As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:10-11)
I was having a conversation with a friend recently which consisted mostly of describing how busy we are. She would tell me how busy she was and then I’d reply with something I was busy with and we would tell each other, “Whoa, I guess I shouldn’t be complaining how busy I am then!” And then we continued to chat about how busy we both were. Such is life, right?
Then I thought (and said aloud), “I really wish I could do more, but I just can’t do any more than I am already.” I knew that if I agreed to take on one more thing, my serving would become more obligatory or burdensome than joyful.
After this conversation, I started to reevaluate my current “serving life.” I asked myself, Am I even consistently serving joyfully in the areas I am currently serving in? First, I was only considering church commitments, but then it got me thinking, Am I serving my family joyfully? How am I serving my community?
When evaluating opportunities to serve, in general, I identified 4 categories: serving at home, serving at church, serving the community, and serving God.
Serving at Home
Do all things without grumbling or disputing. (Philippians 2:14)
Let’s get real for a second. How am I supposed to serve joyfully when I’m potty training my 3 year old? It’s gross, it’s frustrating, it costs a lot of M&Ms, and don’t even get me started on the extra laundry! How am I supposed to serve joyfully when my 6 year old always “has to be right” and lies to my face about how “dinner tastes so good” when his face clearly tells me otherwise? How am I supposed to serve joyfully when I feel like the house work is literally never ending?
On the flip side, I’m so glad to be done with diapers and be able to indulge in the remainder of the Costco sized container of M&Ms. And even though my 6 year old isn’t always right, I admire his confidence and persistence and I appreciate his attempts to make me feel good about my cooking. (I’m actually a pretty good cook; he just isn’t old enough to appreciate all of the goodness yet.) I am grateful, though, to have a home to take care of and take pride in.
How To Serve at Home
How many times have you heard, “Count your blessings!”? But, have you really sat down and thought about it? Have you thought about the fact that having a home and family to serve is a gift from God? I hadn’t really meditated wholeheartedly on this until recently. I realized I take a lot for granted on a daily basis. Sure, I’m continually thankful for all of the people and things in my life, but I don’t often find myself truly reflecting on those blessings and taking the time to thank God specifically for those things.
But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve,…But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD. (Joshua 24:15)
I think you will find that taking time to “count your blessings” and intentionally reflect and express gratitude to God for your home and family, you will find it to be a whole lot easier to serve joyfully even when you’re arguing with a 6 year old or doing your 12th load of “potty training” laundry for the day.
Serving in Church
Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people. (Ephesians 6:7)
It seems like a given that serving in church will be joyful no matter what! We’re there to worship and serve our ever-gracious God!
I am so blessed to be a part of a church with a large variety of serving opportunities. I can’t thank God enough for the chance to serve Him and his people. The danger I run into is that I always want to do more. But, I have to stop and think through what more of a time commitment looks like for my family and my other serving positions. This is where it is important to prioritize. Now, I’m not implying that one area of service is more important than another; I’m just encouraging you to recognize that “over serving” can have a negative impact on your other areas of service and your ability to serve joyfully.
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. (1 Corinthians 12:4-6)
How to Serve at Church
So, how can you go about deciding where to serve at church? First, pray. Pray that God leads you to where you can best serve. Next, make a list of your gifts and talents, spiritual and otherwise; then rank them in what you feel you are best at and how you can best serve God and your church family. If you’re having trouble with that step, reach out to your pastor or church leader for resources!
There are all sorts of different ways to find a best fit for your personality and gifts. One is the LifeWay spiritual assessment tool. Included in this assessment are: a spiritual gifts survey, a list of spiritual gifts and their definitions, and what the Bible says about spiritual gifts. Taking the time to answer a survey like this honestly might take the pressure and stress off of yourself while trying to discover your best fit for serving in church.
Finally, before deciding how and where you can serve, make sure you understand and consider the time commitment associated with each area of service.
Serving in church should never feel like an obligation. In fact, if you’re in a season of life where you’re not able to donate as much time as you’d like at church, there are other ways you can serve! You can pray for and encourage church leaders and members, volunteer at one-time events, donate items for events and fundraisers, and invite family and friends to join you for worship! Again, I’d encourage you to pray for guidance on how and where you can best serve your church. God will take it from there.
