Choosing to serve

The decision to serve, in whatever capacity, is a conscious choice. It has nothing to do with the expectation of a reward or even the assumption that those being served would acknowledge it. In fact, sometimes they won’t appreciate the gesture. Our motivation and inspiration comes from the example of God our Creator and Redeemer, who serves us by providing a universe loaded with good things and who offered himself as the payment for our sins, thus reconciling us to himself.

Thus true service is a sacrifice of love. Through our job or occupation, in our care for our spouses and children, in the assistance and help we render to our neighbours, service looks beyond what is to be gained. It reaches out to help because it sees the other party as valuable, someone in whom God’s image shines forth. And it considers it worthwhile to deny oneself of one’s own convenience at that moment in order to serve or help the other person.

What’s your Calling?

For the past several years, the theme of Calling has been very dear to me. I have increasingly come to see that it is a crucial truth for escaping the humdrum of modern life. As such, I am always on the lookout for books which help to clarify what it’s all about and provide much-needed guidance to all who are seeking to uncover the mystery. And, lately, I read Os Guinness’s masterpiece on the subject. It is at once thorough and lively, learned and interesting, with a continual focus on the Saviour who obediently surrendered to his Father’s call. His book is a delight to read and a feast to relish. I can do little more than offer his points on calling which he carefully develops throughout the book and hope they stimulate you to get the book for yourself and devour its nutrients.


  • Calling is the truth that God calls us to himself so decisively that everything we are, everything we do, and everything we have is invested with a special devotion and dynamism lived out as a response to his summons and service.
  • When something more than human seeking is needed if seeking is to be satisfied, then calling means that seekers themselves are sought.
  • The notion of calling, or vocation, is vital to each of us because it touches on the modern search for a basis for individual identity and an understanding of humanness itself.
  • Our primary calling as followers of Christ is by him, to him, and for him. Our secondary calling, considering who God is as sovereign, is that everyone, everywhere, and in everything should think, speak, live, and act entirely for him.the call
  • God normally calls us along the line of our giftedness, but the purpose of giftedness is stewardship and service, not selfishness.
  • A life lived listening to the decisive call of God is a life lived before one audience that trumps all others – the Audience of One.
  • God’s calling is the key to igniting a passion for the deepest growth and highest heroism in life.
  • The notion of calling is vital to the modern search for a basis for moral responsibility and to an understanding of ethics itself.
  • The call of Jesus is personal but not purely individual; Jesus summons his followers not only to an individual calling but also to a corporate calling.
  • Calling reminds Christians ceaselessly that, far from having arrived, a Christian is someone who in this life is always on the road as “a follower of Christ” and a follower of “the Way”.
  • The reverse side of calling is the temptation of conceit.
  • The truth of calling touches closely on the link between giftedness and desire and the almost inescapable temptation of envy.
  • Calling, which played a key role in the rise of modern capitalism, is one of the few truths capable of guiding and restraining it now.
  • Calling is the best antidote to the deadly sin of sloth.
  • Calling directly counters the great modern pressure towards secularization because the call of Jesus includes a summons to the exercise of the spiritual disciplines and the experience of supernatural realities.
  • Calling directly counters the great modern pressure toward privatization because of its insistence that Jesus Christ is Lord of every sphere of life.

The Heart of Service

Genuine service comes from a caring heart.

When you receive a call from a customer, when you meet with a customer making an enquiry in your store, when you attend to an accident victim in the hospital, when a customer brings his faulty car to your workshop, your ability to care is crucial.

The secret to offering great service is to be more concerned about the person you are helping than yourself. This is why genuine service is so rare.

caring-hands

We have a distorted view of things. Each person seeks his own interest and does not care about others. This is the heart of Nigeria’s problem; corruption is a moral problem. And it has an old name – Selfishness. We create our universe without ourselves at the centre. ‘It’s all about me’ – that’s the universal anthem. And when we adopt this as our rule of life, genuine service becomes impossible.

In his delightful book Life@Work, John Maxwell lists what serving entails in our practical dealings with people. Among others, he includes:

    1. It means getting to know people as people, not just human work machines.
    2. It means learning their names, their spouses’ names, their parents’ names, and maybe even their kids’ages and birthdays.
    3. It means becoming a good listener, not just a good talker.
    4. It means getting involved with people, not always keeping a professional distance. (While I am often guilty, I have a brother who excels at this)
    5. It means remembering the conversation

Simply put, serving people means getting to deal with them, literally. It means getting to know them. And this has to be deliberate.

