By Amanda Idleman, Crosswalk.com
Service is a beautiful concept that is tricky to live out well.
Have you ever had someone “serve you” by only making things feel more stressful or overwhelming? For me, those who want to show up to bring you food right at nap time after having a baby comes to mind. Their heart is in the right place, but their execution is lacking.
Conversely, your willing heart to serve others can be grossly unnoticed, or you might be giving more than you have in your tank. You are on the road to burnout.
What should a healthy servant's heart look like? Is burnout inevitable?
Where Is The Verse "Serve One Another in Love" in the Bible?
The Bible calls us to serve one another in love in Galatians 5:13 which says, “ For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. “ How then do we practically live out these words in our lives? Freely serving without giving into our sinful and selfish nature?
What Is the Context and Meaning of Galatians 5:13?
Barnes' Notes on this passage tells us a story about people who struggled to say committed to their new faith, easily being pulled back into old habits and ways. They wanted to abuse the message of freedom to mean that they were not required to have any restraint in their lives.
Paul corrects this erroneous thinking and reminds them what the true reason for the spiritual freedom Christ had died for: they are free so that they may be able to serve others in love!
Paul teaches the Corinthians a similar message in 1 Corinthians 12. In this text, he explains that they all have gifts given by the Spirit but these gifts are given to serve the common good. All we have been given through the Spirit of God is not for us to hold onto for our own profit.
Just as 1 Corinthians 13:2 tells us if we don’t have love we have nothing, Paul is reminding the Galatians of the same principle. We are free so that we may love!
The Bible Calls Us to Serve Those in Need Around Us
Being one who serves is apart of what it means to be a Christ-follower. God wants us to, through the empowerment of His Holy Spirit, follow His command from Isaiah 1:17,” Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.”
We are called to serve not only the people we see in our daily lives but look for opportunities to serve the oppressed, orphaned, widows, and seek the cause of justice whenever we have the chance. All of this starts with inviting God into our days and asking Him to be our strength when we feel weak.
Here are 4 ways to serve others in love on a daily basis:
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1. Practice Daily Gratitude
Psalm 118: 29 tells us to give thanks to the Lord along with so many other passages of scripture. If we don’t want to get bogged down in feelings of wondering when we will get the applause we think we deserve in our relationships then we have to daily resolve to focus on minds on what we have to be thankful for.
A thankful heart is a joyful one! Psalm 11:2 encourages us to serve God with gladness! A key to serving well is serving with a grateful and joyful heart.
2. Commit to the Sabbath
God pauses on the seventh day to rest. He made rest apart of his 10 Commandments. He instructs the Israelites to let their fields rest on the 7th year. Rest is something we are commanded to do throughout the Bible and yet most of us don’t think of our hurried lives as sinful ones.
Busyness is actually prized. When talking to friends we nearly brag about our HUGE workloads, overscheduled kids, and disconnected marriages.
Rhythms of rest in our lives are essential to being ones who serve God and others with the fruits of the Spirit. Tired people are not patient, kind, self-controlled, joyful, and so on. They are short, rude, in a hurry, and overwhelmed.
If we want to be capable of “serving others with love” then we have to take God’s commandment to take a Sabbath seriously. Here is a podcast to help deepen your convictions on this command.
3. Serve Using Your Spiritual Gifts
1 Corinthians 12 lists out a set of Spiritual Gifts that all people have. We each have been gifted with unique passions, talents, knowledge, wisdom, and so on. The unique nooks and crannies of who we are have a purpose, and that purpose according to Paul is to serve others and the body of Christ.
We are so much more effective in our service when we are serving by doing something we already love and are equipped to do. For me, I could write all day and not feel taxed because words on a page energize my soul. For others, organization gets them jazzed! For another music is their life’s passion.
Whatever your situation, bring what you love doing into it. This isn’t selfish, this is God’s design.
When we serve others with our God-given talents, our service feels a little more like you just doing what you love and a lot less like draining yourself. If you aren’t sure what your talents or passions are, then take some time to reflect on what gets you most excited in life. Ask those who know you best when you shine the brightest. That’s most likely where your spiritual gifts lie.
4. Serve in the Context of Community
Galatians 5 says to “serve one another in love;” the “one another” implies that service should happen in the context of a community. Anytime we start giving all on our own, our energy gets drained fast. We need others to pour back into us words of love and encouragement when our tanks start getting empty.
Hebrews 10:24-25 says it so well: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
It’s our job as a body of believers to be connected to one another, loving one another, and spurring each other on to do the good work that God has for us!
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How to We Serve Daily, without Resentment, Stress, or Fatigue?
I have been so convicted of this in my own life as I navigate homeschooling my kiddos, working part-time, trying to be a somewhat attentive and available wife/friend/daughter/sister/etc.
I often wonder as I aspire to serve in all these roles well, if my actions are ones that reflect love. I honestly think most days they reflect burnout, stress, hurriedness, irritation, and exhaustion. Just this morning I was daydreaming quitting my “day job” for one that would allow me to serve myself more and my family less.
How then do we tote the line between servanthood and bitter martyrdom? As a Mom, the line gets blurry on a regular basis.
I so want to love my family well but struggle with thoughts that reek of bitterness and discontentment. I know I’m not alone in this. We’ve all been there.
Passionate pastors become bitter victims of congregations that work them into the ground. Those who serve at church jump in with willing hearts and then become the biggest critics of how everything is done.
Eager new employees join the team only to a year later find themselves unhappy at work once again. Once in love, spouses struggle to serve with love over the long-haul of a lifetime together.
Service without love at the center, most of the time, leads to bad outcomes.
If love is so central to getting our relationships right, what does love look like?
1 Corinthians 13: 4-8 gives us a pretty exhaustive list. Love is patient, kind, envy, doesn’t boast, does not dishonor others, is not self-seeking, is slow to anger, keeps no record of wrongs, does not delight in evil, rejoices with truth, always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love does not fail. Wow, what a list!
If we spent our days just focused on getting just one of these aspects right in our lives, we could exhaust ourselves pretty quickly. Then how do we accomplish this impossible task of letting love drive our service?
1 John 4:10-14 gives us the answer. We only love because God so graciously first loved us. Beyond just loving us he gives us His Spirit to live in US.
How do we love? Only through the power of the Holy Spirit.
How do we serve with love? We invite the Holy Spirit to give us the strength we need to do the things He has called us to do on a daily basis.
We have all heard that catchy chorus “Jesus take the wheel” but that’s kind of the only way it works. It can’t be about us being perfect at everything for those we love, or about us having the right answers when problems arise.
We only are able to “serve one another in love” when we continuously invite God’s power to work in and through our lives.
A Prayer for Help in Serving Others in Love
I need the power of your Holy Spirit in my life! It is only through you that I have the ability to love and serve those around me. Help me to remember to give thanks for all you have given me. Guide me in my journey to prioritize rest, as your word has instructed me to practice Sabbath. Help me discover the gifts you have given me and use them well. By your grace bring others into my life that will encourage me when I start feeling weary. More than anything, thank you Lord, for allowing me to be your hands and feet to the world.
Amanda Idleman is a writer whose passion is to encourage others to live joyfully. She writes devotions for the Daily Bible Devotions App, she has work published with Her View from Home, also for the MOPS Blog, she is contributing to a couples devotional for Crosswalk, and is a regular contributor for Crosswalk.com. You can find out more about Amanda at rvahouseofjoy.com or follow her on Instagram at rvahouseofjoy.
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