Sermon: The Gift of Service

Delivered on Sunday, June 29, 2003 at St. Mark Presbyterian Church

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you for making my family feel very welcome here at St. Mark. I am very happy to be here on your church staff and am excited about the super-natural things God is going to here in this place.

In fact, your witnessing one of those super-natural events right now!… me preaching! The pastor asked me if I would and I feel very honored to be here before you this morning.

Through this summer, we are considering the Spiritual Gifts – and my small part of that is the gift of Service.

Our pastor began this series several weeks ago and really cleared up a few things about gifts. 1 Corinthians 12:7 tells us that each person who believes and has received the spirit of God into our lives is given at least one spiritual gift. Remember that it really isn’t a gift per se, it is a spiritual ‘thing’ that the Holy Spirit will do through us if we let him guide our lives. The sole purpose of these gifts are to build up and empower the church to reach out to the lost and fulfill the Great Commission.

I remember some years back the church going through a GIFTS PHASE where they had us take tests to help us define what our Spiritual Gifts were. I remember being stressed because I felt I had to find out so I could be used by God! But what our pastor reminded us of several weeks back was that we are simply the vehicle through which the Spirit uses the gift. Our job is not to figure out what they are and start doing them… our job is to let the Spirit take control of our lives, then the Spirit will begin to use those gifts through us and teach us how to build up the body of Christ, the church. It’s not what WE do… it’s what we allow the Spirit to do through us!

While on the staff at Trinity Baptist of San Antonio – I directed a rather strong and I thought a pretty darned good orchestra. But I did something which brought agony and pain… I went over to Trinity University to hear a concert by the President’s Own Marine Band. I heard something which I had NEVER heard before. A sound so clean and precise that it was perfect! I mean every instrument on every note was perfectly in tune, and there was a perfect mix and balance within the entire ensemble. You see, every instrumentalist was playing their prescribed notes in exactly the correct pitch, strength, and balance with every other player in the group. Each person was carrying their load and doing it exactly right. When that happens in any group or ensemble, look out! It’s very obvious!

That’s exactly the way it is with the church, both local and universal. For us to have the power, the beauty, the functionality that God meant for us to have – it takes each one of us letting the Spirit do what he does best through us. And we don’t even have to worry about doing it in a perfect way, because he always does… we just have to let him!

WE find the gift of service is listed by Paul in Romans 12 as one of the gifts given to believers. It’s interesting that in the NKJV, the word SERVICE is replaced with the word MINISTER. So, serving and ministering are interchangeable here. Well, there’s more… earlier in the chapter Paul writes one of his most remembered statements:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship.

Guess what? That word WORSHIP is the SAME WORD! In the original Greek, the word is LITURGEO, where we get today’s word liturgy. It’s the same word translated through the original Greek as our word SERVICE. We are to give our very body and soul into the service of God, which is, in itself spiritual worship. Serving God is a part of our worshiping him… so don’t think that just because you come to church every Sunday to worship you are doing it right. A big part of how we worship our God is in the DOING… serving the people of God.

All believers are called on to serve. Christ himself spoke to his disciples in Mark 10:42-45, which we’ve already heard this morning…

" … whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

Not only are we expected to serve, Christ gave us some clear indications that serving has eternal significance. You probably recall the parable of the Sheep and the Goats – Jesus tells his followers that in the end times all mankind will be separated into two groups. To the sheep, he will give his congratulations for feeding, clothing and caring for him. They respond by asking when they did that – The king responds when you did it to anyone in need, you did it to me.

Unfortunately, he then looks to his left and tells them they are cursed and headed for the same demise as Satan because they didn’t feed him, cloth him and care for him. And they also reply to him, Lord when did we not do these things for you? When you failed to do it for those in need, the people around you – you didn’t do it to me.

Where God expects each of us to reach out and help those in need, he gives to some of us, some of you right here in this sanctuary, a special understanding and knowledge of service.. of searching out those that are in need, and knowing how to meet their needs. There are some you here today that have that special ability, a super-human insight to meet the needs that other Christians can’t see. It IS super-human because the person who is actually doing the work through you is the Holy Spirit.

