This article originally appeared on tonycooke.org, September 2014.
One of the most common statements I hear from pastors pertains to the need for workers—for committed, reliable, and consistent volunteers. Every pastor’s dream is to have an overflowing army of eager, joyful volunteers. When I think of this, I am reminded of David’s words: “Your people will volunteer freely in the day of Your power” (Psalm 110:3 NASB).
One commentary says the literal meaning of this verse is, “Thy people are free will offerings.” (1) Another says this word (volunteer) refers to “an entirely cheerful readiness” and says that Messiah’s people will be, “…ready for any sacrifices, they bring themselves with all that they are and have to meet him. There is no need of any compulsory, lengthy proclamation calling them out: it is no army of mercenaries, but willingly and quickly they present themselves from inward impulse.” (2)
Even if it weren’t for this passage in Psalm 110, we would know that God’s will is for His people to serve Him effectively. Jesus Himself said, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest” (Matthew 9:37-38 NKJV). If believers are to fully mature and to become all that God wants them to be, they will be laborers and workers. Ephesians 2:10 (MSG) says, “He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.”
Pastors can and should teach about the importance of good works (e.g., Titus 3:8), but ultimately, the impetus and motivation to serve must come from within the hearts of believers as they allow God to do His work on the inside of them. I’ve long enjoyed the Amplified Bible’s rendering of Philippians 2:13: “…it is God Who is all the while effectually at work in you [energizing and creating in you the power and desire], both to will and to work for His good pleasure and satisfaction and delight.”
I believe with all of my heart that we are going to see an army of workers arise—men, women, and young people—whose hearts God has touched to serve Him. Leaders and mature believers need to be ready to guide, direct, and mentor these fledgling servants, and perhaps one of the things we can do is to help them ask the right questions in order to get started and to stay on the right track as they serve God. With that in mind, here are seven questions people should ask as they seek to begin serving the Lord.
1. What is my level of spiritual consecration?
As you consider that, let me ask you some other questions. Are you 100% sold-out to Jesus? Are you willing to sacrifice your comfort and convenience for someone else’s benefit? Is there anything you’re not willing to do for Jesus? Is there anything that you feel would be beneath you? In days gone by, it was not uncommon to hear people at the altar praying and dedicating their lives to God. A common, heart-felt prayer was, “God, I’ll go where you want me to go. I’ll do what you want me to do. I’ll say what you want me to say.” Serving becomes easier when you’ve totally and completely surrendered all of your life and all of your heart to God. Consecration was clearly modeled for us in the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus prayed, “…not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42 NKJV).
2. How is my servant’s attitude?
Many will say they want to be like Jesus, but have they really considered what that entails? Jesus communicated plainly what it means to have a “kingdom attitude.” Matthew 20:26-28 (NKJV) says, “…whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”
3. What is my level of practical availability?
A person can have all the ability in the world, but it will avail nothing if he or she does not have availability. I understand that people are busy, but have we become so busy that we have no time to serve God? We speak of giving God the first portion of our income, and that is good, but wouldn’t it be outstanding if all of God’s people gave Him a good portion of their time as well? Make it a priority to order your life in such a way that you can give God ample time in worship and in work. Make “seek first the kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33) a reality in your priorities and in the scheduling of your life.
4. Am I willing to work?
Work is not an unspiritual word. When the Holy Spirit spoke in Antioch, He said,“Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them”(Acts 13:2 NKJV). Did you notice what their spiritual calling entailed? It was a call to work! Serving God doesn’t involve simply sitting around and having warm, fuzzy feelings and thinking about holy things. God calls us to work. Paul said, “I labor [unto weariness], striving with all the superhuman energy which He so mightily enkindles and works within me” (Colossians 1:29 AMP). Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16 NKJV). People will never see our good works unless we work! As I was writing this, I saw a social media post by Jeanne Cook in Panama. She relayed that her missionary husband, Dennis, was cleaning bat dung out of the radio station attic that they had built in the jungles of Panama. She wrote, “Sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do. It is not all preaching and teaching on the mission field.” Jeanne is so right, and it’s not all preaching and teaching anywhere else. Ministry is work.
5. What am I good at?
God has given each of us certain skills, aptitudes, and gifts. It’s not the purpose of this article to try to delineate between natural abilities and spiritual gifts, but let me simply propose that we use whatever abilities and resources we have for the glory of God and for the betterment of others. A pastor told me about a man who came to him wanting to preach in his church. The pastor had never met this man and didn’t know him at all. While he did not need help in the pulpit, the pastor discovered that this man was also an electrician and let him know that they had a major project underway and that the church needed a skilled electrician. Fortunately, the man was gracious enough to lend his natural skills to the church, and did an excellent job serving the church through that avenue. God can use your natural skills for His glory.
6. What are the needs and opportunities around me?
Some Christians struggle because they don’t feel like they have a specific leading or a direct word from God regarding what they’re supposed to do. Others feel that if they are to do something significant for God, it must be something that is far-away and spectacular. John Burroughs said, “The lure of the distant and the difficult is deceptive. The great opportunity is where you are.” If you don’t know what to do, find someone who is doing something for God and simply begin to help them. Specific direction may come later, but in the meantime, you’re being helpful and productive. Jesus said, “…if you have not been faithful in what is another man’s, who will give you what is your own?” (Luke 16:12). In short, bloom where you’re planted.
7. Am I willing to take initiative?
Arthur Ashe said, “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” Be a person who is eager to help others and to accomplish. Don’t wait for someone to ask you to serve; proactively look for and embrace things that need to be done. Albert Hubert said, “Parties who want milk should not seat themselves on a stool in the middle of the field and hope that the cow will back up to them.” Don’t be afraid to start with small things. If you see a piece of trash on the ground that needs to be picked up, pick it up. Lean into action, not away from it. Embrace responsibility, don’t shun it. Act, and believe that God will bless all the work of your hands. If there is something more specialized or more targeted that God wants you doing, He will certainly lead you to it and open the appropriate doors in due time.
When Believers Everywhere Begin to Serve…
The untapped potential in the Body of Christ is incalculable. When Christians mobilize and engage as faithful servants, I believe we’ll see a fulfillment of what George Washington Carver predicted years ago. “…there is going to be a great spiritual awakening in the world, and it is going to come from… plain, simple people who know—not simply believe—but actually know that God answers prayer. It is going to be a great revival of Christianity, not a revival of religion. This is going to be a revival of true Christianity. It is going to rise from the laymen, from men who are going about their work and putting God into what they do, from men who believe in prayer, and who want to make God real to mankind.”
May it be so, and may it be soon.
(1) Jamieson, Robert, A. R. Fausset and David Brown. Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997.
(2) Keil, Carl Friedrich and Franz Delitzsch. Commentary on the Old Testament. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1996.