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How Should I Serve?

“What is God’s will for my life?” In the time it takes you to read this sentence, it is likely that thousands of believers have asked this question or pondered it within their own hearts. We are a people desperate for purpose and meaning, and we want our lives to count for something. We want to serve God, but we often have varying ideas of what that may look like. Sermons have been preached, books have been written, and personality tests have been created all to help us find our unique “calling” or specific assignment. Despite our best intentions, our efforts to uncover how we should serve God are often flawed and misguided – not because we are not genuine in our desire to discern God’s will – but because we put the focus on ourselves rather than God’s overarching purpose. In other words, we ask the wrong questions in the wrong order and unintentionally make ourselves the main character in the story.

When you are the main character in the story of your life, the determining factors for how you should serve God likely start with your own personality, skills, and passions. When God is the main character in the story of your life, the determining factors for how you should serve God likely start with God’s purpose and the central desire of his heart.

In your effort to discern your unique calling, you may ask yourself questions like this:

1) What am I good at?

2) What am I passionate about?

3) What ministry-related activities can I do with these things?

But what would be different if you asked it this way instead:

1) What is God doing in the world?

2) What will it take to see this purpose accomplished?

3) Am I willing to die for this and join him?

The first approach ends with a conclusion of what your purpose is. The second approach starts with a foundation of what God’s purpose is and aligns your life to it.

Apply this to a working world example to see the flaws of the first approach. When I was in college, I worked as a “driver helper” for UPS during the busiest time of the year for package deliveries. I felt like I was Santa’s assistant during Christmas time. As a driver helper, my role was to assist the truck driver in his daily route to deliver packages. I rode around on the flap down seat of the truck and ran packages to the doorsteps of eagerly awaiting customers. My job description was clear, but what if I had asked the following questions to determine what to do?

1) What am I good at?

2) What am I passionate about?

3) What UPS-related activities can I do with these things?

More than likely, I’d come up with something other than running packages to the door. I may end up doing something good, but it wouldn’t be the thing for which I was hired. Let’s say I am good at playing instruments and passionate about helping people feel relaxed. At each home, I unbuckle the tiny seatbelt connected to my seat as the truck comes to a stop. The driver extends his arm to hand me a package, but I ignore him as I walk to the front porch and uncase a trumpet. The lady inside stares through the peephole as I begin to play a calm and beautiful melody for her. There is a good chance she does not even know I work for UPS! I walk back to the truck with a smile on my face, thrilled at the impact I just had on the resident. The driver looks puzzled and runs the package to the door himself. When we arrive at the next stop and I reach for my trumpet, he asks me why I keep refusing to take the package. I respond, “That’s not really how I’m wired. I’m better suited to serve you by playing a song for each customer and helping them feel relaxed. I don’t mind delivering packages every now and then, but that is more for someone who is skilled at it and passionate about it.” He looks at his watch nervously, wondering how on earth we are going to get the giant pile of packages delivered by the end of the day. Although there is great urgency, I continue to set us back several minutes at each house by playing a song. By mid-afternoon, the driver realizes we are not going to finish the task. He calls the UPS headquarters and says, “We have plenty of stops remaining, but there are just two of us. Could you send more workers?”

The driver would likely request someone else be given to him as an assistant the next day. He could tell HR that I was kind and sincere. He may even mention that I worked hard. But he would surely point out my major weakness: I did not perform my job duty to deliver packages. I ignored the written job description and came up with my own idea of how I could serve the company. Sure, the job description tells me to make customers feel at ease, but that’s not the main point. I took it way out of context and did not serve the purpose of UPS. If I want to call myself a delivery assistant, wouldn’t it be fair to expect my role to have something to do with delivery?

This example sounds ridiculous, but it’s exactly what we do when we discern our role in serving God. If we want to call ourselves servants of Jesus, wouldn’t it be fair to expect our roles to have something to do with his overarching mission? When we ask what we are good at and what we are passionate about, we usually are simply asking, “What is my comfort zone?” You may determine you are good at singing and passionate about hymns, so your specific calling is to sing in the choir at church. You may determine you are good at teaching and passionate about helping people from other countries, so your specific way to serve God is to teach English as a second language. You may determine you have the gift of hospitality and are passionate about the unity of believers, so your role is to host barbecues at your house and have Bible studies. None of these things are bad, but I beg you to understand that you are made for so much more! Let your skills and passions be secondary and align yourself to God’s purposes first. After all, it is dangerous to let the abilities and desires of a sinful human determine what the mission should be. Use your skills as an entry point for the gospel and as a way of strengthening the church as you seek the purpose of God. Do these things in the context of God’s mission instead of a substitute for God’s mission.

Let’s answer the second set of questions below with scripture and find out how we ought to serve God.

1) What is God doing in the world?

God is working to multiply his glory over the face of the earth. He is seeking the lost and reconciling all things to himself to establish his eternal kingdom!

“…that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations…” Psalm 67:2

“…I will make you as a light to for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” Isaiah 49:6

“With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. And you will say in that day: ‘Give thanks to the LORD, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted. Sing praises to the LORD, for he has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth. Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.’” Isaiah 12:3-7

“For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.” Habakkuk 2:14

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:10

“…For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing…” John 5:19-20

“…making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” Ephesians 1:9-10

“For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” Colossians 1:19-20

“And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” Matthew 24:14

“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” Revelation 7:9-10

2) What will it take to see this purpose accomplished?

It will take more laborers who are willing to live out their identity as disciple-makers in obedience to God’s purpose with no regard for their own lives. It will take great sacrifice and death. And if your skills and passions truly accelerate the accomplishment of what it will take, it is in this context that they are valuable.

“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” Luke 10:2

“Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” Mark 1:17

“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8

“All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” 2 Corinthians 5:18-20

“How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?” Romans 10:14-15

“But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” Acts 20:24

“When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne…Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.” Revelation 6:9,11

“And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” Revelation 12:11

3) Are you willing to die for this and join him?

“For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.” Mark 8:35

The final question is for you to answer. Is it worth it to you? If you have agreed with every word of what you have read so far and are still not convinced that your life should be consumed with sharing the gospel and disciple-making, you have misunderstood me. I am writing to you. Make God the main character in your story and seek to see his vision accomplished. Come and align yourself to God’s mission and experience the joy of seeking after his purpose which will never fail!

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