Service as a Spititual Discipline
The Pony Express was a private express company that carried mail by an organized relay of horseback riders. The eastern end was St. Joseph, Missouri, and the western terminal was in Sacramento, California. The cost of sending a letter by Pony Express was $2.50 an ounce. If the weather and horses held out and the Indians held off, that letter would complete the entire two-thousand-mile journey in a speedy ten days, as did the report of Lincoln’s Inaugural Address.
It may surprise you that the Pony Express was only in operation from April 3, 1860, until November 18, 1861—just seventeen months. When the telegraph line was completed between two cities, the service was no longer needed.
Being a rider for the Pony Express was a tough job. You were expected to ride seventy-five to one hundred miles a day, changing horses every fifteen to twenty-five miles. Other than the mail, the only baggage you carried contained a few provisions, including a kit of flour, cornmeal, and bacon. In case of danger, you also had a medical pack of turpentine, borax, and cream of tartar. In order to travel light and to increase speed of mobility during Indian attacks, the men always rode in shirtsleeves, even during the fierce winter weather.
How would you recruit volunteers for this hazardous job? An 1860 San Francisco newspaper printed this ad for the Pony Express: “Wanted: Young, skinny, wiry fellows not over 18. Must be expert riders willing to risk daily. Orphans preferred.”
Those were the honest facts of the service required, but the Pony Express never had a shortage of riders. (Donald Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines).
The same is true with serving God. It is not for the faint of heart or those that are only casually interested.
Many in the pony express envisioned wild experiences, camaraderie, and raucous living only to experience mostly mundane hard lonely riding that ground you down.
This is ministry and service in it for the most part. It is not a glorious spotlight and wild ride. “Christ’s summons to service is the most spiritually grand and noble way to live a life, it is typically as pedestrian as washing someone’s feet.” (Whitney, 116).
Most service we do will be in the shadows. It will be behind the scenes where no one will know. No one except the Lord.
Matthew 6:3-4, “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
Matthew 6:6 “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
Matt.6: 18 “that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
Don Whitney said, “Most service, even that which seems the most glamorous, is like an iceberg. Only the eye of God ever sees the larger, hidden part of it.” (116)
It is because of this why serving must become a spiritual discipline. We have a tendency to want the glory and will not serve if we don’t. We will get cranky and not do it because it is not glamorous. We will miss the true glory in it because we want to have earthly glory for it.
We will be that way or we will get lazy and not do it at all. We will allow others to do it rather than do it ourselves. We justify in our minds another will do it if we don’t and that will give them something to do.
We tend towards this type of thinking because of our sin nature. “If we don’t discipline ourselves to serve for the sake of Christ and His Kingdom (and for the purpose of Godliness), we’ll “serve” only occasionally or when it’s convenient or self-serving. The result will be a quantity and quality of service we’ll regret when the Day of Accountability for our service comes.” (Whitney, 117)
It is for the Lord and His glory and the glory that awaits us why we serve.
Gifted to Serve
Gifted to Serve
We see in many different Scriptures that we have been gifted with spiritual gifts from the Lord.
In Romans 12:6-7 “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching;”
We see a list of gifts that do not exhaust all of the gifts possible.
What we do see is that we are to use them. Paul says let us use them. This can be stated as each of us is to exercise them accordingly. Simply, we have received them so we need to use them.
My Favorite Illustrations (Use It or Lose It)
There was a wild duck that became exhausted in the annual migration and was left behind by the other ducks. The duck landed in a farmer’s barnyard where it was fed daily and associated with the tame ducks. For a while, every time a flock of wild ducks flew over the barnyard, the duck had the urge to join them. But since life was so easy in the barnyard, it stayed. During all this time, the duck did not fly. The next year a flock of wild ducks flew over. The “call of the wild” was so strong that the duck was determined to join them. Alas, when it tried to fly it, it could no longer do so. The duck had lost the ability by failing to use it.
This is what is meant. We must use the gifts given because we may lose the ability to do so.
Whats more is we all have received gifts from the Lord. Each of us has received what they are to get in full at the moment of belief.
We fail to tap into what God has given us. We fail to use it and then we lose it.
We do not lose it because it is from the Lord we just suppress it and feel as if it is lost.
The Lord has graciously given us these gifts. We need to use them for His glory and for others.
Some gifts may seem more extravagant than others. This is true but they are not any better. Each has value and is given for a purpose to the one who has received it.
Much like the parable of the talents. Matt. 25:14-30
This man gave talents to each of his servants.
