At my local church, it is made clear that every member of the body is expected to serve the Lord in some way. I agree with that 100%. So, what’s the problem?
The problem occurs at the individual level when a person believes that their service is primary, and that God is always pleased when someone tries to serve Him.
Pick almost any book in the Bible, and I’m sure I can show you an example where people were serving God flawlessly — at least according to the law — and God was displeased. An easy example of this idea comes by way of the Pharisees.
I can also show you plenty of examples where people were breaking “the rules,” and God was very pleased. For example, under the leadership of King Hezekiah (II Chronicles 29 – 30) the Passover was restored to Israel. But it was at the wrong time, the people weren’t consecrated correctly, they entered the temple without purifying themselves first, they broke a whole bunch of ceremonial laws and God blessed them as they continued to serve Him after this great revival.
Does serving God ever seem burdensome to you? Are you a pastor who is frustrated with a congregation that just doesn’t want to serve or does so begrudgingly? May I submit that a problem we might have is that we are continually admonishing people to serve a God whom they do not worship.
Service to God cannot be the number one priority of the Christian life, and I would submit that those who try to make it the number one priority often serve less and with less joy than those for whom service simply flows out of their worship. Our Christian walk must flow out of this order:
1. Repentance and Restoration
One cannot truly worship God unless they have been redeemed, and one cannot truly serve God in a pleasing way unless they worship Him first.
When I say “worship,” I am not merely talking about attending a service or singing a song. Those might be methods of worship, but one can do the physical acts of “worship” with absolutely zero worship taking place.
Worship begins in the heart. It comes from adoration and love of who God is and what He has done. Do you really adore God? Do thoughts of Him ever consume you in a way that rivals how you felt about a romantic interest or even a newborn child? Are you infatuated with God? Are you truly grateful to Him not only for salvation but for all the good things in your life? Are you grateful to Him that He loves you in the bad times of your life. Do you have a general attitude of awe toward God? Or are you only likely to “worship” if the choir happens to sing a song you like?
We all go through periods where we do not truly worship, and it is in those times that service becomes a burden. We shouldn’t kid ourselves, God isn’t impressed with our time or giving when it is simply part of a routine. Let me repeat: your tithe does not matter to God when it is given begrudgingly. That’s no relationship at all, that’s a tax.
Jesus told a group of people who were going to suffer greatly for His sake that His “yoke is light.” How does that make any sense? If you’ve ever had to take care of a sick loved-one or change a dirty diaper, you might be able to understand. It isn’t that the Christian life is void of trials and troubles; but when you give of yourself completely for someone you truly love and adore — not just in theory but in your heart — then any inconvenience or pain you go through for their sake becomes a privilege and an honor and you delight in that service. The physical burdens might be real, but the true fulfillment you have in serving a God you truly worship is worth more than any amount of physical comfort and affluence.
If your walk seems dull… If going to church is boring… If serving the Lord is a burden, don’t convince yourself that merely carrying on will eventually lead to you becoming a better disciple. You need to check your heart to see if you are a true worshiper first. You might need to remember what God has done for you on the cross, or you might need to surrender your life to Christ in the first place.
If you will truly fall in love with God simply because of who God is, then you won’t be able to help but worship with your whole life. After that, giving of your time, talents and money will become a desire and a delight.