Timothy Yeung—Vancouver, Canada
Though serving God is the duty of every born-again Christian, we may sometimes find that our service lacks strength and direction. Some brothers and sisters serve, yet struggle with the fundamentals of their faith, eventually leaving the church. Others lack the strength to carry on in their service because of personal issues and external factors. How do we find inspiration and power from God to continue serving diligently? The answer is to renew our attitude to service through spiritual cultivation. How can cultivating our faith help us to renew our service to God?
- SERVING GOD WITH A RENEWED MINDSET
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (Rom 12:1–2)
Paul tells us that when we serve God, we must serve with a renewed mind. This means removing our old mindset—the mindset of the world. The world focuses on outcomes, achievements, and other metrics to judge performance, rather than looking at core beliefs and values. What God wants from us and how He judges our service is different from how the world measures success. So what should our mindset be?
We must start by asking the question: what is the work of God? Does it refer to taking on duties in the church? Charitable acts? Or making a sacrifice? When asked to define “God’s work,” Jesus gave a straightforward answer:
Then they said to Him, "What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?" Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent." (Jn 6:28–29)
Re-establishing Our Faith in Sound Doctrine
As we serve God, let us not forget the fundamentals of our faith—the truth that leads to salvation. The basics of serving God lie not in carrying out church work but in believing in Him. This means believing in God’s word and having deep conviction in sound doctrine:
Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. (2 Tim 1:13–14)
But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. (2 Tim 3:14–15)
If we desire to serve God in a certain ministry or volunteer for church duties, let us reflect on our attitude and relationship to God’s word: do we wish to serve others or be in the spotlight, but find no interest in studying basic doctrine, believing this to be for truth-seekers or new believers? Do we enjoy digging into the Bible in seemingly new and obscure ways but lack the zeal to build a strong foundation on the basic beliefs? On the contrary, we should have a humble attitude toward God’s word, and unshakeable faith in the basic beliefs. Only through humility can we have insight into God’s word and strengthen our foundation so that we will not be influenced by worldly knowledge and reasoning, or attempt to use logic to change the understanding of the basic beliefs. That is why Paul encouraged Timothy not to deviate from the pattern of sound words. This is the true, and most important, way of serving God.
Brethren, do we build ourselves up in the most holy faith (Jude 20)? Let us renew our service with a deeper understanding of and conviction in the pattern of sound doctrine, which makes us wise for salvation, given to the one true church.
- SERVING GOD WITH RENEWED STRENGTH
When we serve God in various church ministries, be it through youth ministry, sermon speaking, interpreting, teaching religious education, or participating in visitation groups, we may find that after an initial period of excitement and learning, we begin to feel fatigued. We may lack the strength to continue.
When this happens, we can become unmotivated and easily dissatisfied. We compare ourselves to other workers and wonder why we are doing all the heavy lifting, or why others are not participating. We start to focus on the weaknesses of others and what they are not doing, which discourages us even more. This may even lead us to consider quitting or scaling back our commitments to focus on our own lives. How do we prevent ourselves from burning out? What can be done to revive our zeal in the ministry?
Renewing Our Love to Jesus By Faith in His Salvation
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. (Rom 12:1, emphasis added)
Paul was human and sometimes felt disheartened. He faced persecution, hunger, imprisonment, danger, false brethren, loneliness, and other challenges (2 Cor 11:23–27). But how did Paul maintain his zeal and persist in serving the Lord? It all comes back to the foundation of his faith. Through faith, Paul believed Jesus loved and died for him, and these facts were all that mattered.
Focusing on God’s mercy is the key to reviving our motivation to serve Him. It is the only way to propel ourselves forward and get back on task when we feel tired and discouraged.
This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life. (1 Tim 1:15–16)
Paul took Jesus’ sacrifices and salvation very personally. His strong faith in the personal nature of salvation constantly reminded him of Jesus’ love, inspiring him to live for Jesus every day of his life. Even though Jesus came to save the whole world, Paul knew he was the worst of all sinners and that Jesus died for him.
