Week of Prayer for Thursday
During this Week of Prayer, we have been looking at the topic of lasting commitments. Before compiling my topic, “A Lasting Commitment to Service,” I reviewed the meanings of the words, lasting commitment.
Lasting is defined as something that lasts a long time, is persevering, unchangeable, has staying power, permanent, durable, everlasting, forever, or goes on indefinitely. Commitment involves resolution, a pledge, a promise, devotion, a commission, and determination. When we really understand the meaning of lasting commitments, we will realize and admit that we see very, very few lasting commitments in our world today.
The first institution given to man was the institution of marriage, yet this very basic institution, a foundational pillar of our society, has crumbled. Where are our commitments to other vital aspects of life such as honesty, integrity, financial responsibility, our work, our families, our friends, and our God? With our whole adult society having trouble making lasting commitments, is it any wonder that we have children and young people who live selfishly and only for the moment? It is obvious that in order to make lasting commitments, we must find something that is, for the most part, lacking in our society.
Before we can make any truly lasting commitments, we must first experience the love, forgiveness, and power of God in our lives. You see, God and His Son, Jesus, made a lasting commitment to the welfare of man even before we were created. They agreed that God the Son would give His life, if necessary, for the redemption of mankind. Then they created Adam and provided him with an ideal home, ideal work, ideal diet, ideal surroundings, and ideal companionship. He did not stay in that ideal state but chose to rebel against the government of God. Since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, our nature has become fallen, and it is because of this fallen nature that we have a lasting commitment only to self. We read, in Jeremiah 13:23, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? [then] may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.” So it is only as we experience the transformation of character that comes from meditating upon and experiencing God’s love, His forgiveness, and His transforming power that our lives can be changed, and we can begin to make lasting commitments. I pray that each one of us may repent and be transformed by the power of God. With this foundation, let us look at “A Lasting Commitment to Service.”
Let us first consider twelve characteristics of godly service and how godly service is identified in the life.
Motivated and Encompassed by Love
The first two characteristics of godly service are that it is motivated by love, and our entire being is encompassed by it. We are commanded by Jesus, in Matthew 22:37, 38, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.” Quoting further, from the writings of Ellen White, we are told, “Every one who accepts Christ as his personal Saviour will long for the privilege of serving God. Contemplating what Heaven has done for him, his heart is moved with boundless love and adoring gratitude. He is eager to signalize his gratitude by devoting his abilities to God’s service. He longs to show his love for Christ and for his purchased possession.” Gospel Workers, 294. This love goes deeper than head knowledge; it goes deeper than an emotional, warm feeling. It involves both our heads and our hearts. It involves our very natures and souls.
A Humble Heart
A humble and contrite heart identifies characteristic three. “God does not ask us to purchase His favor by any costly sacrifice. He asks only for the service of a humble, contrite heart, which has gladly and thankfully accepted His free gift. The one who receives Christ as his personal Saviour has in his possession the salvation provided by Christ. And he is never to forget that as he has freely received, so he is freely to impart.” In Heavenly Places, 318. Godly service must come from a humble heart. We must know that it is God who is working in us to will and to do. We must know that without the blessing and transforming power of God, we would be incapable of rendering godly service. With this attitude, we will want to glorify only God through any service we perform.
More Than Money
Characteristic four is that service must be personal, and it must involve more than just our money. No other person can do the service for God and mankind that is entrusted to us. God has a job for each of us. Ellen White explains:
“By our churches there is a work to be done of which many have little idea, a work as yet almost untouched. ‘I was an hungered,’ Christ says, ‘and ye gave Me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave Me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took Me in: naked, and ye clothed Me: I was sick, and ye visited Me; I was in prison, and ye came unto Me.’ Matthew 25:35, 36. Some think that if they give money to this work, it is all they are required to do; but this is an error. Donations of money cannot take the place of personal ministry. It is right to give our means, and many more should do this; but according to their strength and opportunities, personal service is required of all.” Testimonies, vol. 6, 275, 276.
