Getting Fit: Serving
1 Peter 4:10-11
Rev. Brian Bill
I experienced a slice of servanthood again this week as I watched a team of dedicated servants serve a funeral dinner for the family and friends of Tony Shubert this past Wednesday. Under the leadership of Lisa Johns and Amanda Pfaff, this group of selfless saints ministers in the name of Jesus through the preparation and joyful presentation of delicious food. One woman who loves to serve in this way is Alberta Flint. I’m told that when she is asked to help out a hurting family, this is generally how she answers: “Sure thing. When is it and what can I bring?”
I love that because her response is “yes” before she even knows when she’s needed or what is needed. Alberta’s immediate answer captures the heart of a servant.
Last week I mentioned that it seemed somewhat redundant to preach on generosity because this church is filled with so many generous people. Incidentally, the offering on Sunday was OK but nothing spectacular so maybe I need to preach last week’s sermon again or have Pastor Andy come back up here. I feel somewhat the same way today because this church is saturated with servants as well. Having said that, when we compare ourselves with the generosity of Christ, we can always become more generous and when we study how our Savior served, we can all step up our servanthood.
Since this is the final installment in our “Getting Fit: Healthy Habits for the New Year” series, it’s important for us to take some time to assess how we’re doing in developing spiritual discipline. Here are the main points from each of the messages. If you missed a message or two, you can read the manuscript or listen online at www.pontiacbible.org.
• Discipline. It takes discipline to be a disciple because spiritual growth is intentional, not automatic.
• Worship. In order to develop the holy habit of worship we need to make sure that our praise is both reverent and filled with rejoicing and that we have the courage to rethink what worship really is, which is a surrendered life to the Savior.
• Values: Since Jesus values the most vulnerable, I must value the most vulnerable. And that would include the preborn, orphans and widows.
• Parenting Beyond My Capacity. Pastor Jeff helped us see that as parents we must widen the circle of influence, imagine the end, fight for the heart of our kids, create a rhythm, and make it personal.
• Witnessing. Pastor Andy challenged us with this truth: The best defense is a good offense. We’re to witness with our life and our lips. By the way, someone called me this week and was so excited about being able to give out a copy of Anchor for the Soul because she was able to use it as a tool to share the gospel with someone who doesn’t know Christ...yet.
• Generosity: It’s impossible to out give God. We learned that we must make sure that God is weightier than our wealth, to give God our first and our best, and then when we give we’ll really live.
That leads to our topic today. Here’s the big idea: “If you’re saved, you’re a servant.” Please turn to 1 Peter 4:10-11 as I read our text: “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.”
And now let’s set the context. Peter is writing to believers who have been scattered because of persecution. Some are bummed out while others are looking to bail on their faith. They are being urged to persevere in the midst of their problems and to keep serving in spite of their suffering. This alone tells us that conditions don’t have to be perfect before we can serve. In fact, as we get closer to the end of the age, and it sure seems like we are with what is happening in the Middle East, as servants of Christ we will have greater and greater opportunities to serve.
I’m reminded that Christianity is all about conformity to Christ, not comfort. Unfortunately, some of the most popular books today are those that say you can have it all, that God wants you to be happy, healthy and wealthy. The mantra goes something like this: “If you just lay hold of your dreams, and have faith, you can achieve all that you believe.” Some teach that God doesn’t want you to ever be sick or to live like a hick.
Friends, becoming like Christ doesn’t just happen when we stroll down easy street. We become more like the Savior when we suffer and serve like the Savior, no matter how difficult that may be. 1 Peter 2:21: “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.”
Let’s see how we can grow in the discipline of serving.
1. Use what you’ve been given to serve others. Check out the first part of verse 10: “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others…” The word “gift” means something that has been generously given.
• Everyone has at least one gift. 1 Corinthians 7:7 echoes this truth: “But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.” Are you doing what you can with what you have? Remember this: your responsibility is always tied to your ability. In 1 Corinthians 3:5 we read this, “…As the Lord has assigned to each his task.” It’s our job to be faithful to what He has given us to do.
Just as the different parts of our bodies have different functions, so too, in the body of Christ, each of us have been given different gifts and roles. We can’t do it alone. If God’s purposes are to be accomplished and His church is to grow, every one of us is important. Nobody is a nobody in the Body of Christ. While no one can do everything, everyone can do something.
Look at 1 Corinthians 12:7: “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” Did you hear the phrase “each one” again? The word “manifest” means to make plain. Spiritual gifts are given to make plain the work of the Holy Spirit.
• Gifts are given to be used to serve others. Gifts are given for the good of others.
We must move away from “serve-us” to service. The thrust of Scripture is service oriented, not need oriented. Too many of us view the church as a place to meet our needs, and when our needs are not met, we start grumbling or stop going completely or we find another church that will serve us.
