November 2, 2008
Part 5: Worship is Service
Did you know that the words “worship the Lord” and “serve the Lord” were often used interchangeably in the Bible. To worship God is to serve Him; to serve Him is to worship Him. Someone said that service is love dressed in work clothes.
ILL: Almost 20 years ago, my friend Jim Thomson called me one day with an offer I couldn’t refuse. He offered me one day a week. For one day a week, he would come to our office and do whatever we needed-whatever! He told me that he just wanted to be useful to God, and he thought helping me might be one way to do that. So for several months, Jim showed up at our office one day a week and did whatever we needed. By the way, Jim proved to be so useful that I hired him and he served on our staff for over 10 years.
Whatever you need, I’ll do…whatever. 24/7 worship is loving God with all you’ve got all the time. It’s saying to God, “Whatever you want, I’ll do…whatever.” Today, we’re going to talk about what it looks like to serve God with all our life.
Service is love dressed in work clothes. To love God is to serve Him; to serve Him is to love Him. Some of the words translated “worship” in your Bible originally meant “service”. They referred to the labor of slaves or hired servants.
In the OT, they were often used of the service of the priests and Levites in the Temple worship. We still call this, what we do in church on Sundays, a worship service. These words came to be used of any service we offer to God as an act of worship. The words “worship the Lord” and “serve the Lord” were used interchangeably in the Bible. To worship God is to serve Him.
We’re going to look at two verses we read earlier in this series; I am using them again because one is an OT example and the other a NT example of this idea: worship is service. Read the verses together.
Joshua 24:15 “But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”
Romans 12:1 “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 (or “your reasonable service”).
Worship is service. To worship God is to serve Him. What does it mean to serve the Lord? That’s where we’ll begin.
1. What: do what He wants.
What does it mean to serve the Lord? What does it mean to serve anyone? It means that you do what they want. To serve someone simply means that you are willing to do whatever he needs, whatever she wants done. Whatever!
One of the qualities that we value highly here at Life Center is the servant’s heart. The servant’s heart is the heart that says, “Yes Lord, to anything, anytime, anywhere.” It’s the heart that says, “Whatever! Whatever you want, I’ll do.” We want our default answer to God to be “Yes. Yes, Lord to anything, anytime, anywhere.” Whatever!
So, the big question is, “What does God want me to do?” The place to start is where you are! I think that God starts where we are, so that’s a good place for us to start. When you wonder what God wants you to do, start where you are. Whatever you are doing, do it for God. Oswald Chambers wrote, “Many people think that God can’t use them where they are. But it is certain that God can’t use them where they aren’t.” You serve God right where you are by doing whatever you do for the Lord, and doing it the best you can.
Colossians 3:22-24 “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”
Notice that he says, “whatever you do”, do it with all your heart for the Lord. Whatever you do. Paul was writing this to slaves, men and women who didn’t have a choice in what they did. Their masters probably weren’t concerned whether their slaves liked their work, or found it fulfilling, or that it matched their gifts or temperaments. Slaves simply did whatever they were told. You aren’t a slave; you have a choice. So, whatever you do, do it with all your heart for the Lord. It doesn’t matter if you are a doctor or a drill sergeant, a contractor or a cook, a teacher or a telephone solicitor, a stay-at-home mom or a travel-the-world marketer-whatever you do, do it with all your heart for the Lord.
ILL: I remember the first time this verse became real to me. I was a senior in high school, and was riding the pine for our basketball team-a team that would finish the season with a 1-20 record. We were awful for lots of reasons, but one of them was our coach. Coach was a nice man who was a few fries short of a Happy Meal. We’d be getting beat by 30 at half-time, and his pep talk was, “Well boys, you’re passing well, and shooting well, and playing pretty good defense, so let’s go get ‘em!” We were getting creamed and his advice was just keep doing what we’re doing! Coach had no strategy for substitutions, and often forgot to put guys in, so we learned to jump up and kneel next to him and say, “You called me, Coach?” “Oh yeah, Joe, get in there for Dave.” He wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer. Our team was like a ship without a rudder. It was pretty discouraging, and frankly, by halfway through the season, it was hard to get motivated to put out at practice when you knew it didn’t make a difference.
We were at North Salem high school, getting ready for the game. Part of my pre-game routine was to get off by myself and pray for a few minutes, and this time, I had a tiny New Testament with me. I opened up to this passage in Colossians and read these words: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not men…it is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Whatever you do…even basketball…do it for the Lord. I realized then for the first time that I worshipped God, I loved God with my whole life, that it meant that I did everything for Jesus, and did my best. For the rest of that 1-20 season, I ran my hardest at wind-sprints-not because we had a chance for the play-offs-we didn’t. I did it for Jesus. I gave it my best shot, knowing that it wouldn’t matter to anyone-but Jesus. That’s worship. That’s serving the Lord, whatever you do.
ILL: I remembered that lesson several years later when I graduated from college. I was 22, had a Bachelor of Arts degree in theology, and had just been fired by the denomination that conferred my degree. The youth ministry I led met primarily in homes and schools, so losing my job at the church didn’t slow that down. But suddenly I had no income-the $60 a month I had earned at the church for the last three years wasn’t much, but it was $60 more than nothing. I needed a job.