A fifth characteristic of our service is that it is to be earnest service. There is seriousness about our work for the Lord and for the sheep of His pastures that must be realized. The job of being a co-laborer with God is not something to be taken lightly or frivolously. The eternal salvation of others can be affected by our service or lack of it. “Every soul is to be a bright and shining light, showing forth the praises of Him who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. ‘Ye are laborers together with God,’ yes, laborers; that means doing earnest service in the vineyard of the Lord. [1 Corinthians 3:9.] There are souls to be saved,—souls in our churches, in our Sabbath-schools, and in our neighborhoods.” Review and Herald, March 24, 1891. Would our commitment to service be different if we saw, in the light of eternity, the importance of the service that has been committed to us? Would we work more diligently, more faithfully?
A sixth characteristic of service is that it is to be heartfelt. “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Romans 10:9, 10. This kind of heartfelt belief is real, is seen by others, and makes a difference in their lives. Notice what the prophet says: “God calls for men and women to be laborers together with him, to be workers who are sound in faith, pure in heart, and single in purpose. They should work to glorify God by the saving of souls that are lost. God requires heart-service. A service of form, lip-service, is wholly inefficient in the work of converting souls to God. A service that comes not from the heart is as sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal. The heart must be stirred with the co-operative energy of the Holy Spirit; then standing in full view of the cross of Calvary by faith, the worker can communicate to others the divine inspiration of his theme. From a full treasure-house he can bring forth things new and old, which will stir the hearts of his hearers, and convicted, they will cry out, ‘What must I do to be saved?’ ” Ibid., September 6, 1892.
Characteristic seven is that service must be willingly given and marked by self-denial to be effective for the Lord. It is stated like this: “No one has been created in Christ Jesus for mere self-enjoyment. He who lives unto himself is not a Christian; for self-denial and cross-bearing are the portion of every true follower of Christ. We have been bought with a price, in order that we may render willing service to our Master. Every hour that we have failed to acknowledge Christ as our personal Saviour, we have robbed God; for Christ purchased us by the ransom of his own blood. The Christian cannot serve the world, or yield to the claims of any power, relation, or society, that will make him deny Christ, dishonor God, and prove disloyal to his holy law. The Christian is to surrender himself unreservedly to God as his purchased possession. God claims him for himself, and will impart to the believer special favors, enabling him to be complete in Christ, more than conqueror through him that hath loved him.” Ibid., May 12, 1896. When our service is not willingly given and must be forced, it is not the kind of service that God desires.
Consecration to God
An eighth characteristic of lasting commitment to service is that the service must be true service that results from our consecration to God. “In true service they find hope, and peace, and comfort; and with faith and courage they go forward in the path of obedience, following him who gave his life for them. By their consecration and devotion they reveal to the world the truth of the words, ‘I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.’ [Galatians 2:20.]” Ibid., January 5, 1897.
Characteristic number nine is that our service must be given based upon correct motives. This type of service is truly unselfish and is motivated by a love for souls. We cannot be giving in order that we will receive. “Let all engage in missionary effort from pure, unselfish motives, co-operating with one another and with God, working not because of personal ambition or for the praise of men, but because they long to act a part with Christ in the work of saving perishing souls. In Christ’s service, everything depends upon the motives prompting believers to action. Those who labor for the love of souls will advance His work in our world.” Pamphlet 151, 8. Oh, Lord, help us to have this unselfish love for lost humanity.
Cheerful service is characteristic number ten. Too often, we as Christians are long faced, gloomy, not at all representing the joy that is in the Lord and His service. Service done for our Lord should always be given cheerfully, not because we have been coerced, begged, or shamed into service. “We are to render to God cheerful service.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 11, 341.
Characteristic number eleven is that our service should be Christlike in both our actions and in the duration of our commitment to service. We must be committed to serve as Christ did, and we must be committed to serve as long as we have breath in us. “Accepting Christ as a personal Saviour, and following His example of self-denial,—this is the secret of holiness. God exalted Christ above every name that is named. But Christ first reached to the depths of humiliation, working out in behalf of the human race a perfect character, and drawing men and women to God by His unselfish ministry. He has set an example that all who engage in His service are to follow. The more Christlike our efforts for God, the wider will be their influence for good, and the greater the work they will accomplish.” The Signs of the Times, December 17, 1902. Christ gave all that you and I might be saved eternally, and He continues even today to minister in the sanctuary for each of us. We must be willing to give all, so that others and ourselves will be saved. Our efforts cannot cease.