But what happens when believers fail to do their share of the Lord’s work? The church is crippled and the need is not met, or others have to step in – others who might not have the gift and do the job quite as well. The best illustration of how to stay away from God’s service is found in the Old Testament book, Exodus. You have already heard the call of God to Moses – now let’s take a look at the excuses Moses came up with.

No.1: (Ex 3:11) Who, me? Who am I that I should go? What have I done that makes you want to ask me?

In our minds we go through our past and the times that we haven’t exactly followed God, and we wonder how God could possibly expect us to do anything now. Remember Moses had murdered. Moses had fled Egypt, his people and he thought his God. He had escaped and sought out a new life. God’s response to Moses was fairly straight forward… He said he would go with him. He tells us that he will go with us if we go out to serve the Lord.

No. 2: (Ex 3:13) Who are you? By what authority? What’s your name?

We want to know who is backing us up if we get into trouble. The main reason many Christians fail to answer the call of God is that they don’t really know who God is. They have a very limited knowledge of God, well - enough to believe in him, but they haven’t studied about God and become close to him through reading the word of God… his diary. You want to know who God, the Almighty creator of the Universe, the I AM, Yahweh, Jehovah… you want to know who HE is… know his words and character and truths. Learn what he likes and dislikes… what he enjoys and what ticks him off.

No. 3… (Ex 4:1-9) The “What Ifs”.

Don’t you and I do that?… we think in our minds – well what if they do this, or what if I mess up, or what if things just don’t go the way they should… sound familiar?

Moses analyzed what he had to work with, and came up in the red. We do that. We list our assets and abilities against our limitations and liabilities and make a decision.

God asked Moses, “What’s in your hand?” God uses whatever we have and makes it work… because he is God! HE knows what will work, and HE supplies whatever is needed with what little we have. Moses’ rod became the Rod of God and was the visual proof that Moses needed – but he still wasn’t convinced!

So, No. 4 (Ex 4:10-12) “But Lord, I don’t speak very well.. I’m not an eloquent speaker… I stutter!”

The Lord came back with the fact that He is the one that made the mouth and understands how it works or doesn’t work. Our inadequacies are not a problem for God – he made us the way we are and is quite capable of giving us whatever we need to do the job. But, if we don’t make ourselves available to God, then his plan for our lives will not go forward.

His last and final excuse… No. 5 (Ex 4:13-17) Someone else should do it.

Even with a promise that God would be at his side, he doesn’t want to go. He’s simply putting his foot down and saying NO! When we say no to God, it basically is telling him that we don’t trust him.

Scripture tells us that the Lord’s anger burned against Moses. Remember that scriptures tell us about God… if you’re taking notes, stop and get it in your head and let this truth sink in deep… It’s not a good idea to tell God NO.

Not only do excuses anger God, they also cause discouragement within the body of Christ.. the church. Excuses force the few to carry the weight of the many… and this is an ideal place for Satan to begin his craft and wedge division and discouragement into the church.

Over 2 million Israelites walked out of Egypt free under Moses’ leadership… we too will touch the lives of those around us when we walk in obedience. God’s church will work in that perfect, balanced harmony when all of us are responding to God’s prompting to his service. God has a plan for each of us here in this congregation of St. Mark Presbyterian Church. He simply wants you to make yourself available as his instrument… his reputation is on the line, not yours.

So… what’s in your hand? Satan’s M.O. - the way he operates - is to deceive. That means that you can count on Satan trying very hard to shut down anything that would give extra power to the Church. He is telling you that that special thing God has given to you to aid in energizing this congregation is insignificant and useless. And it becomes just that if you try to hide it or put it on the back burner.

What’s in your hand? How sad to not talk with our friends about God’s love when he has given us the gift of eternal life.

What’s in your hand? How sad to not step in and aid someone in need because we feel they probably deserve their situation.

What’s in your hand? Whatever it is, either something obvious, or something lowly or meek – give it to God, and you will see miracles in your life and in your church.

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