Now, these first two attempts at serving the Lord fail because of one problem. The service is centered on the servant. In other words, the service is designed by the servant for the benefit of the servant. But we are not called to serve God for ourselves or for what we can get. We are called to serve the Lord because of His love. Because He has already loved us and continues to love us, we become joyful servants, ready to serve with enthusiasm.
It is easy for a believer to attempt to serve God in the flesh. We sit down with ourselves and decide just how we will serve the Lord. We will do our thing our way and then we will offer it to Him. The only problem with that is that He may not have wanted us to do that in that way. It is poor service to serve without asking.
But true Christian service comes out of relationship. As we live and walk with the Lord, listening to Him, we are led by Him to serve Him in the way He wants.
Think of it this way. Suppose we think of the Lord truly as our Lord and Master. Then we think of ourselves as His servants. Wouldn’t it be foolish for a servant to bring the master some act of service that the master didn’t want? There would be no blessing in an unwanted service. Suppose your paper boy decided to add to his service to you by ringing your doorbell when he delivers the paper. Would that be a blessing to you? Suppose the gas station sent a tow truck to get your car so they could fill it with gas as a service to you. Would that be a blessing to you?
You see, the true servant asks the master. The servant is led by the Master. He comes to the master in humility and asks how he can serve. This is the attitude we are to have. We must ask Jesus what He would have us do and then do it in service to Him. Don’t worry, if you ask in sincerity, you will find an answer at the right time. He may want you to wait for a while, or He may want you just to keep doing what you are doing.
The true servant, operating under “serving grace” comes to the Master and seeks the Master’s will. Then the servant trusts that the Master will call on him when the time is right and that the Master will provide everything that is needed to accomplish the act of service.
The true servant is willing, as you see, to wait. Waiting on the Lord is also service to Him. We forget that we simply are to be available when He calls. We think that we must be always doing some great activity. Instead, the Master gives us time just for worship and praise. During those times of waiting, we can learn more about Him and we can open our hearts more to Him.
The true servant is also willing to do something small, even something others might not notice. The nature of the task doesn’t matter as long as it fulfills the command of the Master.
The well-known minister, Andrew Bonar brought home a brick from his travels in the area of ancient Babylon. One Sunday he showed it to his congregation. He said that every brick in the temple from which it was taken bore the name of the king who was reigning at the time the structure was built. Making the application, Bonar said, “We must let everything we do bear the name of our King, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Some time later, a woman came to the minister and exclaimed, “Those bricks. Oh, those bricks of Babylon!” Sensing the implication of her statement, he asked, “Did you find them while sweeping the floors?” “No,” she said, “I found them while making the beds. You remember you said that everything we did should bear the name of our Savior. Well, shortly after that, I had to change the beds, a job I thoroughly dislike. So I said, ‘I will do this in the name of Jesus and for His glory!'”
This is one of the secrets Hudson Taylor discovered. He wrote:
I used to ask God to help me. Then I asked if I might help him. I ended up asking him to do his work through me.
If some small task will fulfill the purpose of our Master then it is just as important as any great task. As we yield ourselves to Him to serve Him His way, we find our service acceptable to Him. True joy of service comes when we realize that all our work, all our time and effort, is simply the use of our lives by His hand. C. S. Lewis reminded us that only God does the work of God:
When we talk of a man doing anything for God or giving anything to God, I will tell you what it is really like. It is like a small child going to its father and saying, “Daddy, give me sixpence to buy you a birthday present.” Of course, the father does, and he is pleased with the child’s present.
The servant is willing to be used by the Master. In other words, acceptable service to the Lord actually is the work of the Lord Himself as He uses us. We are the tools in His hands, ideally, with no wills of our own except to serve Him. This is true Christian service.
You see, the key to Christian service is availability. The servant is available to the Master. Christian service is not about what we think we ought to be doing or giving to the Lord. Christian service is following Jesus as He does His work.