One received five another two and the last received one.
One with five invested and made great return and the one with two did the same.
Sadly, the servant who received only one did nothing and was rebuked for not doing anything with what the master had given him.
This is just like our gifts we have received. We must use them and serve each other and the Lord with them.
1 Pet. 4:10-11 says, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
When we use the gifts given us we are being good stewards of God’s varied grace.
He did not have to give us anything, but he did.
We could be left to wander around with nothing but God in His amazing grace have us gifts to use for each other and His glory.
We Must Serve
We Must Serve
If you are not sure what your gift is, do not become discouraged and throw your hands up. There are many believers who have served diligently through their lives and never knew what their specific gifting was.
This does not mean that we do not get involved. That we are “relegated to bench-warmer status in the Kingdom of God until you can name your gift” (Whitney 124). It just means we need to serve and study Scripture on the gifts, pray and seek the Lord for guidance. Discuss with fellow believers and church leaders, but by all means seek to grow in the Lord and when we do we will usually fall into what our gifting is.
Just do not become discouraged from serving because you do not know what it is you are gifted to do. You can serve the Lord well without ever knowing.
J. I. Packer reminds us, “The most significant gifts in the church’s life in every era are ordinary natural abilities sanctified.”
A natural ability is not the same as a spiritual gift. It can when utilized for the service of the Lord point you to and help you identify what you have been gifted with.
“In fact, in addition to the study of Scripture, the best way to discover and confirm which spiritual gift is yours is through serving. If you have an inclination to teach, you may never know if your gift is teaching until you accept that class and try. You may discover through a ministry to hurting people that your gift is mercy. On the other hand, through involvement in a particular ministry you may confirm what your gift is not” (Whitney 124).
We must remember that we are one body in Christ. As such when one part of the body does not work the rest must make up for that.
I have seen this in real life many times.
Like when making a drive. There are some guys that when they are beside you it would be better if they had not shown up. They are there and you expect them to do their share on the drive. Well they don’t and then you are having to go back and get cattle and are running all over. If they had not been there at all you would have covered that country and that would have been it.
It is the same with our bodies. If our leg is not working correctly we compensate with our other leg and arms. They get tired and maybe even another issue arises.
This is the same with people who do not use their gifts or will not serve because they are unsure.
Just get involved and try. Whatever you try is not permanent. Try it for a spell and see if it is right. But just because it becomes difficult does not mean quit.
Serving is Hard Work
Serving is Hard Work
Eph. 4:12 says, “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,”
Ministry can be rendered service. It is work to serve. So even when you discover the gift given you, serving does not become a bed of roses. It is still work.
Let us look back at natural abilities for a moment.
We just re watched 8 Seconds the other day so our boys could see it. Now, Lane Frost was a very talented bull rider. He had a natural ability but he worked at it and honed it and was very good.
Had he just learned that he was gifted to ride but did not strive to better that gift he would not have been very good. Had he felt that because he was gifted then riding was guaranteed he would have been disappointed to the point of maybe quitting the first time he was bucked off.
It is the same with our gifts of service in the church. It is work even though we have been gifted for it.
Paul said elsewhere that Col. 1:29 “For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.”
Paul was certainly gifted but the work was still difficult.
It will be for you too. But this life of a Christian is not a soft walk in the garden type of life. We are in a battle. We are in a war zone. Life is not easy because of the spiritual warfare.
The purpose of our service to one another is so Eph. 4:14 “so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”
We are to help one another grow because the warfare we wage is against Eph. 6:12 “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
This is because Satan is Eph. 2:2 “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—” And the 1 John 5:19 “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.”
We serve to help one another because when the whole body is working as it should, it is strong and can withstand most attacks to it.
What is amazing is that this body is not like our physical body that does have failings in it. No, this body is supported by Christ and as such we have power beyond any imagination. We must just seek to use that power and unleash it. And we do this when we are all serving the Lord for His glory and for the love of each other.
We must remember that service is costly and hard. Remember the pony express. They rode hard and long and went through much difficulties. Yet they did it for the glory. When we serve the Lord we are doing it for the glory too but our glory is found in glorifying the Lord.
We must remember that we are serving a Savior who gave us the best example of servanthood ever.
Phil. 2:5-9 “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,”
He came and suffered for us. He came and died for us. He came and washed the feet of the disciples, gave His life a ransom for many all for us.
I don't think a little extra bit of our lives and time is too much to ask for what Jesus has done for us.