Service unto the Lord
Lastly, our service must be as unto the Lord and not unto men. Service can be very tiring, and it can be discouraging when our service is not appreciated. It can be frustrating when we do not see the benefits or results that we expect. Because of this, our service must be given in light of eternity and the God we serve. We must ask, as did David, “And who [then] is willing to consecrate his service this day unto the Lord?” 1 Chronicles 29:5, last part. By consecrating our service unto the Lord and not unto men, it can then be a joy, and it will be blessed of the Lord. God gives His Spirit to those fully committed to His service: “The promise of the Holy Spirit is not limited to any age or to any race. Christ declared that the divine influence of His Spirit was to be with His followers unto the end. From the Day of Pentecost to the present time, the Comforter has been sent to all who have yielded themselves fully to the Lord and to His service.” The Acts of the Apostles, 49.
As we do this, our own spirits will be blessed. The ones for whom we do service can also be strengthened. “The churches are suffering, not so much for the want of sermons as for lack of ministry. The members of the churches need personal labor; they need to be instructed as to how they can engage in the work of God. In the winter, special efforts should be put forth. Let the different churches visit one another from time to time. Thus one church may encourage another by the manifestation of friendly, Christ-like interest in the spiritual welfare of the brethren. Those who will engage in active service for the good of others will find that their own souls will be revived and quickened, and those whom they visit will be encouraged and strengthened by the interest of their brethren in their behalf.” Gospel Workers (1892), 241.
Who is Involved
Now that we have reviewed the characteristics of service, let us look at who is to be involved in service. This can be summed up in one word—all.
“Service to God includes personal ministry. By personal effort we are to co-operate with Him for the saving of the world. Christ’s commission, ‘Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature,’ is spoken to every one of His followers. (Mark 16:15.) All who are ordained unto the life of Christ are ordained to work for the salvation of their fellow men. Their hearts will throb in unison with the heart of Christ. The same longing for souls that He has felt will be manifest in them. Not all can fill the same place in the work, but there is a place and a work for all.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 300, 301. [Emphasis supplied.]
“Now is our time to labor for the salvation of our fellow men. There are some who think that if they give money to the cause of Christ, this is all they are required to do; the precious time in which they might do personal service for Him passes unimproved. But it is the privilege and duty of all who have health and strength to render to God active service. All are to labor in winning souls to Christ. Donations of money cannot take the place of this.” Ibid., 343. [Emphasis supplied.] It is very clear from the great commission in Matthew 28 and from the readings in the Spirit of Prophecy that, if you are the Lord’s, you are to have a place of service. Each and every one of us should be involved in service.
The Object of Service
Who are to be the objects of our service? The objects of our service include any of God’s heritages. “God expects personal service from everyone to whom He has entrusted a knowledge of the truth for this time. Not all can go as missionaries to foreign lands, but all can be home missionaries in their families and neighborhoods.” Testimonies, vol. 9, 30.
Service can also involve working in an area where the end result will benefit mankind. For example, “The light given me is that in the Southern field, as elsewhere, the manufacture of health foods should be conducted, not as a speculation for personal gain, but as a business that God has devised whereby a door of hope may be opened for the people. In the South, special consideration should be shown to the poor, who have been terribly neglected. Men of ability and economy are to be chosen to take up the food work; for, in order to make it a success, the greatest wisdom and economy must be exercised. God desires His people to do acceptable service in the preparation of healthful food, not only for their own families, which are their first responsibility, but for the help of the poor everywhere. They are to show Christlike liberality, realizing that they are representing God and that all they have is His endowment.” Counsels on Health, 494.
Did you note in this statement that our own families are to be our first responsibility? Do we really do service for our families that has the characteristics we just covered? Do we serve them as unto the Lord? Do we serve them with the guidelines laid out in the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy? Remember that our first responsibility is to our families, and we will one day have to give an account to the Lord for the work we have done for them. Oh, let this service be according to His Word and His way.
We should also do service for our church family. Do we really render them acceptable service in showing them the care, concern, and love that we should? We are also to be involved in service for our neighbors, the poor, the widow, the fatherless, those in prisons, and for all of suffering humanity. “Whatever the difference in religious belief, a call from suffering humanity must be heard and answered. Where bitterness of feeling exists because of difference in religion, much good may be done by personal service. Loving ministry will break down prejudice, and win souls to God.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 386. So, you see, you do not have to be a pastor, a medical missionary, or a foreign missionary to reach out in service. It is our responsibility to touch lives in the sphere of our daily living and daily work.
