Service is hard. It requires sacrifice on our part for the benefit of others. It comes in a million different forms, both big and small. Service happens at work, home, church, with our neighbors, family, friends, country, and others. Service can be physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausting; but it is so worth our time and effort! When we take the focus off ourselves and place it onto others, we are filled with peaceful joy and contentment. It feels good to go to bed filled with the knowledge that you gave your all to your corner of the world, even if it means you are exhausted. In this article we will examine what the Bible says about service and joy, the benefits of service, and tips on how to better serve the people in our lives.
Several years ago, God called our family to foster care. While we were really excited about this form of service, the adaptation to living sacrificially has been a struggle. To offer our bodies as a living sacrifice is no small thing and requires constant prayers for help. But God reminds us that service is about Him – and for Him. And when we feel weak, He is strong; when we are discouraged, He encourages; when we want to quit, he gives perseverance. Psalm 136 reminds us that God’s love endures forever!
What does the Bible say about service?
Romans 12:1 (NIV)
12 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.
Mark 10:45 (NIV)
45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Romans 12:11 (NIV)
11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.
Matthew 5:16 (NIV)
16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
There are many, many Bible verses about serving – at least 100! As a Christian, when we are faced with all these biblical admonishments from God, how can we say, “no”? To obey God is to serve others. Service looks different for everyone since God has placed us each differently, with unique talents, temperaments, advantages, professions, locations, financial resources, etc. Seek God in all you do and He will provide your path(s) of service.
What does the Bible say about joy in service?
Psalm 100:1-2 (ESV)
100 Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
2 Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
Popular Christian author, John Piper, had a great sermon on this topic:
“Sometimes I just get so amazed. People will say, “I don’t think you should be talking about the pursuit of joy. I think you should be talking about serving Jesus and obeying Jesus.”
I say, “What Bible do you read?” “Serve the Lord with gladness!” Serve the Lord with gladness! This is not rocket science. This is clear! Serve the Lord with gladness! There is a kind of service he doesn’t like: murmuring service, bored service, and glum service. Serve the Lord with gladness. This is biblical! Are we a biblical people, or do we just get our truths from our emotions or non-emotions?
Psalm 32:11, “Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!” Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” That’s a command, not a suggestion. It’s not, “If you don’t want to delight in me, that’s okay. Go ahead with your house or whatever.” It’s not an option. It’s a command.
“Joy is not an option. It’s a command.”John Piper
Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” Paul was writing from prison. I want to make sure you hear me say that Paul, when he writes like that — “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice” — this man knew more suffering than all of you combined, probably.
I’ll read you one of the lists of his suffering. 2 Corinthians 6:4–5: “As servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings . . . ” If you were beaten for Jesus, I would like to know who you are. Come up and tell me, “I was beaten for Jesus,” and I will bow down and give thanks for you and your faith.
Continuing in 2 Corinthians 6, “ . . . calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; . . . through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed” — and here’s the key phrase for me — “as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.” (John Piper, “Do You Serve God With Gladness“)
I will admit that serving joyfully is not easy for me. I am naturally a pessimist; but when I find myself grumbling, or know I am heading that way, I will pray and turn on praise and worship music, a Christian podcast, or audio book. Before long, I will find myself filled with joy and praising God!
What are some benefits to serving others?
The Mayo Clinic lists 6 health benefits to volunteering:
1. Decreased Risk of Depression – It increases social interaction and helps build a support system based on common interests — both of which have been shown to decrease depression.
2. Gives Sense of Purpose and Teaches Skills – Service can give volunteers a reason to get up in the morning or get out of the house. It can also give them an opportunity to learn a new skill or sharpen an old one.
3. Stay Physically and Mentally Active – Volunteer activities get you moving and thinking at the same time. One study found that volunteering among adults age 60 and over provided benefits to physical and mental health.
4. Reduce Stress Levels – Volunteering may enhance a person’s social networks to buffer stress and reduce risk of disease. By savoring time spent in service to others, you will feel a sense of meaning and appreciation, both given and received, which can have a stress-reducing effect.
