Pastoral Perspectives

Serve The Lord

The dog had been walked and the human and the dog sat together to relax before calling it a night. The television was showing a Chinese martial art serial based on the popular novel called 天龙八部. And so there was this bunch of weirdo fighters kneeling before a shy monk. They were slaves of a ruthless master and the monk had, through a comedy of errors, succeeded the master and hence became their new master. Before this, they had sworn to kill their master. But now they swore to turn good and never to do evil again and would lay down their lives willingly for the new master. What caused this change of heart and attitude? Well, before this, they had been enslaved to the old master who used poison to manipulate them. But the new master delivered them from the suffering caused by it. So though they had been cured and were free to go, they chose to remain as slaves and serve him wholeheartedly for the rest of their lives because they had experienced the new master’s mercies and were grateful for it.

As I watched this episode, I was reminded of what Paul had written in Romans 12:1. He writes, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Like the weirdoes in the show, we were all once enslaved to sin and the wages of sin is death. But by the grace of God, we have received forgiveness of sin through faith in Jesus. And having experienced God’s mercies, we should likewise be eternally grateful by turning good and never to do evil again so that we may present our bodies as living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God. So like the weirdoes, we too should want to serve our Lord wholeheartedly for the rest of our lives here on earth until we meet him face to face. So if you are not motivated to serve God but find it a chore and distraction instead, I wonder if you have truly experienced and understood God’s mercies. So how may we serve our Lord wholeheartedly? Paul writes in verse 11 of the same chapter, “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.”

The word slothful in zeal is used to describe the the lazy servant who couldn’t bother to invest his master’s money that had been entrusted to him and simply buried it in the ground until the master returned (Matt. 25:26). Paul also reminds us in Colossians 3:23-24 that whatever we do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, for we are serving the Lord Christ. It is not just service in the church that we should be diligent but in all areas of work, be it at home, in school or out at work. Therefore, are you diligent or slothful? Or do you work or appear to work only when the boss is around but do your own things and mind your own business when he is not? If we are motivated by God’s mercies, we should not be slothful at work but diligent at all times because we know who our real Boss is and we want to serve him wholeheartedly.

But there are some who are hard at work and busy with work but they do so grudgingly. It is not uncommon to find colleagues who pull long faces while working. It may be that they do not like the kind of work they are doing but they have no choice. It may be that they think the amount of work they are doing do not justify the salary they are getting. And so they work grudgingly and others try to avoid them. Such workers clearly lack the right motivation to work. If we are motivated by the mercies of God, we shouldn’t be pulling long faces and doing work grudgingly. We should be fervent in spirit as we work. The word fervent means to boil and is used to describe Apollos in Acts 18:15 who being fervent in spirit, spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus though he knew only the baptism of John. It describes someone who is boiling with passion to work though he may still be young and has much to learn for himself. And just as boiling water heats up the surrounding area, others who work alongside him would be motivated by him. So are you fervent in spirit in your work such that others are thankful to have you as a colleague or that they willingly want to help you learn and improve, just as Priscilla and Aquila did to Apollos?

And finally Paul says we are to serve the Lord. That’s obvious right? Well, I suppose we can find many people who are super-hardworking and super-fervent but they do so for the glory of wealth, fame or power but not for the Lord. These things may be the fruit of our labour and are not evil by themselves. But they shouldn’t be our primary goal if we are serving the Lord and motivated by his mercies. Our primary goal ought to be for his glory and honour. This means that if we have to compromise biblical teachings and Christian values in order to gain results at work or achieve our goal or ambition, then we are not serving the Lord. So are you serving the Lord?

So how should we serve the Lord? We have to ensure that our motivation is right, i.e. we serve the Lord because of his mercies toward us. And that motivation should cause us not to be slothful but diligent at work. Serving Christ then becomes our passion and we do so fervently such that others find it a joy and blessing to work with us. And at the end of the day, the Lord will be pleased to call us his faithful servants and welcome us into his kingdom. This truly is the best fruit for our labour of service.

Rev Ronnie Ang

February 8, 2015