I really hope this doesn't sound "anti-serving" or anything of the sort. This was a freeing lesson for me, so maybe you put your own gifts or callings in place of mine or maybe you had this figured out already...
One of the spiritual gifts that shows up when I take a "spiritual gifts test" is the gift of teaching. I feel a sense of energy when I have the opportunity to use that gifting and receive affirmation when used also. It is my understanding that those two aspects can be confirmation of gifting, so for the purpose of this post I will claim the spiritual gift of teaching (and no level of quality is pronounced in that claim:)). In fact, last week I had an opportunity to teach on "Heart Needs" in which I used material from a recent post and I had to humbly cling to the LORD as the enemy plagued me with doubt after my message - a good exercise in not looking for man's approval and trusting that God was still choosing to speak this message through me. (1 Cor. 2:4-6)
Anyway, the passages on Spiritual Gifts (Romans 12:3 ff, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4:7ff make it clear that some have the gift of teaching, some the gift of serving, etc. And yet there is also a calling in scripture to all Christ's followers to serve as He did, right?
"Have this mind among yourself, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who...taking the form of a servant..." (Philippians 2: 5-7)
"...But whoever would be great among you must be your servant..." (Matthew 20:26ff)
"For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another." (Galatians 5:13)
This message in scripture (then presented in the form of messages from the "pulpit" through my college ministry years and beyond) have left me with the belief that I should be serving in sacrificial ways as Christ did. Which I think is true, but I also am realizing that what I have internalized is that "to serve" means to help the church with all those "hands on needs." I have been so impressed with people that seem to serve the church tirelessly and realized that I carry a weight of guilt that I don't feel like I serve as much as I should. I have looked at the women a stage or so ahead of me in life as an inspirational model to be like one day and given myself grace that I'm in a stage of life that demands a great deal of my time and energy with two young, highly dependent children. But then I look at the women in my stage of life - specifically the two with one or two more young children than I have and both homeschool and yet still seem to on the front lines of serving the church. I spent a weekend fighting the burden of comparison - such an ugly, godless activity. And yes, I can know the truth that I am not to compare and try to dwell on that truth, but it was my reading of Acts 13:1-4 that brought this new insight and the sense of freedom...
Barnabus and Saul were set apart by the Holy Spirit for the work to which He had called them. Also, I was reminded that in Acts 6 those disciples preaching the word appointed 7 men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom (honorable description, not lesser because not preachers) to serve the physical needs of people. Yet, those who preached, preached as God opened doors for them and those who preached, served physical needs of people as God opened doors for them - yet they were called to spend a majority of their time and energy preaching and therefore God opened more doors for those opportunities He wanted them to be faithful with. Priscilla and Aquila were a neat example to me of this in Acts 18. They were tentmakers by professional (their vocational calling-where they spent a majority of their time & energy) who served Paul by opening their home to him (fulfilled the need of hospitality as God opened that door) and then taught Apollos The Way more accurately (as God opened that door).
As I have been wrestling with my calling (of being a wife and mother) and my gifting (teaching) and my duty? to serve the church, my God Whispers had repeatedly been something like "be faithful with the little or big task I am asking of you in the here and now. That is serving Me in faith. I will open doors for you to serve Me - serve in the form of teaching, serving in the form of hospitality, serving by mercy, OR even an open door to serve Me with those 'hands on service opportunities' by setting up tables and chairs or helping with food for a church gathering."
So, I am NOT at all saying only those with the "gift of serving" should serve the church, just as not only those with the "gift of hospitality" should be hospitable (Romans 12:13). I think what I'm learning is that the call to serve means to serve with the "grace given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift" (Eph. 4:7). I may have that grace in a larger measure for teaching and the grace in a smaller measure for serving, hospitality, mercy, exhortation, etc.
For me, who wants to be a good servant, is learning the blessing of saying, "No" and living within my God-given capacity, and who does like to be helpful, this lesson from the LORD was a refreshing one of freedom. I am just asked to seek the LORD for what He wants me to do and be faithful to that and not follow some imagined, phantom "scripture perscribed" servant. My being a faithful servant of the LORD (and specifically being faithful in serving the church) doesn't always have to be the front lines help I see my friends doing. Maybe they are called to that and maybe they are in the process of learning the calling vs. the duty of serving? I have seen people burn themselves out by trying to do it all to a great measure - hospitality, serving, giving, teaching, exhorting, leading, shepherding. And I have seen people hurt because they expect those in leadership to be doing these all to a great measure. And I have seen people wear the burden of failure because they aren't all these things.
I am faithful if I take time and energy and obediently write a letter of encouragement that the Holy Spirit is prompting me to or take the time to really listen to and give someone biblical counsel or go out of my way to generously giving in order to meet a physical need. I'm not being faithful to God's working in my heart if I'm comparing myself to people, nor shall others compare themselves to my opportunities "to teach" (public or private) or whatever other spiritual gift I may be living out in whatever measure of grace I have. Am I responding to God's promptings with the measure of grace, time, and energy He is providing?
"Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord." (Romans 12:11)
"Whatever you do work at it with all your heart as working for the Lord. (Colossians 3:23)
"to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ," (Ephesians 4:12) To serve the church = to build up the church (body of Christ).
Serving the Lord means serving the Church and serving the Church better be done with a heart attitude of serving the Lord. And serving the Church sometimes means serving the hands on "kitchen duty" needs of the church, but serving the Church should always mean building up the Body of Christ.
What am I doing, what are you doing to serve the Church; what are we doing to build up the Church - each day, on a regular basis, according to each God prompting!?! To be faithful to this IS being a faithful servant of God's spiritual gifts, all in His grace.
Abide in Love ~ Abound in Thanksgiving ~ Work in Joy...
Live Fully ~ Suffer Rightly ~ Trust Deeply ~ Bless Truly!
LISTEN & LEARN:
"Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths,
guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long."
~ Psalms 25:4,5