“I have to work hard enough at my job—and I get paid for that. Volunteering for ministry shouldn’t take that much effort. If it’s not going to be fun, I’m not going to waste my time. I have more important things I’d rather do.”
It’s the new epidemic of faulty reasoning about serving in the local church. A previous generation often served sacrificially out of obligation or guilt, sometimes at the expense of joy. But too many today refuse to serve if the task doesn’t bring them excitement or at least pleasure. “No one can make me. I make my own choices. God wouldn’t want me to serve without excitement.” This if-there’s-nothing-in-it-for-me-I’m-not-doing-it attitude can weaken or even paralyze Christ’s body.
If we are a part of Christ’s body—the local and worldwide church—self-
centeredness has to go. It’s not about whether or not we get paid. It’s not about the effort we expend. It’s not about the people we have to put up with. It’s not about the things we’d rather do. We have choices to make. Let’s look at a few.
Where Should I Give My Best Efforts?
When we’re receiving a paycheck for doing a job, we need to do the best we can, but not because we’re being paid. Whatever we’re doing deserves our best because (1) God equips us to do the work as we yield to him in obedience, and (2) we honor God as we steward well the gifts and talents he’s given us.
If we apply our best efforts only when they bring money or other tangible rewards, our efforts are more about us than about God. “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17).
How Can I Rethink Relationships?
God can use any relationship to develop his character within us.
We often assume Christians should be easier to get along with because they’re, well, Christians. People in the church shouldn’t create issues—just people outside the church.
But we’re all sinners. Instead of becoming frustrated with those within our church families, why not consider what God wants to teach us through those relationships, even when they’re difficult? Maybe he’ll prepare us for challenging relationships outside the church as we work through difficult situations within the church. Maybe he’ll use the fertile soil of our church family relationships to cultivate his characteristics, developing the fruit of the Spirit so that it is easily seen in our relationships outside the church as well.
What if we’re missing out on some of the best preparation he has planned for us by avoiding difficult relationships within the church? Is it possible we see relationships outside the church as easier because we don’t feel the same pressure to demonstrate God’s character with non-Christians? “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22, 23).
How Should I Spend My Time and Energy?
It might come as a shock, but the 24 hours we have each day aren’t ours to control; they’re ours to yield. They’re a gift from God. No matter how good our worthwhile activities seem, if they aren’t in God’s will and timing, they aren’t God’s best.
Family is good, but God wants us to keep family in perspective as his gift to us and realize family is under the umbrella of his will, care, and provision.
Service is good, but God wants us to keep it in perspective in his leading and timing.
Nothing and no one trump God. Everything and everyone he gives us are actually his, and when we begin to wrestle for control and management, we are no longer fully yielding. Our time and energy are his to give and ours to steward. When we mismanage them, we suffer, our relationship with God suffers, and the health of Christ’s body suffers.
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments (Matthew 22:36-40).
Serving isn’t optional. As we struggle with it, we can make any excuse we want and try to project the blame onto leaders, other individuals, or the church as a whole. But excuses indicate a heart issue. God isn’t nearly as concerned about our excitement level as our commitment level. He’s not nearly as concerned about what we can get out of serving and building relationships as what he can give us.
It’s our choice. We can make it about choosing how to spend our time and energy. We can make it about what relationships we prefer to cultivate. We can make it about our own enjoyment.
But it’s really about God. Are we yielding to him with our choices?
Susan Lawrence is a national speaker and author of Pure Purpose, Pure Emotion, Pure Growth, and Pure Faith Bible studies. She blogs at purepurpose.org. She has coordinated women’s ministries, small groups ministry, and Christian education at Taylorville (Illinois) Christian Church.