Have you ever given up a day and volunteered somewhere? Years ago, MRC led the Youth Impact Project. It was incredible. We helped financially struggling families prepare their kids for school. It took all year long to plan for this one event. It impacted thousands of families. It was exhausting and it was awesome. We walked away from that event feeling so tired and so fulfilled. I’ll never forget the stories of the families who we helped.
Have you ever experienced that? There is a reason that every time you serve someone less fortunate than you, you walk away fulfilled. Here is why. It is hard wired into you by God to serve. When you serve others, you are serving God. You are better when you serve. It does something spiritual to your heart.
Today, when I use the word serving, that means a couple of things. That means serving somewhere as a volunteer. Serving in Church. Serving people who you are in relationships with. In general, serving means a life that is able to put themselves aside to help others get ahead.
I want to read for you how scripture puts it.
Before I made you in your mother’s womb, I chose you. Before you were born, I set you apart for a special work. NCV Jeremiah 1:5
Think about that. Before God created you, God had special plans for you. You were created on purpose to serve people. That means in God’s kingdom, you have a place, a purpose, a role, and a function to fulfill. You matter. Your life is significant. It doesn’t matter how young or old you are. It doesn’t matter how much money you have, how much experience you have, or even who you know. It doesn’t matter if you grew up in church or not. God hardwired you, He created you, to serve others. Why? When you serve others, you are serving God.
And when you make the choice to care about others and serve them, it’s proof that you are a Christian. John wrote this.
If we love other Christians, it proves that we have been delivered from hell and given eternal life. But a person who doesn’t have love for others is headed for eternal death. TLB 1 John 3:14
That means if I have no love or care for others, if I have no desire to help others, if I am only concerned about me, I should really question if I have Jesus in my life. The proof that God has transformed my heart is when I care for, when I am concerned about others.
That’s what we talk about today. Your fourth purpose. You were hard wired by God to serve others. We started with the foundation of life – God loves you. We talked about your first purpose – worship. Worship probably isn’t what you think it is. When we say worship, that means we trust God in all the areas of your life. Like a three year old jumping off the kitchen counter into their loving father’s arms, we can jump into God’s arms – that’s worship. Purpose two, community. Remember we said, healthy community is always begins with our personal relationship with God? If not, we can replace our relationship with God with people, programs, and events. Last week, discipleship. You were created by God to become like Jesus. Remember we said there was a ‘God’ part, a ‘You’ part, and a ‘Life’ part? This week, serving.
There is a reason why, if you never decide to serve, you never feel fulfilled. You will feel like something is missing. Have you noticed how unfulfilling life is when it’s filled with cheap reality TV, Netflix binges, and ‘me days’? You were not created to just sit back, consume, and focus on yourself. When you live like that, life becomes very dull, very small, and everyone is disappointing to you.
To become someone who serves, you will need to wrestle with a couple questions. Why do I say that? Because serving goes against every natural instinct in our lives. We are born as selfish, self-centered, and sinful people who care about one person – us. And serving is the complete opposite. To have a serving heart means something huge has happened. Our hearts must have been spiritually transformed. So today I want to walk through three things you will need to settle in your life to serve.
First. In your life you will have to decide, what is greatness?
In our world, we live in a self-centered, ‘me first’, my feelings rule my life, world. Greatness to us is power, possessions, prestige, and position. We have bestselling books, YouTube channels, Instagram accounts on how you can get the most out of your life. We are taught that we need to put our needs first. Truth is, this is nothing new. Even the disciples believed greatness was about power, possessions, prestige, and position. They were so self-centered, they argued over who was the greatest. Let’s read about it.
33 And so they arrived at Capernaum. When they were settled in the house where they were to stay, he asked them, “What were you discussing out on the road?” 34 But they were ashamed to answer, for they had been arguing about which of them was the greatest! MSG Mark 9:33-34
James and John’s mommy went to Jesus to ask for key positions of power. One on Jesus’ left and one on the right. Let’s pick up this story in Matthew.
