I’ll admit there are moments that I would rather do other things than serve the people around me (family members, church members, neighbors, etc.). I’ve served in particular seasons without a break, where there doesn't seem to be any relief in the future. Then there have been other times when overexerting myself wasn't the issue; I simply just didn't feel like sacrificing.
On any given day I could choose to go to the beach, maybe take a shopping trip, or get a pedicure. I could sit on my couch and read a good book or perhaps fold a pile of neglected laundry. Instead, I’m a full-time staff member of a church where I show up at least six days a week in some capacity.
For me (as for many of us) going to work isn’t really an option; it’s a necessity. For those who work at the church, sometimes the differences between going to work and serving the body can get muddled. Those who work in secular jobs are surely serving. Church staff are surely serving. Every kind of job creates a need for rest. But what do we do when being tired turns into not wanting to serve?
Every Christian is called to serve Christ by serving the church (1 Pet 4:10). When members of the body of Christ neglect to serve (in varying capacities and with varying gifts), the church stops functioning as we ought.
When we don’t feel like serving, we need to remember and dwell on key truths from God’s Word.
1. Remember what God says we should do.
In 1 Peter 4, God tells Christians that we are to love one another deeply (4:8), open our homes and give of our possessions without being stingy (4:9), and serve faithfully with what God has given us. He never says to serve only when we feel like it or when the timing is right. He doesn’t say serve because no one else is available or because you can make a name for yourself. God says to serve because loving the church is a natural outflow of loving him. It’s what Jesus himself came to do on earth (Mk 10:45).
2. Remember how to serve.
In Romans 7:6 Paul writes, “we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.” We don’t serve out of an obligation to fulfill the law. We serve out of affection for Jesus because he fulfilled the law on our behalf. We serve with humble thanksgiving because of Christ’s ultimate sacrifice.
3. Remember serving is a privilege.
When I faithfully serve God with my body, it’s because I first served him with my heart and soul. This is the duty of all Christians (Josh 22:5). My gifts of service are not individually special because they aren’t mine. They are wholly given from God; my gifts are borrowed; my gifts aren’t derived from me, but from God (1 Cor 4:7). God therefore gives us gifts and allows us to be a part of what he’s doing so that we may bask in his greatness. When I don’t feel like serving, I must remember the gift that service is to the giver and not just the receiver (Acts 20:35).
4. Remember the gospel.
Paul urges us as brothers and sisters in Christ to offer our bodies “as a living sacrifice” with God’s mercy in view (Rom 12:1). He says, when you understand the mercy of God, the natural response will be to offer your body as a living sacrifice that’s holy and pleasing. If you understand God’s mercy, you can't help but worship the living God. When we gaze upon the mercy of God, we nurture affection for God. When we have affection for God, we will serve others in light of who God is, not because anyone deserves for us to serve them. Not only that, if we gaze on the mercy of God, we will freely give it to those who don’t deserve our service to them (Gal 5:13).
5. Remember why you are serving.
If I’m disgruntled about serving, then I’m probably serving for the wrong reasons. In Philippians 2:20-21, Paul praises the service of Timothy by contrasting him against others who serve. Paul writes: “For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.” We serve because God tells us to worship him this way, not because we want people to know how awesome our gifts are. We serve because Jesus first served, not because it’s easy. And we serve with God’s strength, not with our own finite abilities (Phil 4:13).
If we aren’t serving out of an overflow of worshipful hearts, we will miss out on opportunities to love like Jesus. We serve like Jesus (even when we don’t feel like it) by looking to Jesus and reminding ourselves of who he is. Here are some questions we must ask ourselves as we evaluate why we serve:
+ Am I serving to build up myself or am I worshipping God in my service?
+ Do I serve so that I look good or do I serve in order to point to God’s goodness?
+ Do I think people take advantage of my gifts instead of remembering that my gifts belong to God alone?
+ Do I consider how Jesus chose to serve on earth?
Rebekah Hannah is a biblical counselor at The Grace Center for Biblical Counseling in Jacksonville, Florida. She is married to Andrew and has three daughters.