The Place of Service
K. T. C. Morris, Southampton
The Place for All. There are three spheres in which all of us may serve the Lord.
First, we can serve Him at home and in our daily calling. Whether our work is in the home, in the field, the factory, or the office, it is our privilege to do everything heartily as unto the Lord. Not only in tent-making such as the apostle Paul undertook, or in domestic duties which were the lot of Martha and Mary, but "whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance; for ye serve the Lord Christ", Col. 3. 23-24.
Secondly, every one of us is called to serve the Lord in local church life. Each brother and sister as a member of the body has a function to fulfil, and the prosperity of every assembly depends upon each contributing faithfully to the well-being of the whole. "The fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is". This warning refers particularly to our service among believers with whom we are in local fellowship. Similarly Paul bids those who are zealous about spiritual gifts to seek to excel to the building up of the church; he is again referring to the local assembly at Corinth, 1 Cor. 3.13; 12. 27; 14.12.
Thirdly, we are all also called to be witnesses to Christ, shining as lights in the world, holding forth the word of life for the benefit of men around us. We read of the believers who had been scattered after the death of Stephen going everywhere preaching the word. Luke here uses the word for evangelizing, not that for preaching publicly as a herald. He is saying that all of them, men and women, went everywhere, "announcing the glad tidings", as it has been well translated, Matt. 5. 16; Phil. 2. 15-16; Acts 8. 4. "To every man his work", Mark 13. 34. There are differences and varieties of service, and we must not for one moment imagine that the unobtrusive service of a simple believer is unimportant compared with the work of a gifted teacher or evangelist. The Holy Spirit apportions to each as He will. Of him to whom much is given will much be required. Our Lord's parable of the talents shows that He entrusts work to us according to the various natural abilities with which He has endowed us. The man who gained two talents received the same commendation as the man who gained five. To each his master said, "Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things; enter thou into the joy of thy lord". He did not expect so much from the man to whom He had given less. Our Lord's commendation depends upon our faithfulness and diligence in the service He has given us, however small or great that service may seem to be. His judgment is that a man who is faithful in dealing with the few things committed to him will be faithful in dealing with many things. This means that in the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ our position will depend, not on the gift and position that we have on earth, but on our faithfulness in filling the place that God has assigned to each, Matt. 25, 14-30.
Varieties of Service. The service which is allotted to us each is regarded in Scripture as a favour, a gracious gift from God. As each has received a gift, we are to minister the same one to another "as good stewards of the manifold grace of God", 1 Pet. 4. 10. The word "manifold" suggests that the grace of God to His servants is as magnificently varied as the colours of the rainbow. Which is the most beautiful colour? Which is the most beautiful service that we render to the Lord? Is it visiting our brethren and helping them in need? Is it the work of a pastor or of an evangelist? Is it the service of prayer or of praise? What a variety of service is open to us all! Think of Aquila and Priscilla who gave hospitality to the brethren and taught Apollos the way of God more perfectly; or Gaius who, despite his ill-health and having been excommunicated, helped the servants of God on their way; or Dorcas who made coats and other garments for the widows, and whose work God thought so important that He raised her from the dead when her valuable labours were interrupted. Our great concern should be that, whatever particular service is entrusted to us, we carry it out in singleness of heart as unto Christ. If, as with the Thessalonians, it is a labour undertaken out of love for Him, there will be a sure reward. He says to us each, "behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be", Rev. 22. 12.
We may well bring to God our concern to be used to meet an obvious need, whether in reaching the lost or in confirming the saved. Then there is a need to wait upon Him for His sovereign bestowal of gift and grace. Scripture provides for a man who has such a pastoral concern for the flock of God that he desires "overseership" (which is a much clearer and more accurate translation of 1 Timothy 3. 1 than "the office of a bishop"). Timothy is told of what God expects from one who is ready to undertake such a service. Moreover, younger men especially are faced with the exhortation to desire earnestly the best gifts (compare 1 Corinthians 12. 28-31 with James 3. 1). Yet we must heed the warning to Baruch not to seek great things for ourselves, but to be moved by the love that seeks not her own, but the well-being of others, Jer. 45. 5.
The Place of Service for Each.
Apart from the testimony of life and lip which is common to all believers, we now ask, How can we each discern the particular place that God would have us fill in what may be more specifically called the work of the Lord?
Let us turn again to Romans 12. 1 -8 for an answer. This passage shows us a sure way of finding the will of God for our personal pathway, a pathway not quite the same as that of anyone else. "I beseech you . . . brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world; but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind . . .". There is an object in view in this dedication of ourselves to the Lord and the development of an outlook different from that of the world around us. It is that we might "prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God". It is that we might discern and accept His will for our personal pathway here. The will of God for all the saints in general is made quite clear in other Scriptures: e.g. 1 Thess. 4. 3; 5. 18. But each of us must prove for himself the perfect plan of God that He has for us. No one is to think of himself "more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith". For, the Scripture explains, as the body has many members each with a different function, so each believer has his or her own work. Since we have "gifts differing", each has his own peculiar place of service. What is first dealt with in the passage is service in relation to fellow-believers. Prophesying (which was vitally important before the canon of Scripture was completed, to which we now turn to learn the will of God), teaching and exhortation are distinguished. One may have ability to exhort, though little ability to teach, and vice-versa. Whatever one's service, one must devote oneself to it. Even giving to the poor is not to be done half-heartedly. One must give diligent attention to the flock so as to guide it aright and another to his spirit when called to show mercy. The governing words are "simplicity" (that is, single-minded liberality), "diligence" and "cheerfulness", for whatever we do, God loveth a cheerful giver.
The Service of Sons.
In the Epistle to the Romans, Paul has been dealing first with the blessings of forgiveness, justification and reconciliation, and then with our being sons and heirs of God. It is in the light of these mercies and dignities that we are called upon to serve. When Israel was in bondage in Egypt, God repeatedly referred to the nation as His son. He commanded Pharaoh, "Let my son go, that he may serve me". Thus Israel was called to serve God in the wilderness as having been called into a highly privileged relationship with Himself. It is the place of a son to serve his father readily and intelligently. So in Mark's account of the work of the Lord Jesus as the Servant of God, he introduces Him as "Jesus Christ, the Son of God". We likewise are called upon to serve in the consciousness, not only of forgiveness and redemption, but of the high dignity of sonship. This is our reasonable service.