When we focus on the cross, all other things, including hardship, persecution, and the weaknesses of others, fade into the background. No wonder Paul writes:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written:
"For Your sake we are killed all day long;
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter."
Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. (Rom 8:35–37)
If we ever tire of serving God, we should examine our faith (2 Cor 13:5). Faith produces hope, and hope produces love, and love in Jesus Christ can help us endure all difficulties in our life and service. The love that compelled Paul to serve through hardship will also help us serve Jesus to the end. Therefore, we should pray and ask God to increase our faith.
- SERVING GOD WITH A RENEWED DIRECTION
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (Rom 12:2)
Another reason for a weakened attitude to service may be that we lack direction. Imagine sailing a ship without navigation or driving a car aimlessly, wasting time and gas. We would be frustrated, and every lost minute would feel like forever. We need direction to be motivated. At times, it is not that we lack focus but that we are heading in the wrong direction. Instead of being directed by God’s will, we insist on our own, and the resulting struggle between the two drains our time and energy. Look at Peter’s service before he received the Holy Spirit:
From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, "Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!" But He turned and said to Peter, "Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men." (Mt 16:21–23)
Peter believed in the correct thing, that Jesus was the Son of God. He forsook all to follow Jesus because he wanted to serve Him. He, therefore, loved Jesus very much, to the point that he wished to save Jesus’ life. Peter loved Jesus according to his logic. However, Jesus sternly rebuked him and cast out Satan, because, at that moment, Peter had unwittingly worked for Satan to oppose Jesus’ salvation plan. Peter’s direction was the opposite of Jesus’ direction, which posed a problem for Peter and his ministry.
This can happen to any one of us today. We do what is right in our own eyes. We think certain things are good for the church, our family, and ourselves; we impulsively argue or fight for what we believe is best. However, true service is not about following our judgment; it requires putting ourselves aside, humbling ourselves, and seeking God’s will. God’s will can be very different from our plans and preferences. Sometimes His will goes against common logic—His wisdom is hidden within His timing and arrangement. Without humility, we will never really understand God’s will and timing. That is why Paul says of Jesus’ salvation:
Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!
"For who has known the mind of the LORD?
Or who has become His counselor?"
"Or who has first given to Him
And it shall be repaid to him?"
For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen. (Rom 11:33–36)
It is important to surrender to God’s will when serving Him. Sometimes we must learn that God’s time is not our time. Or that God does things His way, while training us to submit to Him. When Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, His own will was struggling with the Father’s will, which is why He was in so much agony:
Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, "Sit here while I go and pray over there." And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. Then He said to them, "My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.” He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, "O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will." (Mt 26:36–39)
Jesus, who had a body like everyone else, would have naturally feared the impending torture of crucifixion. He did not wish to drink the bitter cup, so He asked the heavenly Father to take it away. However, there is a crucial lesson in this struggle: when Jesus chose to accept the will of the heavenly Father, He chose a new direction, and His strength was renewed. He said:
“Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done." Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him. And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. (Lk 22:42–44)
We rely not on our strength but on strength from God, which comes from submitting to Him. When we choose to lay down our life, we obtain life. Our service will be strengthened when we serve God with this new direction of complete submission.
He gives power to the weak,
And to those who have no might He increases strength.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
And the young men shall utterly fall,
But those who wait on the LORD
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint. (Isa 40:29–31)
Faith, spiritual cultivation, and service are inseparable. If our service to God is not built and based on belief in sound doctrine, then our service will be worthless in God’s eyes. Moreover, there is so much to cultivate while serving God. The only way to be a pleasing, living sacrifice to Him is to serve with a mindset renewed by belief in sound doctrine, strength renewed by faith in His salvation, and a direction renewed by submission to His will. These are the areas God wants us to work on so we are continually inspired and empowered to glorify His name.