24-26 When the ten others heard about this, they lost their tempers, thoroughly disgusted with the two brothers. So Jesus got them together to settle things down. He said, “You’ve observed how godless rulers throw their weight around, how quickly a little power goes to their heads. It’s not going to be that way with you. Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave.” MSG Matthew 20:24-27
What did Jesus do? Jesus confronted the disciples head on. He had to address the fact that they were trying to take what the world said was greatness and bringing it into the kingdom of God. Jesus then introduced them to the Kingdom principle. If you want to be great, you serve. Jesus pointed out that it’s the godless who allow a little power goes to their head and they enjoy throwing their weight around. That way of living is normal in the world but has no business being in the kingdom of God.
Let’s slow down and process this. If Jesus told you that you had to serve to be great, what would you do? Think about that for a second. If Jesus was here on this stage and preached, you must serve to be great. What would you do, how would you respond? Would you stick around, or would you leave to attend another church because you don’t want to serve? Would you think that Jesus’ motives were nothing more than church marketing – trying to get people to do things around the church? If Jesus didn’t elevate you with a role or a title that proved you are a step above others, would you just quietly pull away from Jesus and disappear from church? Would you be disappointed and give less to the church?
I ask you this because when we have asked people to serve, we have experienced all those responses. As a disciple of Jesus, you will have to wrestle with the question, what is greatness to me? Why? Because how the word defines greatness is the complete opposite of how Jesus defines greatness.
I want to read for you what Jesus said in the very next verse. For context, let’s start here.
25-28 “You’ve observed how godless rulers throw their weight around, how quickly a little power goes to their heads. It’s not going to be that way with you. Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave.”
Here is the next verse.
That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not be served – and then to give away his life in exchange for the many who are held hostage.” MSG Matthew 20:26-28
Jesus defined what greatness is. He came to serve, not be served. How many Christians do you know who live this way? How many husbands love their wives this way? How many wives love their husbands this way? Think this through in church. Was this modeled for you as a child? Did your parents show you how to attend church now and then but not fully engage it? Did they teach you to leave church when they didn’t like something? Is it normal with your Christian friends to pursue serving over ‘me days’? What is your version of Christianity? Is it comfort or is it giving your life away?
In the 42-day devotional, it says this.
“The last thing many believers need is another Bible study. They already know far more than they are putting into practice. What they need are serving experiences in which they can exercise their spiritual muscles.” Pg 229
Greatness in the kingdom of God is serving. And this principle is in complete conflict with our selfish, self-centered, and sinful desires in us.
Second. In your life, you will have to decide, do I exist for me, or do I exist for God?
Serving exposes who we live for. Again, you were created by God, hard wired by God, to serve. When you serve others, you are serving God. However, if we have decided to live for ourselves, serving is a rude interruption to us. In that moment, it exposes that we have made the decision; I will not exist for God.
I’m not saying you have to serve at the local soup kitchen 24/7. I’m saying, in your life, if you live for yourself, serving will be a rude interruption. You will struggle to volunteer. You will struggle to serve at Church. You will struggle to serve those you are in relationship with.
How did Jesus live?
5-8 Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death – and the worst kind of death at that – a crucifixion. MSG Philippians 2:1-8
Who did Jesus live for? When the time came, Jesus decided to live for God. He gave His life back to God. He didn’t demand His rights, Jesus set them aside. He entered earth and gave His life away for you.
If I exist for God, I give my life away.
Let’s make this real. Where does this play out in our lives? This question of, do I exist for me or do I exist for God? It plays out in our relationships with others. How we live in our marriages, our families, our schools, our work places, our churches, etc. If I live for God, I can give my life away. I make every relationship better. You might think, Ken, you don’t understand. In my relationships, when I give my life away, I have been wounded. I didn’t get back what I expected. I gave more, I cared more. If I was in court, I could prove to you that I am in the right. And like it or not Ken, that’s the real world. What do you say to that?
