Summary: Part of a series on Rick Warren’s The Purpose-Driven Life. Worship without service is idolatry; fellowship without service is self-indulgence; discipleship without service is perfectionism. Pay the price of service.

Not long ago an insurance salesman called, wanting to sell me long-term care insurance. I was tempted to tell him I had an unbeatable plan for long-term care, called heaven, but I didn’t. Not this time, anyway, because some aches and pains we had been feeling did remind us that we might actually get old some day and might need help. So I listened to the insurance salesman. As he told me about the benefits, including years upon years of nursing home care, I listened gladly. As he spoke about the possibility of insurance paying for workers to come to our home to take care of us, I heard him eagerly. He waxed eloquent about all the things insurance could do; he was most persuasive about the reputation of his company. It all sounded just great to my ears. But when I asked the cost, he mumbled something under his breath. I thought surely I didn’t hear it right, so I asked him to repeat it. When I found out that the premium for this Christmas tree was more than my annual salary was a few years ago, I shut down! I quit listening! It was no longer of interest. I can get in line for benefits, you see, but when it is time to pay the price, I quit. I back off. I am less than enthusiastic. It’s fine for you to tell me what’s in it for me; it’s not so fine when you tell me what it will cost.

The purpose-driven life is like that. We’ve spent three weeks thinking about all the joys available to us, as God has designed us. First we said that we are planned for God’s pleasure, and that if we worship Him, there will be tremendous joy. That’s what I heard, didn’t you? And then we said that God’s purpose for us includes being formed to be part of God’s family. What a cozy thought! I sure can hear that, can’t you? Part of God’s family. Sounds good! And then last week, the third purpose for which God has designed us – we are created to be like Christ. That means study, learning, soaking up knowledge. Okay; I can do that. I can hear that and respond to that. So far, so good. God’s purposes for us are pleasant and fulfilling.

But look out, brothers and sisters, look out. Today we have come to a turning point. Today we have come to a whole new level. Today we must consider that God has designed us not just for Himself and not just for ourselves, but God has designed us for others. God has designed us to reach out and to give. God has designed us for ministry.

We are about to learn that worship without service is idolatry, that fellowship without service is self-indulgence, and that discipleship without service is perfectionism. And none of those will wash. None of those will accomplish what God wants to do in us. For you were shaped for service. You were shaped to pay the premiums.

Again, listen to the argument for today. We are about to learn, first, that worship without service is idolatry; second, that fellowship without service is self-indulgence; and, third, that discipleship without service is perfectionism. And none of those will wash. None of those will accomplish what God wants to do in us. For you were shaped for service.


Now the world says service is menial. The world says that service is for people who can’t do anything else. If you can’t make something, sweep floors and clean toilets. If you can’t create anything, collect garbage. If you can’t get a real job, wait on tables. I’ve heard it said a thousand times – that people who say they can’t find a job could just get out there to some restaurant and wait tables. They say there’s always room for servers.

The world says service is menial. But did you know the Lord says that service is honorable? The Lord says that service is something to which we can aspire, and that if we do not do service, our worship is just idolatry. Worship without service is idolatry.

Have you gone to a restaurant, and somebody comes to your table and says, “Hi, I’m Tammy, and I’ll be your server tonight.”? You barely look up, and certainly do not memorize Tammy’s name or ask her about her love life. You are not interested in connecting with Tammy. Why not? Because Tammy is only a server. She is there only to take your order back to the kitchen and bring you your food, and that’s it. You do not want a relationship with Tammy; you do not want to know Tammy’s biography; you care nothing about Tammy’s family. You just want her to do her thing and disappear. Which, of course, she promptly does – she disappears, for too long a time, and then you decide you want to get her attention. But you can’t even remember which one she is out there on the floor! Was she that one over there, tall and willowy? Or was she that one back there, short and stout? You can’t remember. You were paying no attention. You were focused on better things, like filling your belly, and anyway servers are essentially nobodies, just there to take care of you and that’s it.

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Simon Melendres

commented on Feb 7, 2015

Great serm? really speaks to us. Simon M.

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