Friends, let’s move away from being spectators and become contributors. A saved person who is not using their time, talents and treasures for kingdom purposes is an oxymoron. The Bible knows of no such individual. If you’re saved, you’re a servant. Incidentally, the more focused I am on my needs; the more likely that I’m going to gripe and grumble. The more I’m settled on serving others; the more I will grow.
Every gift is given to mutually benefit the body. Conversely, non-use adversely affects the church as well. One pastor put it like this: “God gave me a gift, not for me but for you; and God gave you a gift, not for you but for me. If you don’t use your gift, you’re depriving me; if I don’t use my gift, I’m robbing you.”
• PBC has all the gifts we need. I take great comfort knowing that God has given our church everything we need to accomplish all that He has for us to do. We see this in 1 Corinthians 1:7: “Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.” That means that every one of you is extremely valuable. If you are not serving, PBC ends up being sabotaged.
2. Be faithful in spreading God’s grace. When we deploy the gifts we are given, we are really being managers of what God Himself has entrusted to us. We see this in the second half of verse 10: “…faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” The phrase “faithfully administering” is the idea of a steward who is entrusted with the owner’s funds to administer. A steward had no wealth of his own but simply distributed the resources of the Master according to the Master’s will and direction. In a similar way, we are to be faithful managers of God’s grace gifts in their various forms. We don’t own our gifts but we must use them! The phrase “various forms” means multicolored as in the coat that Joseph wore.
One of the clearest examples of a steward in the Bible is Eliezer (Genesis 15:2). He was Abraham’s manager and took care of his livestock, silver, gold, camels, donkeys and all the other servants. His job was to make sure Abraham’s household ran without any hiccups. His aim was to always promote Abraham’s best interests. Through the years, Eliezer proved himself to be faithful and dependable and as a result, in Genesis 24, Abraham sent him on a trip of hundreds of miles to find a suitable wife for his son Isaac.
Eliezer is the ideal steward for us to imitate. Our job is to represent the Almighty’s interests. Our task is to manage everything we’ve been given in such a way that the household of faith runs smoothly and that the portion of God’s possessions entrusted to us are used to promote His purposes.
Here are four ways to be faithful in administering God’s grace:
• Serve whenever you can.
• Serve wherever you can.
• Serve whoever is in need.
• Be willing to do whatever it takes.
PBC is filled to the brim with servants who are mobilized for ministry! I have never been around a church with so many serving saints, and I have never been part of a church that has the potential to do so much more! Many years ago, Pastor Jeff mentioned that PBC is a church that works. We are a church that works because there are so many people that work according to their giftedness and abilities. The last phrase of Ephesians 4:16 comes as a concluding statement so we don’t miss it: “…as each part does its work.”
The Bible has a word for serving; it’s called “ministry.” When people hear the word, “minister” many think of a pastor who only works a half day a week! But the Bible says every believer is a minister. 1 Peter 2:9: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood…” Turn to the person next to you right now and say, “You’re a minister.”
Have you ever been asked how many ministers we have at PBC? You might be tempted to say that we have three. Actually, that’s not a biblically correct answer. The right answer is that we have over 400 ministers and three equippers.
Ray Pritchard suggests some good questions to ask…
• What are you doing with the gifts you’ve been given?
• Who have you helped recently?
• In what ways is PBC stronger because you are here?
• Are you wasting God’s gift or are you using God’s gift?
3. Serve with God’s strength. If we don’t serve with the strength that comes from God, we’ll either burn out or become bitter. Gifts are given by God but we shouldn’t assume we can use them without God’s power. We see this in the front half of verse 11: “If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides…”
This verse tells us that there are two major categories of spiritual gifts – speaking gifts and serving gifts. If you have a speaking gift like teaching, preaching, leadership, or encouragement, make sure to not just pass along your own words; instead saturate what you say with God’s Words. If you have serving gifts like mercy, helps, administration or prayer, then serve with the strength God provides.
4. All credit must go to Christ. When we serve we must guard against craving credit or recognition from others. We must also realize that ultimately we don’t serve because it’s fun or thrilling. We’ve been given gifts in order to use them for the glory of God. God gives gifts so that His glory might be displayed. Look at the last part of verse 11: “…so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory and the power forever and ever.” Peter moves from doctrine to doxology. It’s as if he can’t help but praise God the giver after speaking about the gifts that He has given.
One Bible Dictionary defines “giving glory” this way: “To influence one’s opinion about another so as to enhance the latter’s reputation.” An example of this is what happened when so many of you gave sacrificially to make the auditorium renovations happen. Gifted servants went to work to make sure we could have a baptistery on the platform, and now God alone gets all the glory. Did you know that in the past six years, 109 people have been baptized and in the year and a half that we’ve had our own baptistery, 34 have taken the plunge! To God alone be the glory and power forever and ever!