Let’s read the words of Jesus.
38-42 “Here’s another old saying that deserves a second look: ‘Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.’ Is that going to get us anywhere? Here’s what I propose: ‘Don’t hit back at all.’ If someone strikes you, stand there and take it. If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.
43-47 “You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the supple moves of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best – the sun to warm and the rain to nourish – to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. MSG Matthew 5:38-47
You and I live in a world that will take advantage of you. You are going to be hurt. Jesus taught, when that happens, take the initiative, and love back. The only way you can live this way is to settle the question, who do I exist for? Do I exist for me, or do I exist for God?
Couple of questions. What is the condition of the relationships you are in? Over the years, have your relationships become tit-for-tat kind of relationships? You only do for them what they do for you? Jesus said, any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. Have you been wounded by others? Are you holding onto that wound so tightly that it has become the reason you don’t get close to people today? Do you live to avoid hurt? Do you live to love? How are you at feeling a wound deeply and giving back love?
If I exist for God, I give my life away. And this principle is in complete conflict with our selfish, self-centered, and sinful desires in us.
Third. In your life, you will have to decide, who owns my life?
You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. NLT 1 Corinthians 6:19b
Have you ever thought through this? As a Christian, God purchased your life. You don’t belong to yourself anymore, you belong to God. That means, everything in your life is God’s. Everything. Your time. Your energy. Your money. Your body. Everything. And if God owns everything, that means we manage what God has given me.
A friend of mine recently was going through a very difficult relationship decision. We were talking about how he should respond because he felt so worn down and defeated. It was such a bad situation, the relationship looked like it was going to end and end badly. I said, it’s natural to ask and think through the question, ‘What is it that I want?’ However, if you have given your life to Jesus, the better question is, ‘What does Jesus want me to do?’
To be someone who serves, you will have to wrestle with this question. Who owns my life? Because if you have given your life to God, God owns it. And again, this principle is in complete conflict with our selfish, self-centered, and sinful desires in us. Nothing short of a spiritual transformation will make us realize, my life is God’s.
If that’s true, if God owns all of me, what is it that God expects from us? You are called by God to build His church.
All of you together are the one body of Christ, and each one of you is a separate and necessary part of it. TLB 1 Corinthians 12:27
You have a role in the local church. God needs you to bring your life to the local church. Here’s why. God designed the local church to be an outpost of heaven. We get together to love each other and support each other. We got together to welcome people from the community the love them and support them. As we get together, we are God’s body for the community to see.
This is why all through scripture, God is building His church. From the days of the Tent, to the Temple, to the first church in Acts, God loves His church. It’s the place where people find hope, prayer, forgiveness, and community. All through scripture, we are taught, bring your best to God. Your time, your money, your energy and build my church.
In fact, at the end or our lives we will be held accountable for our choices to build His church.
Each of us will give a personal account to God. NLT Romans 14:12
This is a section from the Daily Devotional.
One day God will compare how much time and energy we spent on ourselves compared with what we have invested in serving others. At that point, all our excuses for self-centeredness will sound hollow: “I was too busy” or “I had my own goals” or “I was preoccupied with working, having fun, or preparing for retirement.” To all excuses God will respond, “Sorry, wrong answer. I created, saved, and called you and commanded you to love a life of service. What part did you not understand?” Pg 229-230
God hardwired you, He created you, to serve others. Why? When you serve others, you are serving God. The problem is, serving goes against every natural instinct in our lives. We are born as selfish, self-centered, and sinful people who care about one person – us. And serving is the complete opposite. Serving is actually proof that we are Christians. To have a serving heart means something huge has happened. Our hearts must have been spiritually transformed.
There are three things you will have to settle in your life to serve.
What is greatness? Will I exist for me, or will I exist for God? Who owns my life?