5. May Live Longer – An analysis of data from the Longitudinal Study of Aging found that individuals who volunteer have lower mortality rates than those who do not, even when controlling for age, gender and physical health. In addition, several studies have shown that volunteers with chronic or serious illness experience declines in pain intensity and depression when serving as peer volunteers for others also suffering from chronic pain.
6. Meet Others & Develop New Relationships – One of the best ways to make new friends and strengthen existing relationships is to participate in a shared activity together. Dedicating your time as a volunteer also helps you expand your network and practice social skills with others.
When I was a new Christian, I discovered that one of the best ways to meet people in my church was to serve in the church. Want to meet people? Find a place to serve!
Scripture supports these benefits – God made us for relationships.
Focus on the Family provided a great article about service:
“In Genesis 1:26, “God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness.’ ” As the Trinity — Father, Son and Holy Spirit — God is One, and He exists in complete unity. He is also a completely social being who enjoys an eternally perfect, loving and holy relationship between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Because He made us like himself, we also hunger to know such a perfect relationship.Today, many of us are so busy, competitive or distrusting that we often avoid relationships, at least on the deeper level God intended. To further the dilemma, our communication technology distances us from personal interaction.” (Susan Mathis, “Why Service is Necessary“)
“When Adam and Eve fell, relationships — those between man and God as well as those between human beings — were broken by sin. Sin hinders relationships because sin is selfishness and drives us to fulfill our own desires instead of loving and serving others.” (Susan Mathis, “Why Service is Necessary“)
“An unfriendly man pursues selfish ends” (Proverbs 18:1).
“Unfortunately, the world creates a relationship model that is “all about me.” We often think of relationships in self-centered ways. What’s in it for me? Why should I care?” (Susan Mathis, “Why Service is Necessary“)
What are some tips on how to better serve others?
When you stay close to the Lord in Bible reading and prayer and ask Him to guide your days, the Holy Spirit will fill you with ideas for service. Perhaps your elderly neighbor needs his lawn mowed, a ride to the store, or a home-cooked meal. Maybe your friend had a recent loss and could use support. Or your coworker may need some assistance on a project so you offer to work late to help them. The ideas are limitless!
Treat your job as an act of service and every task as important. Keep your eyes open to the needs around you and then act on them! We are not perfect and we might be late or forgetful, but start over tomorrow, ask forgiveness if necessary, and do your best that day!
Serve without an expectation of thanks. This can be difficult, but God saw your service and there is great peace in obedience. One day we will each stand before God and Jesus in judgment for our lives and I personally want to do my best to stand blameless before the Lord. We will always be sinners, however, as followers of Jesus Christ, He pushes us to give Him our BEST.
As John Piper puts it, “Trust in the Lord, and do good.”
Trust in the Lord, and Do Good
“Therefore, when you read in the Psalms that the psalmists offer up their blamelessness and uprightness and integrity and righteousness to God, don’t over-spiritualize it. Don’t treat it as perfectionism. Don’t think of it as legalism. Don’t demean it as a defective part of the “old covenant.” Take it for what it is: a godly man, who knows he is a sinner, pardoned for God’s name’s sake, justified by grace, trusting God’s mercy, depending on God’s Spirit, taking refuge in God’s protection, delighting in God’s beauty, keeping God’s covenant, and therefore walking in integrity and honesty and uprightness.”
“When viewed in this way, the Psalms become precious beyond measure as they help us “trust in the Lord, and do good” (Psalm 37:3).” (John Piper, “Can Anyone Really Be Blameless?“)
Living the sacrificial life is not easy, but obedience to God requires us to joyfully do it anyway. When you feel weak, go to God and He will give you what you need to fulfill His will! He loves each of us and wants us to take care of each other! Seek God today, find His plan for your life, and put it into action!
Ephesians 5:1-2 (NIV)
5 1 Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Edited by Allie Anson