It’s so easy to get too much of “me” in what I do. Years ago, when I served at a different church, we focused so much on spiritual gifts that we even developed some self-centered jargon. We would say “My gift” or if we had a couple different gifts, we would use the phrase, “My gift mix.” This overemphasis on “me” led some of us to think that we should only serve in ways that were personally fulfilling to us. After all, if I have gifts, then God would want me to be happy in using them right? Not always. Remember that the true test of being a servant is what happens when we’re treated like one.
One of the best things to do when someone pays you a compliment is to say, “To God be the glory” or to simply point up to heaven with your finger. This is also how we should respond when no one compliments us or thanks us or even notices what we’ve done. The supreme test of service is this: “For whom am I doing this?”
Steps to Servanthood
Here are some steps we can take to grow in the discipline of serving.
1. Choose to be a servant by surrendering to the Master. The first place to start is by making sure that you have surrendered to the Savior by being saved. After you surrender, you will want to serve Him, not because you have to, but because you get to. In my Bible reading this week I came across the concept of a bondslave in Exodus 21:5-6. After serving for six years, a Hebrew servant was set free. If however, the servant declares, “I love my master…and do not want to go free…He shall take him to the door or the doorpost and pierce his ear with an awl. Then he will be his servant for life.” Are you willing out of love for the Master to offer yourself as His bondservant for the rest of your life?
Richard Foster, in his book “Celebration of Discipline,” writes: “There’s a difference between choosing to serve and choosing to be a servant.” We could say it this way: Don’t serve until you’ve settled the servanthood issue; but once you’ve settled it, don’t ever stop serving.
A volunteer picks and chooses when and even whether to serve. A servant serves no matter what. A volunteer serves when convenient; a servant serves out of commitment. Someone said it well: “The servant does what he is told when he is told to do it. The volunteer does what he wants to do when he feels like doing it.”
2. When asked to serve, practice saying this, “Sure thing. When do you need me and what should I bring?” One of the best biblical images of this single-minded resolve to deflect devotion from self to the Savior is found in Psalm 123:2: “As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maid look to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the LORD our God…” When the master moves his finger, the servant falls in line. When he says, “jump” the servant says, “how high?” The servant does not waffle or hedge or complain or bargain or debate. He or she simply obeys like the child Samuel who responded to the Lord’s voice in 1 Samuel 3:9: by saying, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”
3. Determine to serve in at least three different spheres. 1 Peter 2:16 challenges us to “…live as servants of God.” We could say it like this: The issue is not whether you will serve but where you will serve because if you’re saved then you’re a servant.
• Serve within your family and serve as a family.
• Serve within the church.
• Serve missionally in our community.
I heard about an unusual high school football game played in Grapevine, Texas recently between Grapevine Faith Academy and the Gainesville State School. Faith Academy is a Christian school and Gainesville is located within a high-security youth correctional facility. The prison team had only 14 players and played every game on the road. With a record of 0-8, they only scored twice the whole year. Their players are teenagers who have been convicted of crimes ranging from drugs to assault to robbery. Most had families who had disowned them. They wore outdated, used shoulder pads and helmets.
Faith Academy was 7-2 with 70 players, 11 coaches, and the latest equipment. Chris Hogan, the head coach at Faith Academy, knew the Gainesville team would have no fans and it would be no contest, so he thought, “What if half of our fans and half of our cheerleaders…cheered for the other team?” He sent out an email to the faithful fans asking them to do just that. “Here’s the message I want you to send,” Hogan wrote. “You’re just as valuable as any other person on the planet.”
Some thought he was confused and crazy. One player said, “Coach, why are we doing this?” Hogan said, “Imagine you don’t have a home life, no one to love you, no one pulling for you. Imagine that everyone pretty much had given up on you. Now, imagine what it would feel like and mean to you for hundreds of people to suddenly believe in you.”
The idea took root. On the night of the game, imagine the surprise of those 14 players when they took the field and there was a banner the cheerleaders had made for them to crash through. The visitors’ stands were full. The cheerleaders were leading cheers for them. The fans were calling them by their names. Isaiah, the quarterback-middle linebacker said, “I never in my life thought I would hear parents cheering for me to tackle and hit their kid. Most of the time, when we come out, people are afraid of us. You can see it in their eyes, but these people are yelling for us. They knew our names.”
After the game the teams gathered at the 50-yard line to pray. That’s when Isaiah, the teenage convict surprised everybody and asked if he could pray, “Lord, I don’t know what just happened so I don’t know how or who to say thank you to, but I never knew there were so many people in the world who cared about us.”
On the way back to the bus, under guard, each one of the players was handed a burger and fries, a coke and a candy bar, a Bible, and an encouraging letter from the players from Faith Academy. What an incredible act of selfless servanthood. Proverbs 3:27 says, “Do not withhold good when it is in your power to act.”