What Service Involves
Finally, let us consider what is involved in service. The first thing we must understand is that we are the vessel through which God works. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, [which is] your reasonable service.” Romans 12:1. God has given us our bodies, our intellects, our physical health, our personalities, our talents, and our gifts. We are His both by creation and redemption. It is our responsibility, our reasonable service, to give back to Him what He has given us. Each person’s service will be different, depending on what God has entrusted to him. “Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. [Are] all apostles? [are] all prophets? [are] all teachers? [are] all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet show I unto you a more excellent way.” 1 Corinthians 12:27–31. If God has given us the gift of teaching, then we should use that gift in His service. If we have the gift of helps or hospitality, then this gift should be used in His service. If we have a gift of encouragement, then we should use this gift in His service to encourage those who are discouraged. Service is defined as acts of kindness, helpful acts, and conduct that is useful to others. So whatever talents the Lord has given us should be used in His service to help and bless others.
Is the legacy that we are endeavoring to hand down to our children being taught in the world, or is it being taught in the church? We can learn much from the Waldenses. Consider this: “The Waldenses had sacrificed their worldly prosperity for the truth’s sake, and with persevering patience they toiled for their bread. Every spot of tillable land among the mountains was carefully improved; the valleys and the less fertile hillsides were made to yield their increase. Economy and severe self-denial formed a part of the education which the children received as their only legacy. They were taught that God designs life to be a discipline, and that their wants could be supplied only by personal labor, by forethought, care, and faith. The process was laborious and wearisome, but it was wholesome, just what man needs in his fallen state, the school which God has provided for his training and development. While the youth were inured to toil and hardship, the culture of the intellect was not neglected. They were taught that all their powers belonged to God, and that all were to be improved and developed for His service.” The Great Controversy, 67.
In the home and in the church, we need to be committed to service and to helping others be committed to service. Our personal witness best does this as we work with each other. This is how Christ taught His disciples: “For three years and a half the disciples were under the instruction of the greatest Teacher the world has ever known. By personal contact and association, Christ trained them for His service. Day by day they walked and talked with Him, hearing His words of cheer to the weary and heavy-laden, and seeing the manifestation of His power in behalf of the sick and the afflicted. Sometimes He taught them, sitting among them on the mountainside; sometimes beside the sea or walking by the way, He revealed the mysteries of the kingdom of God. Wherever hearts were open to receive the divine message, He unfolded the truths of the way of salvation. He did not command the disciples to do this or that, but said, ‘Follow Me.’ On His journeys through country and cities, He took them with Him, that they might see how He taught the people. They traveled with Him from place to place. They shared His frugal fare, and like Him were sometimes hungry and often weary. On the crowded streets, by the lakeside, in the lonely desert, they were with Him. They saw Him in every phase of life.” The Acts of the Apostles, 17, 18.
Our Reasonable Service
In conclusion, we have discussed that Jesus gave the ultimate service to mankind when He gave His life for us, not only on the cross of Calvary but throughout the ages, as He mediates for us in the heavenly sanctuary. We have pointed out that our lives and the talents given us are gifts from God. It is, therefore, our reasonable service to give our entire being back to Him in service to mankind. We have identified that service is any helpful or kind acts and will be as diversified as are the talents that God has given to each one of us. We have documented that our service should be first to our immediate families and then to our church families, friends, neighbors, and to whomever else God calls us to serve.
We have identified the following twelve characteristics of service: True service is motivated by love, encompasses our entire being, requires a humble and contrite heart, is personal and involves more than our money, is earnest, is heartfelt, is willingly given and marked by self denial, is true, is based on correct motives, is cheerful, should be Christlike, and is unto the Lord and not unto men.
Dear friends, are we, are our families, and are our churches ready to make lasting commitments of service to God and to His heritage? Without a lasting commitment to service, we may be in this sin-filled world for many more years. God will someday have a unified group of people who will have this kind of commitment to service. As we consider the various topics of lasting commitments, let us pray that we will each decide now and for as long as we have breath to be a part of God’s final work of service to mankind.
Janet Headrick is a Registered Nurse as well as a member of the Steps to Life staff.