There is no hiding the fact that serving people can be messy. There are irritable people, insincere people, and callous people. Some will take you for granted. I have dealt with customers who lie just to have their way. And a number of us have worked with people who simply cannot be satisfied. They will literally drain you. But it’s the way to go, if we desire fulfillment in life. No wonder Jesus said, he who would keep his life will lose it. However, when we sow that life as a seed for the good of others, it yields an enormous harvest.

In dying, we live

It’s Christmas, the celebration of the birth of Jesus, and here I am meditating on death! But perhaps it’s not entirely out of place. This baby was born to die. His life was a life ordained to service, and this service was to die.

However, his death would bring life. Speaking of himself, Jesus stated that “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24) He was speaking of his approaching sacrificial death for the sins of humanity. And this principle goes well beyond the circumstance of Jesus’ ministry; it applies to the whole of human existence. It takes dying to self to bless others. It requires self-denial to care for and serve others, for our sinful human nature is basically selfish.

wheat isolated on white close up

Interestingly, just like the death of Jesus, our ‘death’ produces true life. We do not truly live unless we are giving our lives for a cause or a person. And so many thinkers and figures in history have pointed this out. Our own ordinary experiences confirm this. Mothers know what it is to give their lives for their children, husbands die to their own interests in order to love their wives, friends make sacrifices for the sake of one another. Yes, we die. But in dying, we live. Self-denying service is a death unto life – true life.

And this is what Christmas is about.

Marriage and Service

couple holding hands

“And the Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name.  So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him.

 And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place.  Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man.

 And Adam said:

“This is now bone of my bones
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because she was taken out of Man.”

Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” (Gen 2:18-24)


 

This passage of the bible looks at the social relationship between Adam and Eve as husband and wife. And the truths derived from this ordinance of God can help us understand other social relationships, particularly business.

God created the world, planted a garden, and placed the first man in it. Then He saw that it was not ideal for man to be alone – he needed a companion.  This expresses an important fact. Man is a social being. He needs others – he needs society. Solomon also spoke of this in Eccl. 4:9-10. And this was a need which the animals, created before man, could not meet. In his comment on this passage, Matthew Henry, the seventeenth-century English commentator and pastor, wrote:

“Though there was an upper world of angels and a lower world of brutes (animals), and he between them, yet there being none of the same nature and rank of beings with himself, none that he could converse familiarly with, he might be truly said to be alone. Now he that made him knew both him and what was good for him, better than he did himself, and he said, “It is not good that he should continue thus alone.” (1.) It is not for his comfort; for man is a sociable creature. It is a pleasure to him to exchange knowledge and affection with those of his own kind, to inform and to be informed, to love and to be beloved… If there were but one man in the world, what a melancholy man must he needs be! Perfect solitude would turn a paradise into a desert, and a palace into a dungeon. Those, therefore, are foolish who are selfish and would be placed alone in the earth.”

God himself established society because he realized it was indispensable for the well-being of the human race. And he created it upon the foundation of marriage and the family. This basic social relationship thus teaches important principles for all social relationships. These are Companionship and Service. Just as the husband and the wife were formed to complement each other, so all relationships have this basic purpose. No man is an island, John Donne said. Each individual is gifted by God differently from all others, and it is through his individuality that he has something to offer his neighbour.  We interact with others, whether in family, club, or business, to meet the needs of one another.

And from this the second principle emerges. We must serve others out of love. This is God’s expectation for the home and, by implication, it is his requirement for every social relationship. When he came into the world, he came not in the flowery robe and gilded crown of a king, but in the humble garb of a servant. He was among us as one who served (Luke 22:27), and eventually humbled himself to death for the ones he loved (Phil. 2: 5-8).

None of the other creatures could supply this need. Obviously, God brought these animals to Adam to see if there could be any that would be adequate as a companion for him. However, none proved adequate.

They were to be companions. The woman was given to man not because she was inferior, but because he was inadequate. He needed her. What he lacked she supplied, and what she lacked he would supply. The key was loving service. This is the rule in marriage and, by extension, is the rule for all social relationships.

