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To Serve or not to serve

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Spiritual Gifts/ Serving

To Serve or Not to Serve… That Is The Question

1 Corinthians 16:13-18; Matthew 20:20-28 (Emphasis on 1 Cor. 16:13,14)

Vicar Brian Henderson

Grace, Mercy and Peace are yours, from God our Father and for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ!  AMEN

“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. Do everything in love. You know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints.”  Thus far our text.

Introduction:  To serve or not to serve, that is the question that I pose to you this evening.  Another way to ask this question might be, “What difference will my service to God make in the large scheme of things?”

ILLUS: The story is told of a man who once called a church asking about church membership.  He told the Pastor that he was looking for a church that would not want him to worship every week, study the Bible, visit the sick, serve on any boards or committees, do chores or act as a leader or teacher. 

The Pastor commended him for his desire to be join a church, but he told him the church that he was looking for was located in another section of town. As the Pastor gave him directions, the man diligently wrote down the directions and then hung up.  “Finally,” he thought, “a church that I can feel at home in.”  He got in his car and headed directly for the church address he had just written down.

When he arrived at that address, the man came face to face with the logical result of his own defective attitude. There in front of him stood an abandoned church building boarded up and ready for demolition.

What a sad picture.  It is the picture of a heart that does not know the overwhelming joy of God’s love and forgiveness.  It is a heart that won’t love and serve God because it can’t see how much it has been forgiven.  But not so with us, because we have come to know the joy of being set free from our sins. And we have been given the comfort of God’s Word, which fills our hearts with gratitude.  Because we know that Jesus is the Son of God who came to us in our own flesh, and offered his life as a sacrifice for our sins, we rejoice.  And we also know that because He rose from the dead and is seated at the right hand of God, we to shall join Him there in paradise.  To those of us who know that we have been saved, this is certainly Good News!  And because of this Good News, we are continually being moved to offer our selves in service to God as living sacrifices to Him who first loved us.

I. Scripture says that those of us who have been born again through water and Word can not help but respond with a great love for God and our fellow man, and this love will then be expressed in our service to Him who saved us.  This is what scripture calls the fruit of the spirit. But many times, even we who have been “born again” can get caught up in the demands of this world and forget the joy that once moved our hearts and hands in grateful service.  This is why St. Paul tells us in our Epistle reading this evening to be on our guard. He is asking us to be ready and to protect our hearts against things that would be a threat to our relationship of love with Christ, His church and our Christian life.

But being on guard could also mean that we need to be alert to opportunities to serve God.  How many opportunities to serve Him have passed us by because we failed to act when our eyes and heart had clearly shown us a need, but due to our own fear and insecurity, we became convinced that we were not equipped to serve? 

ILLUS: A wise woman who I have known for many years now once told me that a church member waiting to be asked to serve in their own church is like a member of your family waiting to be invited to pull weeds in front of their own house.  And in this regard, I stand guilty because very often I will wait for that wise woman to “invite” me to do my own yard work.

St. Paul once again offers us more words of encouragement that can help us follow and serve our Lord.  ‘Be strong and Have courage he says!’  Be strong he says, and do not listen to a world that tells you that “You have worked enough.  You’ve done your part so go ahead and take it easy.”  And he says, take courage and don’t listen to the lies of the devil and the deceit of your own heart, which questions your own worthiness to serve God.  No friends, we must not listen to this deception, but rather let us ‘Be strong and have courage, and continue to trust in His promise of grace.  God will then move our hearts to respond in grateful service, which will then be holy and pleasing to Him.  When we do this dear Saints, God is well pleased with our service and he considers it an act of worship.

In our Gospel reading this evening, Jesus said that “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”  What wonderful teaching this is, and yet what a difficult teaching as well.  But as hard as this teaching is, Jesus says, “Follow me.”  Let’s no longer follow the pattern of this world; a world which says that it is better to be served rather that to serve, but instead, let’s allow our hearts to be changed by the renewing of our minds through the leading of the Holy Spirit. Then we will be able follow God, according to His good, pleasing and perfect will. His will is that we will follow our Saviors example and serve Him in what ever way he has moved or gifted us to serve.(Rom. 12)

II. But what difference can one person make in a time of so much need?  Again our Epistle lesson provides great insight into this question.  In verses 15 through 18, St. Paul tells us about a family that perhaps wrestled with a similar question; they were the family of Stephanas, and they devoted themselves to the service of their church and indeed to St. Paul himself.  And what was the result of that service?  Nothing less than the work of God Himself, the refreshing of Paul’s spirit!  Though the family of Stephanas represented only a small percentage of the people and the work being done in their church, they were enabled by God to have a great impact on the life and spirit of St. Paul.

ILLUS: Some of you may remember Aesop's fable about an old thirsty crow.  The story says that he had gone a long time with nothing to drink. As he was flying, he came across a jug that had just a little water in the bottom of it. The old crow stuck his beak into the jug to get some of that water, but to his dismay, his beak couldn’t quite touch the water. So what did he do? He started picking up pebbles one at a time and he dropped them into the jug. As more and more pebbles accumulated in the bottom of the jug the water rose in the bottle until finally the old crow was able to drink as much as he wanted.

That's a parable of the way God has chosen to work out his plan in our world. Each of us, dropping in our own little pebble—teaching that Sunday school class, serving on a committee, taking care of the maintenance around our church, providing transportation for the youth, visiting our lonely neighbor, serving as an acolyte or usher. Friends, while the small contribution we make through our service to God may not seem that important at the time, the end result is that as the pebbles accumulate in the bottom of the jug, and the water rises, those within this church and those within our community will be glad because their needs will have been met and no one will be lacking.  Because of our service, the hearts of God’s children will be refreshed by the love of Christ, and God will be blessed through our service. 

Conclusion: I began this sermon with a question, “To serve or not to serve?”  And by now you have already answered this question.  Please let me share this final word of encouragement with you.  When you leave here tonight, be uplifted with the knowledge that through your service here and elsewhere, God will continue to build His kingdom through the proclamation of the Gospel as He takes your time and talents, and brings his plan to completion. You are important!

May God move your heart to know this truth and serve and love Him with all of your heart and all of your soul.  In Jesus name….AMEN

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