" Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting
together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near "
Hebrews 10:24–25 NLT
“We love each other,” John wrote, “because he [God] loved us first” (1 John 4:19 NLT).
Loving each other is the natural response to all that God has done out of His perfect love for His church. It is the way believers can give back to God. The King James Version of the above scripture says, “We love him [God], because he first loved us.” At some point, this need to give back is stirred in the heart of any person who has truly experienced God’s love. When new believers understand all that God has done for His children, beginning with the gift of salvation and new life that was made possible through the death of Jesus on the cross, a desire to serve others begins springing up in their hearts. It is the way the church shows love to God.
“I tell you the truth,” Jesus said, “when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!” (Matthew 25:40 NLT).
This need to give back is not a response to law or obligation, nor is it for notoriety. It is simply out of gratitude, the desire to do something for the one who selflessly gave His all. It is accomplished by loving people in harmony with the example that Jesus set. In John’s gospel, Jesus gave this example:
“You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you” (John 13:13–15 NLT).
Here, Jesus became a model of serving and loving as He took off His robe and began to wash His disciples’ feet. Jesus loved without limit and served without prejudice. Christ washed the feet of those who were loyal to Him as well as the one He knew would betray Him. Jesus healed the sick, cast out devils, and raised the dead to life. His simple yet profound acts of service to those around Him are a challenge to all believers to live a life of love through serving others. His directive today is the same as the one He gave to His disciples:
“I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you” (John 13:15 NLT).
New believers respond to the offer of salvation, then connect to and begin a journey with the body of Christ to discover and develop what the Holy Spirit has deposited within them. The local church is God’s ordained place to learn how to love people through serving.
Jesus told a parable about three servants entrusted to manage the property of their master until he returned. Two servants responded well by investing and multiplying what had been given to them. One, however, was not wise and buried in the ground what was entrusted to his care. The result, of course, was the wrath of the master upon his return. The master rewarded those who were faithful to multiply what had been entrusted to them, but the unfaithful steward was called “wicked and lazy.” What he had was taken from him and entrusted to those who were faithful (Matthew 25).
Each person has been entrusted with gifts, talents, and abilities. No believer who loves Jesus would willfully withhold or bury those gifts, yet it does happen. Often it stems from a fear of being unqualified or ill-equipped to render service, or possibly the gifts given by the Holy Spirit have not been recognized or acknowledged.
One of the jobs of the local church is to help members discover and exercise these gifts, not just find things for them to do. Sadly, sometimes churches fail to fulfill their role “to equip the saints for the work of the ministry” (Ephesians 4:12 ESV, emphasis added). It takes effort and intentionality. The reward, however, is believers who are not only saved, but who experience the satisfaction of seeing the development, operation, and fruit of gifts in action.
What does it look like to serve in the local church? In the Scriptures, it looks like a man named Ananias, who was the first person to minister to Saul after his Damascus road encounter with the risen Christ. The Scriptures do not record anything extraordinary about Ananias other than he was a devoted follower of Jesus. However, the ministry of Ananias was vital to the future of this man named Saul, who would become the apostle Paul and take the gospel to the Gentiles as well as write the majority of the New Testament.
In Acts 6, seven believers were chosen to serve the needs of a growing church so that the apostles could devote more time to prayer and the teaching of the Word. These seven were full of the Spirit of God and wisdom:
“And so, brothers, select seven men who are well respected and are full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will give them this responsibility. Then we apostles can spend our time in prayer and teaching the word” (Acts 6:3–4 NLT, emphasis added).
Serving the local church in boots-on-the-ground fashion, doing work that is not flashy but necessary, requires being filled with the Spirit and wisdom, just as the pastor is. It is simply a different form of leadership and gifting.
In the local church today, the opportunity to serve the saved still exists, much like it did for those chosen in the early church. For example, so many things must happen to make a church service successful. Hosts and hostesses who greet and give information, parking attendants, nursery workers, and children’s ministry staff are vital to making newcomers feel comfortable. If all the duties were performed by the pastor of the church, it would consume precious time that could be devoted to prayer and ministry of the Word.
By giving their time and talents, believers can help local pastors not have to do it all and thus allow them to focus their efforts on bringing a timely word that encourages and strengthens believers and draws the lost to salvation. When volunteers help facilitate an experience where someone can hear the gospel message and receive Christ, there is a shared reward in seeing the lost saved. What a privilege!
Through the outreach arm of the local church, believers have an opportunity to take the message of hope beyond the four walls and out to the community. The sharing of the gospel, not just in word but lived out through acts of loving service and kindness, reaches the heart of people. It has been said, “You are the only Bible some people will ever read.” Visiting nursing homes, feeding the homeless, and caring for widows are all great ways to preach the good news through love. Another effective way is opening homes to host small groups. The lost may come to a home to enjoy fellowship long before they would enter a church service.
Jesus said, “And if you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded” (Matthew 10:42 NLT).
In John’s gospel, Jesus told Peter to feed His sheep and take care of His lambs as a tangible expression of his love for the Lord (John 21:15–17). Stepping out to serve is how believers become the hands and feet of Jesus—His body, His church in motion. Nothing done for Him goes unnoticed. God has only one superstar, and His name is Jesus. Believers serve only as a support team for His mission.
Serving Is …
“Present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Romans 12:1 NASB).
Worship is an expression of devotion and adoration to the Lord. Serving others in the name of Jesus is saying, “Lord, I am Yours, and all that I have is Yours. Use me, speak through me, move through me, love through me so that You may be glorified.”
Human nature is to serve oneself first and others last. Jesus’ command, however, was to “love one another” (John 13:34 ESV). Jesus will never give a command that does not require an act of the will to arrest natural nature and walk in obedience. Serving others requires doing what is often inconvenient and uncelebrated. A good question to ask yourself is, “Am I okay with doing something for Jesus that no one will ever see or acknowledge?”
Romans 12:1 in the NIV translation says the offering of self is “holy and pleasing to God.” Both serving the saved in the church and serving the lost through an outreach to the community go up as a fragrant aroma to God. There is no wealth that could ever be given that would impress the One who owns the cattle on a thousand hills (and the hills also). What pleases God is an offering made to Him through serving others.
A believer’s unique personality, abilities, and talents are a gift from God to the body of Christ. The key is to get busy ministering in some capacity; God will lead and bring clarity along the way. Serving to bless others is one of the greatest privileges for Christians. When the church is busy serving and ministering, it becomes a vehicle that the Holy Spirit will flow through in ministry and service. This is part of the equipping process.
Believers must be faithful to God with the gifts, talents, abilities, and the life He has entrusted to them. As 1 Peter 4:10 (NLT) says,
“God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.”
God is looking for faithfulness. When believers stand before the throne one day, He will not say, “Well done, My good and important servant,” “Well done, My good and talented servant,” or even, “Well done, My good-looking and wise servant.” All believers are waiting to hear these words: “Well done, My good and faithful servant.” Faithfulness is the attribute that God treasures. At the end of it all, will His church be found faithful with what He has entrusted?