by Roland W. Keith
“For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (II Corinthians 4:5-6).
Paul’s words to the Corinthians are at the heart of Christian service. As Christians we do not work for nor proclaim ourselves, but rather Christ crucified and His gospel. By teaching His word we light up the world with the knowledge of God and His Son, Jesus Christ. Moreover, our work is for the Lord, not for man, meaning our allegiance is to God, not to any man or institution, but to God and His word alone; and for our faithful service we receive the promised inheritance as children of God (Colossians 3:23-25).
It is important in serving the Lord to understand that no man is expected to do it all. Each of us has abilities that we can use to serve in different capacities. We are one team, and while our works may overlap, we each have unique roles to play, as Peter wrote, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To Him belong glory and dominion forever and ever” (I Peter 4:10-11; see also I Corinthians 3:8-9).
In addition to assessing our talents each of us must also make an honest assessment of ourselves— that is, of our commitment. There is no halfway with the Lord. If we commit, we must give God our best. We cannot look back at the world. If we are not willing to renounce what the world stands for we have no hope of succeeding in following Christ (Luke 9:57-62; 14:27-33). Someone in the business world once said, “It takes money to make money.” There is a cost to being successful, not only in money, but in time and effort, and in dedication and faith. The Christian may live in the world, but he cannot be worldly. He or she must leave the ways of the world behind to take the Christian path to salvation.
Christ often spoke of what it takes to be a true disciple of His. We must love one another as He loved us (John 13:34-35). Even as we love one another as brothers and sisters, we must love the world as our neighbors showing compassion for their situation and giving of ourselves to care for their needs (Luke 10:29-36). Though we separate ourselves from the world in our behavior we still have a responsibility toward our fellow man. In fact, when we become Christians that responsibility only grows, taking on a spiritual dimension not previously considered or understood. Fortunately, we do not stand alone. As we are in Christ, being a part of His spiritual body, He works in and through us (John 15:4-5).
As previously mentioned, the dedication and commitment of the Christian must be absolute. Each of us must be faithful, understanding that we cannot serve the master of this world and our heavenly master at the same time (Luke 16:10-13). In fact, we cannot have two masters— therefore we must choose who we will follow. Consider Jesus’ words in Mark 8:34-38, “And calling the crowd to Him with His disciples, He said to them, "If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and of My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels."
Clearly, we must decide who our loyalty belongs to. If, on the day of judgment, we want the Lord to proudly proclaim us as one of His before His Father, then we must proudly proclaim Him before the world while we are here. Paul told the Philippians to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” “holding fast to the word of life” (Philippians 2:12-16). The key to our success, as Paul understood, is in our obedience to God. The word fear, as most often used in connection with our relationship to God, denotes honoring one with proper and due respect. We must respect God’s sovereignty in our lives and show that respect by obeying His commands— submitting our will to His.
One of the things God expects from us is selfless service, as Paul told the Philippians, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, Who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:3-8). God expects us to emulate His Son. If Jesus could humble Himself to the point of humiliation and death on the cross, what should we be willing to endure for His sake, and the sake of our own souls?
The Bible contains many scriptures describing how we are to look to the interests of others, a few of which are: to serve one another (John 13:14), to live in peace with one another (Mark 9:50), to love one another (John 13:34-35), to honor one another (Romans 12:10), to comfort one another (II Corinthians 13:11), to encourage one another (I Thessalonians 4:18), and to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). However, one of the most difficult things we can do for another, it seems, is to forgive them and help restore them when they fall. Forgiveness often becomes a test for Christians, as Paul wrote, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load. Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:1-10).
We are to do good to everyone, something we often find difficult to do. Just as difficult for some of us is to test our own works or actions to see if they measure up. Are we taking every opportunity to do all we can? When we look at ourselves how Christ-like are we? How spiritually and mentally tough are we? Remember what Paul wrote in II Corinthians 4:7-14: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, "I believed, and so I spoke," we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into His presence.”
God has not chosen those wise in the ways of the world, the richest among us, nor those of high birth to do His work. They are not excluded, but not many answer the call (I Corinthians 1:26-29). God chose the weak and the foolish (according to the judgment of the world) to accomplish His will, demonstrating His might through them. Thankfully, while one plants and another waters it is God Who works to ensure the increase. As long as we are working according to His blueprint we will not fail. We need only answer His call in obedience. That does not mean that the work will be easy. Nor does it mean that there will not be danger and persecution. It means that God is with us, and His will is being done. The world will resist God’s word. We have already been warned about that. There will be hard times, discomfort, and persecution. There may be danger and death. But for those who fight to the end there will also be eternal victory. What we fight for is not earthly gain, but heavenly treasure.
The one who enlists for Christian service labors and fights for a kingdom not of this world. And we serve a King Who is above all other kings. One before Whom all of humanity will one day bow, confessing His name and submitting to His judgment. Unlike many others on that day the one who has remained faithful to their King will bow be before Him in joyful anticipation of righteous judgment and the promise of His grace.
Hi! I'm Roland. I began writing after retiring from the Navy in 2015. I believe that we each should strive to learn from one another, by sharing our thoughts and ideas. As a writer my goal is to help other seekers of truth to find and grow in Christ.