2. Why Serve
For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, …
But emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.
Why is serving God important?
Is it really necessary to serve God? What is the purpose of changing our priorities to accomplish tasks that God could honestly do better and more quickly without us? Peter addresses the importance of serving God in 1 Peter 4:10-11: “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 for ever and ever. Amen.” Peter makes it clear that we have received our gifts from God for two purposes— to serve others and to bring praise to God. Serving isn’t about us receiving attention or glory; it is for Him to receive glory.
How does God receive glory when we serve? The transforming power of Jesus Christ is on display in the lives of those who have traded selfishness for selflessness. Peter says believers should recognize that we are speaking and serving directly on behalf of God to others, while He gives the ability and strength for us to do so. And when we direct glory towards Him instead of accepting it for ourselves, we stand out from the crowd of those who glorify only themselves. And that difference in our lives causes people to examine the life-changing nature of a relationship with Jesus Christ. It validates our faith in front of others.
Romans 12:1-2 says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Paul’s point is that for those who have been saved by the blood of Jesus, it only makes sense to honor Him. Giving ourselves to God is our spiritual act of worship (the Greek word for “spiritual” can also be translated “reasonable”). It’s only reasonable that we would serve the God who has provided the greatest service of all: salvation from sin and self and eternal life with Him in heaven.
Why should I want to serve God?
The fact that we should serve God is obvious in Scripture (see Luke 4:8). Why we should want to serve God is a more difficult question. Every Christian asked might have a different reason for serving God; different people are motivated by different things. However, the Bible does make clear that, when a person is in a real relationship with God, he will serve God. We should want to serve God because we know Him; an inherent part of knowing Him is a desire to serve Him.
It’s always been God’s intention to make us like His Son, Jesus (Romans 8:29). When we look at Jesus’ life, there’s no denying that He was a servant. Jesus’ entire life was centered on serving God—by teaching, healing, and proclaiming the Kingdom (Matthew 4:23). He came not “to be served but to serve” (Matthew 20:28). Then, on the night of His arrest, Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, leaving them with a final teaching to serve one another: “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you” (see John 13:12–17). So, if Jesus is all about serving, and God wants to make us like Him, then it’s pretty obvious that we should be all about serving as well.
Genuine service cannot be separated from love. We can go through the motions of serving God, but if our hearts are not in it we’re missing the point. First Corinthians 13 makes it clear that, unless our service is rooted in love, it’s meaningless. Serving God out of a sense of obligation or duty, apart from love for God, is not what He desires. Rather, serving God should be our natural, love-filled response to Him who loved us first (see 1 John 4:9–11).
The apostle Paul is a great example of how having a relationship with God through Christ results in a life of service. Prior to his conversion, Paul persecuted and killed believers, thinking he was serving God. But after he encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus, he immediately devoted the rest of his life to truly serving God by spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ (see Acts 9:20). Paul describes this transformation in 1 Timothy 1:12–14: “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” Once Paul became aware of the love and grace that God had given him, his response was to serve God.
The Bible offers several motivations for our service. We want to serve God because “we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken” (Hebrews 12:28), because our service supplies “the needs of the Lord’s people” (2 Corinthians 9:12), because our service proves our faith and causes others to praise God (2 Corinthians 9:13), and because God sees and rewards our labor of love (Hebrews 6:10). Each of these is a good reason to serve God.
We can give away only what we’ve first received. The reason we can love and serve God is that He first loved and served us through Jesus Christ. The more we are aware of and experience God’s love in our own lives, the more prone we are to respond in love by serving Him. If you want to want to serve God, the key is to get to know Him! Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal more of God to you (John 16:13). When we truly know God, who is love (1 John 4:8), our natural response is a desire to love and serve Him in return.