Serving our Communities
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace. (1 Peter 4:10)
Serving your community doesn’t have to be some huge gesture like organizing a fundraiser or donating a large sum of money to a local charity. While those are amazing things to do if you’re able, acts of service of that magnitude are not necessary to have an impact.
How to Serve Your Community
Think and pray about small ways you can use your gifts and means to serve others in the community. For example, someone started a “buy nothing” page on Facebook for the city we live in. It’s a place where people can either ask for/receive things they need for free or donate to those in need. Sometimes, I’m not inclined to go through my whole house and see what we could give away, but if I see a post asking for a specific thing, I’m reminded to look around and see if I can help. Sometimes I can and sometimes I can’t.
In some cases, you might be serving your community without even knowing it! Do your kids participate in community sports? Utilizing the opportunity to meet new people through these events is a great way to make new connections and open yourself up to serving opportunities! Sometimes, there are even volunteer opportunities to run concessions or make snack donations. The same goes for your children’s school; participating in fundraisers, signing up as a volunteer in a classroom, or donating money or items to families in need are all ways of serving your community!
A few other ways to serve the community are: volunteering a small amount of time at a food drive, writing a letter to the local police or fire department thanking them for their service, or organizing a donation collection of some sort.
Even if you’re not able to volunteer at a certain event or location yourself, you can share information with others who may be able to volunteer their time and talents. There’s no shortage of small ways to serve your community joyfully!
It’s Okay to Say NO!
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed-or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42)
If you’re anything like me, you need someone to just come right out and say this to your face every once in a while.
It’s okay to say no!
Again, for those in the back, IT’S OKAY TO SAY NO!
If it’s a matter of serving joyfully versus only serving out of obligation, you absolutely should say no. You will not be able to serve joyfully if you’re stretching yourself too thin by volunteering too much of your time. You will not be able to serve joyfully if you’re sacrificing too much of your family time to serve elsewhere.
The YouVersion Bible App has a reading plan entitled “Margin”. Each day consists of a short devotion and portion of Scripture. I just started this and I think everyone could benefit from these readings, especially as we navigate this holiday season. “Margin can be defined as the amount available beyond what is necessary. So many of us today need margin in our lives.” (YouVersion: Margin)
You don’t have to feel like you’re busting at the seams. Find that area of margin in your life. JUST SAY NO! (If someone gets upset with you, which they won’t, just blame me. I can take it.)
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:17)
All of our serving will inevitably be joyful if our intentions are ultimately to serve our Father in heaven. It is our privilege, as beloved children of God to use our gifts to serve our families, church, and communities so that we can reflect Jesus’ love for us.
I couldn’t help but think of Jesus’ suffering and death in regards to serving joyfully. God the Father sent His son to suffer and die for the sins of the entire world. Now, this is not a joyful thought; a parent sacrificing their child for a bunch of sinners who he had no obligation to save. Even Jesus himself struggled with this notion: he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39). Yet, our Heavenly Father allowed Jesus to be humiliated, beaten, and crucified in our stead. He didn’t stop there, though; of course He had a plan. Three days after his brutal death, Jesus rose from the dead. A short time later, He then ascended into heaven.
THIS is why we can serve joyfully! Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection and the love the Father showed us through this, we can serve joyfully to share this amazing love with others.
Find Joy In Serving
Serving doesn’t have to be all or nothing. It doesn’t even have to be something you see or touch. It can simply be praying for someone who is going through a rough time. For others, it’s holding the door for someone going into a store or church. It can be joyfully potty training your 3 year old because she is a blessing from God. For you, it may be accepting your 6 year old’s feigned dinner compliments because you know he is doing it out of consideration for you.
Ultimately, we are all serving God and spreading His love to everyone because Jesus died and rose for EVERYONE! Let’s get excited about joyfully serving in His name!
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for the opportunity to serve. While we may struggle with the “where and how”, we know that you will place us where we need to be. Please instill in us the motivation and encouragement to serve you through serving others. Also, please ease our minds when we feel we can’t serve as much as we’d like or we feel we are falling short in our current serving positions. We pray for all of your servants here on earth that we all remember to serve joyfully in your name no matter how big or small our acts of service are. We thank you for your continued blessings and grace and especially for sacrificing your Son so that we can all experience eternal life in heaven. Let us live to serve you!