I was praying one day about my unemployment, and a thought popped into my mind-it turned out to be a leading from the Holy Spirit, like last Sunday’s story of the young man and the milk. I remembered that a friend of mine used to work at a shoe shop near our college. I’ve learned to pay attention to those little nudges, so I jumped on my bike, and rode to Campus Shoe Shop and introduced myself to the owners, Vic and Pearl. I told them I had just graduated from college, was between jobs, and wondered if they had work. They looked at me with amazement and then said, “Our help just quit yesterday, and last night we were saying that we wish we could hire another young man from the Bible college. Are you good with your hands?”
“Sure,” I lied. And Vic hung an apron on me and I went to work on the finishing wheel. Vic fixed the shoes and I finished them-a nice way of saying I was a shoe-shiner. It was right up my alley-working with soles.
I worked at Campus Shoe Shop for 15 months before I hit the jackpot and another church hired me as their youth pastor for $100 a month. But I really enjoyed those 15 months. My first day on the job, as I lathered shoes with polish and buffed them on the wheel, I prayed. “Lord, I don’t know how long I’ll do this. It’s sure not what I want to do with the rest of my life! But for as long as I’m here, I want to shine shoes for Jesus! I want to do the very best I can for You. And maybe I’ll be able to love Vic and Pearl to you.” Shining shoes became my way of worshiping God for four hours each afternoon.
What do you do? Whatever you do, I’ll bet it seems more important than shining shoes. I told you that story to say that if I can shine shoes for Jesus, then you can do whatever you do for Him too.
Someone said, “It’s a little hard to see the eternal value in running a damp sponge over 20,000 envelope flaps.” It’s true. We do things every day that don’t seem to have much eternal value. Every day, I have to do things like mow the lawn, gas the car, make my bed, take out the garbage, pay the bills. Even in my job, a job that most of you would consider eternally significant, there is lots of mundane stuff to be done. There are times when I feel like I’m just licking envelopes. But even those things can be done for Jesus. Whatever you do, do it for the Lord. Do your very best because you are doing it for Jesus, and it’s an act of worship.
ILL: Perhaps no one better illustrates this than Brother Lawrence, a 17th Century Carmelite brother who served his order for thirty years as a cook. He wrote:
“I turn my little omelet in the pan for the love of God. When it is finished, if I have nothing to do, I prostrate myself on the ground and worship my God, who gave me this grace to make it, after which I arise happier than a king. When I can do nothing else, it is enough to have picked up a straw for the love of God. People look for ways of learning how to love God. (The best) way (is) to do everything for the love of God, to make use of all the tasks one’s lot in life demands to show him that love.”
Whether it was cooking an omelet, or sweeping the kitchen floor, Brother Lawrence saw it as a way to worship God and show Him our love. “You gave me this task to do; I love You, so I will do it for you with all my heart.” That’s worship.
So what do you do? Whatever you do, do it with all your heart for the Lord. Do it as an act of worship, an act of love for God.
ILL: A few weeks ago, a group of people were volunteering their time and talents to remodel a widow’s home. A couple of the guys who were going to tackle a messy and dirty basement demolition started by praying, and as the demolition began, they looked at each other and said, “This is church!”
They got it right. 24/7 worship is serving God, doing whatever you do for Him and doing your best. Start where you are and give Him your best.
2. Why: we love Him.
Why do we serve the Lord? Because we love Him. Service is love dressed in work clothes. Our service is worship to God. There are really two reasons why people serve anyone: you want to or you have to.
Many people serve others because they have to. In the past, we called it slavery. Today, we call it employment. We need to pay the bills, put food on the table and gas in the car, so we do what the boss wants. We serve the boss or the business. But it may be only because we have to. We need the money.
Or think of school. We do what the teacher wants. Why? We have to! We have to get that diploma or our parents will kill us!
Speaking of parents…kids, why do you do what your parents tell you? Hopefully, you do what they want because you love them. But many kids do only what they have to do, just enough to avoid getting in trouble.
When we serve the Lord with that motivation, that’s not worship. It may be slavery or self-preservation, but it’s not worship.
Worship is serving God because you want to, because you love Him. Love for God moves us to do whatever He wants, moves us to give Him our very best, moves us to serve Him in all we do.
ILL: My Mom told me how her mom and dad got married. When her dad, Frank, was 25, he worked in a lumber mill in Springfield, Oregon. He fell in love with her mom, who was 17 and lived in Sweet Home, 40 miles away over the hills. Frank was so taken with her that every weekend he would walk from Springfield to Sweet Home to see her. He would leave Friday after work, arriving in Sweet Home Saturday afternoon, and then would have to leave Saturday night to walk home in time for work on Monday morning. An 80-mile round trip hike so that he could spend a few hours Saturday afternoon with her-that’s love!
Why did my Grandpa do that? Because he had to? No. Because he wanted to! Because he loved her!
That’s why we serve the Lord. That’s why we sacrifice and put it all on the line for Christ. Because we love Him.
