The Young Man And His Service
This helpful article is the fifth in a series on “The Young Man” by Mr. Donald K. Steele of Peterborough, Ontario.
Every young believer, in love with the Lord Jesus Christ, desiring to do His will at all times, will certainly think of service. The whole message of the New Testament indicates that we are saved to serve. The well-known hymn by Isaac Watts puts it in the form of a question: “Must I be carried to the skies in flowery beds of ease, while others fight to win the prize, and sail through bloody seas?” There is no doubt at all that we are saved to serve, and Paul in Romans 7:4 tells us why: “So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God” (NIV). Why serve? Because we belong to another, and also in order that we might bear fruit to God — these two excellent reasons are both clearly spelled out in this verse. If God has redeemed us, bought us back from the chains of sin, through the precious blood of Christ, He has done so in order that we might bear some precious fruit for His glory. Service goes with salvation, as love goes with marriage, or a horse with a carriage, to paraphrase an old song. The natural outcome of salvation is service. A born-again Christian who does not serve God is an anomaly, an abberation, a strangely useless tool in the great scheme of God’s universe.
WHOM DO WE SERVE? We serve God, for Paul speaks of “the God, whose I am and whom I serve” in Acts 27:33. We serve the Lord Jesus Christ, who promised in John 12:26 that the Father would honour the one who serves the Lord Jesus Christ. I believe it is critically important to keep ever before us this great fact. We are serving the Lord, not man. Even the finest of Christian friends may sometimes disappoint us, or let us down in some small way or other, but if we remember that it is the Lord that we serve, we shall more readily overcome disappointments and press on, faithful in His service. I know a dear brother who has preached the Word of God faithfully for more than seventy years. His first message in one chapel was in 1909; the last was in 1979. Such a remarkable record of service could never be maintained if he were merely serving man, or the church, or fellow believers, but it is our Lord Jesus Christ who is our Master and it is He who directs our service.
HOW CAN WE SERVE? This depends on our situation, our education, our abilities, aptitudes, interests, and our ‘gifts.’ Since I have no voice, I cannot serve as a soloist, nor even as a member of the choir. But this does not trouble me, for I have both the training and ability to teach, and so a whole vista of areas of service are opened to me in the Sunday School, the Bible school, and so on. Every young man with a desire to serve will be able to find some area of service. Serving does not only mean preaching or singing, or songleading! Ushering, cleaning the chapel, painting the walls, handing out tracts, witnessing to school chums, visiting the elderly and the sick, mowing the widow’s lawn —these and thousands of other areas of very practical service for the Lord
Jesus are there waiting for the willing worker who will take on a form of service and do it faithfully. I knew a dear invalid lady near here who was bedridden for twenty years or more. Her whole sphere of service involved praying for other Christian workers, and many, many of them visited her and were spiritually encouraged to learn of her faithful prayers day by day for many years on their account. You see, she did what she could. That is the key to service. Do what you can do, and do it faithfully, and IF HE SO DESIRES, God will fit you for still other areas of service.
However, there is little place in God’s plan for the quitter, the dilettante, who dabbles in this or that, and sticks with nothing. 1 Corinthians 4:2 says that “it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful,” and this is true for all types of servants.
God does not call to the mission field, or some other area of full-time service, those who have not proven themselves at home. If you can do nothing for God where you are, a boat ride across the ocean is not going to change you or ‘miraculously’ fit you for service in a foreign land. Furthermore, God does not call the unprepared to serve in areas of greater responsibility. Education, training, preparation, Bible study, perhaps even Bible school — all of these may consume years while God is fitting you for a life of dedicated service to Himself. Your aptitudes, abilities, interests, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit and mature Christian counsellors will all enable you to find a direction in this matter. The nature and sphere of your service will depend on your abilities and preparation and your call from the Lord.
Several of my young friends, all Bible school graduates, work for a Christian printer. Such practical experience and training would prove invaluable if the Lord should call one of them to a mission field printing work, of which there are many. I am not predicting this, but merely pointing out the principle involved.
WHEN DO WE SERVE? I believe that the principle for service is the same as the principle for prayer. In 2 Thessalonians 5:17 we read, “pray without ceasing,” and service is also an unceasing work. Suppose that you take on a class of boys at Sunday School, or through the week. If you approach this work with such questions as “When is my vacation? How many weeks will I have after ten years? Do I get time-and-a-half for overtime?” the whole situation becomes ridiculous. We do not ask such questions in the service of the Lord. Unless we serve Him wholeheartedly, and willingly, and without thought for temporal rewards or honours, our service is vain and useless. The terms and conditions of a modern union labour contract cannot be applied in this case. We are bond-servants, slaves if you like, of the Lord Jesus, and not only that, but we serve Him willingly, knowing that we are also both heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ of all that God has in store for us. Therefore, we serve, not only because we must, but also because we desire to do so.
Still another simple answer to the question of when to serve is this: “You serve when the service needs to be done.” If your chapel has a work party at 9 a.m. on Saturday to paint the Sunday School rooms, you will be of little use if you arrive at noon. Service must be done when the opportunity is presented, or else it will fail.
Preparation for service is a very large topic, just mentioned before, and we cannot exhaust it here. Personal Bible study is basic to all service for God, since it is in His word that He provides the instructions for all work and all co-operative activities among believers. Formal education is very important if broader avenues of service are to be opened to you. A good Bible school for one or more years can be of inestimable value in grounding you in the Word. Specific vocational training can be exactly what you need for particular types of service. One of our Bible school graduates is now taking special pilot training in British Columbia in order to further prepare himself for either secular or missionary service, as the Lord leads. Do not be afraid to devote some years of your life to preparation, if you have a definite and worthy goal in mind. Consider the preparation of the Apostle Paul. After all his formal education, God led him into Arabia for three years of solitary meditation and preparation for a public ministry that was to span the entire balance of his life. Who could even suggest that those three years were wasted?
WHAT ARE THE REWARDS OF SERVICE? I cannot explain in this brief article all that God has for His faithful servants. Study the crowns listed in the New Testament for yourself. Consider the glorious future awaiting all of His saints as described by the Apostle John in the Revelation. Look at the passage in Matthew 25:14-30 concerning the talents, and notice especially verse 28. I believe that here is a principle that those who have served most faithfully will in the future be given even greater responsibilities. Is this not a reward in itself?
We live in a world that is desperately sick. The terminal illness of mankind is sin. You and I who know the Lord Jesus Christ have the bread of life and the water of life, because we know the Great Physician. It is our duty to bring the life-giving message of salvation to weary, needy sinners, many, many of whom are sincerely seeking someone who will present to them a permanent and effective remedy for sin. Are we going to keep the good news to ourselves? Are we going to fritter away our time, in such relatively frivolous pursuits as reading novels, watching television, attending sports events, and so on, while friends and acquaintances of ours slip into eternity without Christ? Oh, dear friends, I challenge you to buy up the opportunities and waste not a moment that you could utilize in serving the best of all Masters. Within three days just two weeks ago, two men whom I knew socially died. One was thirty-nine. One was forty. Now I must live with the serious question: “Did I make an adequate effort to present Christ to these two men?” It is a serious question, for I will never get another chance to speak to these two.