By Not Known
I met some of my old church friends a couple of years ago. We used to be in the same church during our growing-up years and actively served in the youth ministry together. We continued serving enthusiastically for many years even until we were in the adults worship service. However, I was surprised to learn that they were no longer serving in church. When asked, they said, “You know we used to be diligent and fervent in serving the Lord, but we were burnt out. Some Christians criticised us. Some spread false rumours about us. No one seemed to appreciate all the long hard hours we had put in, working behind the scene. We don’t feel like going through all that again, so we’ve decided to just attend the church’s worship service, and leave right after the service. We don’t want to serve in church anymore.”
Yes, when we serve in church, there will be times when we feel drained out, and we just want to give up, especially when the ministry gets tough. However, the apostle Paul urges the Christians in Rome (and us); ‘Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.’ (Rom. 12:11-13; ESV)
How can we Christians retain our enthusiasm for the long haul in serving God despite difficulties, dead ends and problems, pressures and criticisms?
Firstly, we can learn from the apostle Paul who motivates us in serving Him (Rom. 12:1): ‘Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.’ The supreme motivation to sacrificial service is ‘the mercies of God’, so God judges us based on His mercy; He chose us by His grace but not by our might, good appearance, wealth, intelligence, or as a result of our work. He died for us so that we may live; we are made new; the old life is gone; and a new life has begun! This mercy is sola gratia (only by grace). Paul served God based not on what people might think of him, or what he would think of himself but based on what God thought of him, and His will for him (Phil. 2:12-13). However, Paul does not stop there. He continues his statement with ‘But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace towards me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me’ (1 Cor. 15:10). This truth, sola gratia, which us aware that we are serving God but not man, inspires us to be enthusiastic in serving Him.
Secondly, in line with what Paul tells us ‘not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord’, Martin Lloyd Jones says, “The ultimate antidote to any tendency to slothfulness in the Christian life is serving the Lord.” This gives us the way to prevent ourselves from becoming slack in our spiritual growth, which is to continue serving God. We are saved to serve. We have to work out (not work for) our salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in us, both to will and to work for His good pleasure, so press on, brothers and sisters!