Book Review: Humility, by C.J.Mahaney

We are called to service. But we cannot serve others with pride. It will always get in the way of true service. For this reason, an essential attribute or quality we must cultivate is humility. Below is my review of a helpful book on this topic.

This book introduces us to the dangers of pride and guides us to the scriptural path for humility - cj mahaneygrowth in humility. The author, a pastor of an American congregation for almost three decades, discusses the promise of humility, the perils of pride, and the nature of true greatness.

There are some practical recommendations given for cultivating humility. Of these I note the following:

  1. Keep your eyes on the cross . The cross demolishes our pride. It is a sign and symbol of our helplessness. We have been so racked by sin that it took God himself to come down and rescue us. Where then is boasting?
  2. Get up from bed in the morning acknowledging your dependence on God. ‘In Him we live and move and have our being’ (Acts 17:28). You are so in need of God even for the ability to sit in the bath tub. Recognize this truth and let it humble you.
  3. Let your first words be expressions of  thanksgiving. Gratitude for God’s mercies should characterize our hearts throughout the day.
  4. Spend time daily in prayer, worship and study of the scriptures. This will not only foster dependence on God but will aid in sanctifying us within.
  5. The apostle Peter asks us to cast our cares on God because he cares for us (1 Pet. 5:7). So bring all your concerns to God. Quit trusting in your own strength.
  6. End your day by recognizing that God kept you and allowed you to accomplish all that you did. It was not your wisdom or skill that saw you through. No. It was really God. Give him the glory.
  7. Study the following regularly:
    • God’s attributes – this will reveal to you how huge and awesome your God really is.
    • The nature of sin – you’ll get to know how corrupt our hearts really are and how desperately we need God’s help.
    • The doctrines of Grace – see how redemption  was designed to  exalt God and humble man. Seriously, no believer can take credit for his own salvation.  From predestination all the way to glorification, it is all through grace and all of God (Rom. 8:30).
  8. Allow others to correct you. Invite honest feedback from christian friends and family. Others may readily  notice what you fail to observe. As the author wrote, “On our own, you and I will never develop a competency for recognizing our sin. We’ll always need help.”(p.133)
  9. Learn to respond humbly to trials. Afflictions and suffering promote humility as they compel us to look up to the One who understands everything. The prophet Habakkuk learnt this important lesson. He began his prophecy with a complaint (Hab.1:2), but towards the end of the book he could confidently say:

    “Though the fig should not blossom…
    I will take joy in the God of my salvation” (3:17-18).

  10. Finally, laugh at yourself often. In a conference message delivered some years ago, D. A.  Carson recalled how his wife would often laugh at the title of one of his books –  Justification and Variegated Nomism! And then he advised: “Take your work seriously but not yourself.”

Do you still want to cultivate humility?

Get the book. Read it. Apply it.

God’s Goodness and Service

We think of God as a King, and rightly so. We learn from David that

The Lord has established His throne in heaven,

And His kingdom rules over all. (Psalm 103:19)

But do we even consider that the Almighty Creator also stoops to serve his creatures? nature2Yes, he does. And he fulfills this role in the work of Providence. Providence is God’s work of preserving and governing all his creatures and all their actions. God not only brought the world into existence, he continues to sustain, preserve and care for all he has made. Whether they are plants, asteroids, or humans, he continues to maintain them.

In God’s service to us, many attributes come into play. These include Love, Wisdom, and Power. But the quality which seems to come into focus in his providential care for his creatures is the attribute of Goodness. And according to an Louis Berkhof,

Goodness is that perfection of God which prompts him to deal bountifully and kindly with all his creatures.

David celebrates this goodness in Psalm 145:9

The Lord is good to all,

And His tender mercies are over all His works.

Again in Psalm 104:14,15:

He causes the grass to grow for the cattle,

And vegetation for the service of man,

natureThat he may bring forth food from the earth,

And wine that makes glad the heart of man,

Oil to make his face shine,

And bread which strengthens man’s heart.

Jesus spoke of this quality in God during his Great Sermon:

That you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (Matt.5:45)

And Paul testified to it before the people of Lystra:

Nevertheless He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.(Acts 14:17)

Gladness! That’s what true service does. It brings gladness to the hearts of those being served. This is what God does for his creation (Psalm 103:1-5), and this is what he expects us to do for others .

But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil.(Luke 6:35)