprofitable servants,” for we would only have accomplished our duty (Luke 17:7-10). Yet the Lord has promised rewards—here and hereafter — to servants who have come far short of even that standard.

The principle of 1 Samuel 2:30 is as true today as ever. God delights to honour any who seek to honour Him — as all who have put Him to the test can gladly testify. The rewards He bestows now are not necessarily material — although many who have honoured Him in their lives have been prospered materially — but there is no doubt that He gives spiritual rewards, which are far more significant and satisfying. Who, for example, would exchange the joy of leading a soul to Christ for the reward of material prosperity, however great?