Friday, April 30, 2010

Spiritual Disciplines: Serving

by Carrie B

This past week I've been reading Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life which has been motivational, impacting and even harsh (in a good way) at times. I'll be reviewing this book in total over at Reading to Know but I thought I'd share my notes from Chapter 7, "Serving . . . for the Purpose of Godliness" over here.

I LIKE practicing hospitality and yet this chapter still managed to make me want to say, "OUCH!!!!" a few times. Author Donald S. Whitney isn't the type to beat you over the head with scriptures. He just plainly tells you what scriptures say in a calm and straightforward manner. Scriptures do the talking on his behalf and he merely adds a little explanation to various verses. I really respect his approach to disciplining one's self to be more Christ-like.

I marked a few passages and here they are for you:
"When God calls His elect to Himself, He calls no one to idleness. When we are born again and our sins are forgiven, the blood of Christ cleanses our conscience, according to Hebrews 9:14, in order for us to "serve the living God!" "Serve the Lord with gladness" (Psalm 100:2, NASB) is every Christian's commission. There is no such thing as spiritual unemployment or spiritual retirement in the Kingdom of God." (Chapter 7, pages 117-118)
Did you catch that? NO one is exempt from serving the Lord. We serve the Lord when we are obedient to Him....including the command to be hospitable (and holding back complaints about it!) We are to serve Him by serving others (as He has instructed) and we're to do so out of gratefulness:

"The prophet Samuel exhorted the people of God to service with these words: "But be sure to fear the Lord and serve Him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things He has done for you." (1 Sam. 12:24). It is no burden to serve God when we consider what He has done for us." (Chapter 7, page 118)
We aren't to offer hospitality out of obligation but out of gratefulness for all that God has done for us.

These are the things that Whitney points out should be motivating factors in our desire to serve others:
  • Motivated by Obedience (Duet. 13:4)
  • Motivated by Gratitude (1 Sam. 12:24)
  • Motivated by Gladness (Ps. 100:2)
  • Motivated by Forgiveness, Not Guilt (Isaiah 6:6-8)
  • Motivated by Humility (John 13:12-16)
  • Motivated by Love (Galations 5:13)
Whitney said a lot of things in this one chapter alone that I think are noteworthy, but the most impacting and powerful statement he made for me was the following (which he put in bold too, emphasizing the importance of this message):
"Worship empowers serving; serving expresses worship. Godliness requires a disciplined balance between the two." (page 127)
He also shared this quote:
"Fellowship with God leads straight to obedience and good works. That is the divine order and it can never be reversed." ~ A. W. Tozer
Did you catch that? In order to be able to serve others, we must be in fellowship with God. We have to learn to worship Him and we have to have a relationship with Him. Without the relationship, without the worship, our "works" in serving others are completely dead. We have to be motivated by and through Him in order to be able to offer hospitality in a way that will accurately represent Christ to those we are serving.

That means I should be worshiping God to better know Him and know how to serve my family.

This means I should be worshiping God to better know Him and know how to serve my church family.

This means I should be worshiping God to better know Him and know how to serve those in my community.

This means I should be worshiping God to better know Him and know how to serve my friends.
"Therefore, we must maintain that to be Godly, we should discipline ourselves for both worship and service. To engage in one without the other is, in reality, to experience neither." (page 128)
I loved the way that Whitney concluded this chapter and so I present it to you as food for thought:
"WANTED: Gifted volunteers for difficult service in the local expression of the Kingdom of God. Motivation to serve should be obedience to God, gratitude, gladness, forgiveness, humility and love. Service will rarely be glorious. Temptation to quit place of service will sometimes be strong. Volunteers must be faithful in spite of long hours, little or no visible results, and possibly no recognition except from God in eternity." (Page 129)
As always, I'm convicted that life is not all about me. It's all about God.

Learning tips and tricks and picking up advice on how to practice hospitality practically is important and certainly is a goal around these parts. But if we maintain this site and fail to point out that true service comes from learning to worship God and know Him for who He is, then we have done a great disservice to you (and to ourselves.)

This is a HUGE challenge for me and yet, at the same time, it's enormously exciting. Who can fail to benefit from learning who God is and entering into fellowship with Him?

Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, as you can see, was impacting to me in the area of serving others through hospitality but there is so much more that this book has to encourage and instruct in. I heartily recommend it as a whole and would encourage you to check it out!


  1. Very convicting, particularly the quote from p. 128.

  2. So very good to keep being reminded that although some may have a special 'gift' of service, we are all called to serve.

  3. Need to check this book out also...good post and convicting,

  4. Carrie,
    This book is one of my all time favorite books on Christian living. I have given it as a gift to others that are committed to living surrendered lives to Christ. I HIGHLY recommend this book to everyone!