It was so fantastic – and so emotional – to see Andy Murray back at Wimbledon this week after a couple of painful years recovering from operations on his hips and back. Early in his career, I remember watching an interview where he said that he was happy with his progress but that he needed to improve his serve. This little phrase got me thinking and I began to think of ways in which I could improve my serve – not on the tennis court, but in my life.
The Bible says in Psalm 100:2 – “Serve the Lord with gladness.” Let’s break this up …
Serve – not a popular word these days. In fact, loathed. In this age of living within your rights, social inclusion, doing what I want-where I want-when I want, suing and counter suing … serve or serving is almost an alien concept. In fact, we love to be served – whether it is in airplanes, restaurants, spas or in business. Nice feeling. Great to have people running after you and your needs. But …
… this is, in fact, the exact opposite of what God admires, His Word expects and His Son demonstrated. Jesus, The Son of God, Creator and beloved of all heaven came to this sin-stained and evil-driven world not to have people run after him and grant his every request, but to actually pour his life into serving and transforming ordinary people’s lives. Often, not the wealthy or those who could afford it, but the desperate, poor and ‘no-hope’ sorta people. Amazing. Don’t believe me? “For Jesus did not come into this world to be served but to serve.” Mk 10:45
The Lord – we are not serving a church or a person, but when we do ANYTHING as a Christian, we do it directly to the Lord. He is the one we love, follow and serve. To be honest – when we hoover the floor in the church, or pick up someone for church or teach in Sunday School or wash dishes at the tea after church – we can do it for different motives. Very often we feel as if no-one really appreciates what we do or encourages us to keep going. The church is full of hurt and burned out people who have been disappointed by leaders who never really appreciated them. Servers who have lost the will to serve.
Hold on a minute, there is hope. Change your way of thinking. Listen, you are NOT serving a church, but a Saviour who gave absolutely everything for you. He sees; he knows; He is aware; He appreciates you; He is encouraged by you; He loves you. A man of God I met called Brian Bailey was taken into heaven by an angel in a vision. In heaven he noticed that absolutely everything that someone did on earth was rewarded by the Lord – a smile, work, a small word of encouragement, a pat on the back – everything that a Christian did was rewarded. So you see, you are not serving people, but serving a King. The Apostles, these amazing men in the NT who did incredible things, always called themselves “slaves of Christ” or “Servants of the Lord”.
As The Passion Translation says in Colossians 3:23-24, ‘Put your heart and soul into every activity you do, as though you are doing it for the Lord himself and not merely for others. For we know that we will receive a reward, an inheritance from the Lord, as we serve the Lord, the Anointed One!’
With Gladness – it is not enough to be a server; we have to have the right attitude whilst serving. We can serve with great ability, but if there is not a smile on our face then we will burn out and quit. I am so fed up with lifeless, sad and miserable Christians. We have been saved from an eternity of indescribable pain and misery in a place called hell. Not only that, someone has died for us and exchanged His life and rewards so that we can live the fullest and best life that anyone can ever ask for. His mercy has saved us from what we deserve and His grace gives us what we don’t deserve. I mean, does it really get any better than that? Tell me what religion or sect or pill or philosophy can give you that kind of offer! None.
We should be glad. We should be full of joy, happiness, excitement and we should always have room for a smile. God is not only interested in our service, but the way in which we serve. Jonah was a great preacher but as miserable as a rainy Monday. God spared Nineveh but also had a hard job changing the mood of a depressed prophet!
Just after we went to the Philippines in 2000, an American missionary couple called Martin & Gracia Burnham were kidnapped by Islamic terrorists in the south. Sadly, the military could have captured them in the first week but the terrorists were allowed to walk out of a surrounded hospital and escape into the forest for a large sum of money. The Burnhams saw the terrorists behead another American in front of their eyes. They ended up running around the forests of Mindanao for a whole year, in chains. They had malaria many times and were very sick. They lost their shoes and walked barefoot for months. They endured so much hardship – spiritual, physical and emotional turmoil.
In May 2001, one year after being kidnapped, Gracia told her husband that she was feeling absolutely rock bottom. She felt no-one cared and had lost confidence in the Philippines, America and even the Lord. Martin rebuked her and read Psalm 100 – “We must serve the Lord with Gladness Gracia, no matter what we feel like or what might happen.” These were his last words. A minute later the army surrounded and bullets began to fly. Martin was hit in the chest and died immediately. He died serving with joy.
How about you? Right now, take a piece of paper. Come on, really challenge yourself. Draw 2 lines to make it 3 columns. Column One – “What the Lord has done for me” Write down everything that your servant king has done for you. Column 2 – “What I have ever done for the Lord” Column 3 – What I am doing now for the Lord”
Examine your results. Are you serving the Lord with gladness? Do you enjoy serving the Lord, or are you living in disappointment? Now is the time to challenge your life and attitude. Time to change; time to stand up and shake yourself. Time to serve again. And when you do, do it with a smile on your face.
And just like Andy Murray – when he won his 1st Wimbledon and received his reward from his queen – one day we will stand before our King and receive our reward! All because … we improved our serve.