• Pete Hernandez works all week for Avista. But many times you’ll find him here in the evenings or on a Saturday, doing some electrical project for us. For example, he wired, hung and installed all the lighting for the art gallery in the mezzanine, all for free…after working all day at his regular job! I also saw him at our Habitat for Humanity house. Why does Pete do it? Because he has to, or he wants to? He loves God, and does it by serving.
• Janet Green is a wife and mother who serves God in a variety of ways. She has served on our church council, offering her considerable business expertise. She is the main speaker each month at AIM-Adventures in Motherhood-our ministry to young moms. Janet has exceptional organizational abilities; she has put those to work for years by organizing our women’s retreats, and the annual golf fund-raiser for the Union Gospel Mission. And each year, she invests huge hours pulling off the Leadership Summit here at Life Center. She prays, she plans, she recruits all the volunteers, and she works 24/7 the week of the Summit-24/7 worship! Why does she all that? Because she loves God, and does it by serving.
• Kathy Buckmaster is one of the unsung heroes around here. For the last nine years, she has served in every 12-week session of DivorceCare plus another 10 week relationship class every year. That means a minimum of one night a week for 36 weeks a year for 9 years. In that time, she’s missed two nights: one time when she was on a trip and one time when she had surgery. And she was very concerned about having to miss. She also helps in our kids ministry. Why does Kathy do it? Because she loves God, and does it by serving.
• Jim Grapes is amazing guy. He devotes huge amounts of time and energy to make Life Groups work. He is a Life Group leader and multiplier. He is a Life Group training instructor-he trains our Life Group leaders. And then he coaches them: He is a Life Group coach. Jim also writes the Life Group study guide that many of the Life Groups use. And he is currently part of the core team for a new Life Center church plant that is forming, called City Church. Why does Jim do all that? Because he loves God, and does it by serving.
• Karen Pratt is on our staff. She splits her time between the front desk, where she is our receptionist, and the facilities team. Karen goes above and beyond the requirements of her job. She often comes in early, volunteers to fill in for others when needed, and shows up on her days off or after hours to make sure everything is clean and ready for you. She doesn’t have to do that, but she does it because she loves God, and shows it by serving.
Why do we serve God? Why do whatever He asks? Why do we do our very best at everything we do for Him? Because we love Him. It’s 24/7 worship.
3. How: use our time, talents and treasure.
How do we serve God? We use our time, talents and treasure. We take what God has given us and put it work in His service right where we are.
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. 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, 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.”
What should we use? Here’s that word again: “whatever”. Whatever gift you have received, use it to serve. Here are three gifts we have all received that we should use to serve God.
• Use your time to serve God. Time is a gift from God. Your life-every moment of it, every breath you take-is a gift from God. Each day is a gift from God and we ought to wake up asking God how He wants us to use this day to serve Him. Start right where you are by serving Him today. “Yes Lord to anything, anytime, anywhere…today.”
• Use your talents to serve God-whether spiritual gifts or natural abilities. In Romans 12:6-8, Paul writes, “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith.” He goes on to name other gifts: teaching, serving, encouraging, giving, leadership, showing mercy. Paul says, “Use your gift. If your gift is leadership, then lead. If it’s teaching, then teach. If it’s giving, then give. If it’s encouraging, then encourage. Whatever! Whatever your gifts are, use them to serve God.” Use your natural abilities to serve God. What are you naturally good at? God gave you that ability so that you can use it to serve Him. Start right where you are and use your gifts to serve God and people.
• Use your treasure to serve God. Your money and your stuff are all gifts from God; use them to serve Him. Think of them as ministering currency. The Bible says the ability to make money is a gift from God. Deuteronomy 8:18 “But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth.” Some of you have been given an unusual ability to make money; that is a gift God wants you to use to serve Him. R.G. Letourneau made a fortune designing earth-moving equipment. He tithed, but with a twist. He kept 10% of his income and lived on that, and gave the other 90% to God. He believed that God gave him a gift to make money and he was to use that gift to serve God. As my income has gone up, I look for ways to use that money to serve God. But don’t wait until you have lots; start right where you are and use what you have to serve God.
Whatever gift you have received-time, talent or treasure-whatever-use it to serve God.
In Matthew 25:14-30, Jesus told a story about a man who entrusted three servants with large sums of money to invest in his absence. When he returned, he asked each servant for an accounting. The first two had put the money to work and doubled it, but the third servant was lazy and afraid, and just buried the money in the back yard. The first two servants won high praise. Why? Because they used what they were given. The third servant was in big trouble! Why? Because he didn’t use what he was given. The whole point of the story is that God has been very generous with you, and wants you to use what you’ve been given to serve Him. Your life is God’s gift to you; what you do with it is your gift to God.
If you were to die and face God tonight and had to give an accounting for your life, what would your ledger look like? Have you used your time, talent and treasure to serve God?
Albert Schweitzer, the great missionary doctor said, “One thing I know: The only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve.” Want to be happy? Get over yourself and serve God and others!
Your life is God’s gift to you; what you do with it is your gift to God. 24/7 worship: it is a lifestyle of serving God right where we are with all we’ve got because we love Him. Start where you are…and use whatever you have to serve Him. That’s 24/7 worship.