For The Times When You're Sick of Serving

For most of us, church isn’t just a place we go on Sundays and sit in the pews. It’s a place where we get involved and take up that task of following in Jesus’ footsteps, who used some of his last moments on earth to impress upon his disciples the importance of serving one another, which he exemplified by stooping to wash their feet and then dying the death of the suffering servant.

So the fact that we’re called to serve one isn’t some foreign concept. It’s pretty integral to this faith we follow. But, frankly? Sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes it’s frustrating. Sometimes it’s simply not fun. And yet? We’re still called to serve.

That has been something I recently found myself struggling with, as I looked around and found myself eying people who come to church and yet are only there during service times, not involved in a single ministry or even showing up at any of the fun fellowship events, while I was responsible for a variety of tasks, not all of which I actually enjoyed.

To be sure, that’s called “judging” and it’s not something I’m proud of. But it’s the truth and it riled up in me something I needed to wrestle with. It actually made me angry that they weren’t serving, but it wasn’t a righteous kind of anger. At some point I realized, much of that anger was due to the fact that I was jealous of them. I was jealous that they didn’t have to “do anything.” All they had to do was show up for an hour and then go home and no one seemed to mind.

I realize that, honestly, a part of me wanted that too, wanted to not have the responsibility or the duty of serving.

There’s a parable that Jesus taught during his ministry that isn’t exactly one of the oft-quoted or used-in-sermon-examples ones. But it’s one that has captivated my heart because of the grace and mercy of it.

In this parable, Jesus is talking about the Kingdom of Heaven. In it, he tells about how a father asked his two sons to go work in the family’s vineyard. The first son refuses, but later changes his mind and does the work anyway. The second son agrees to the work, but never ends up doing it.

“Which of the two obeyed his father?” Jesus asked. The first, everyone agreed (Matthew 21:28-32).

Specifically, Jesus is talking about how sinners reject God’s commands at first but then turn back to him while the religious leaders say they follow him but don’t. But I think there’s also another layer to the story. While good intentions matter, sometimes what matters the most is what you actually end up doing.

In this parable, it’s pretty obvious that the first son doesn’t want to do the work. Yet, he does it anyway. And that—his action, not his natural desire—is deemed as obedience. And obedience is a big deal to Jesus: “If you love me, obey my commandments,” he says in John 14:15.

So, sometimes? We have to do the things we don’t want to do, simply because it’s obeying God.

All this wrestling came to a head when I clicked on the verse-of-the-day feature in the Bible app I use as part of my Bible study arsenal (you can read more about those recommended resources here). It could not have been timelier, as it spoke clearly to the situation at hand:

“So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith” (Galatians 6:9-10).

“Let’s not get tired.” Ah. God knows that sometimes obeying him and serving others can become difficult. Yet, he speaks to us lovingly, with an encouraging pep talk rather than disapproval: Keep pressing on. Keep obeying. Keep serving. Whether it’s easy or not. Because if we do? There’s a “harvest of blessing” that awaits us.

That was the encouragement I needed to stop looking at what everyone else was or wasn’t doing and focus back on what truly matters: following in the footsteps of the ultimate servant.

This article first appeared on iBelieve, on December 3, 2012.

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  1. Great great post. Very wise and timely for me. Thanks for the encouragement.

  2. Loved this post. I think maybe I struggle with the judgement of others not serving more than most, as I work in the church. As staff I think we have a different kind of ownership of the ministry, and when others don't share that ownership it can get frustrating. Also, I struggle a lot with serving joyfully because it can be very hard to distinguish between "work" and "serving" at times. All this being said, you hit the nail on the head with everything you said. Also quite timely as I opened up my email this morning to a request to serve in the nursery in a few weeks because the regular volunteers have all backed out, and I hesitated before answering. Yes Lord. Let my answer always be yes when I know it is you asking...

  3. I needed this challenge. My husband and I are involved in quite a few ministries at church and I often grow frustrated when we get asked to do yet something else and there are other people who don't seem to be doing anything at all. Recently I have been really struggling with how I feel about this, so this post has really helped, thank you.

  4. Thank you, Carmen. This IS very timely. I was praying about my service in my church last night and how I don't know if it's actually making a difference and how that discouraged me...Thank you! I hope you and Claire are doing well! <3

  5. This is spot on! Just what I needed. Ps: I left an award for you on my blog


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