This article first appeared in the Winter 2011 issue of the quarterly newsletter for Christian young women, Incorruptible Beauty.
What if true service is not about doing something big or joining a recognized ministry? What if it's just about serving where you are, with a cheerful attitude and a desire to glorify God?
Question: What are some practical ways in which you can serve today? Feel free to comment and continue the discussion.
The Heart of Christ
The heart of Christ is the heart of a servant. In John 13:5-17 we see Jesus kneeling down to wash his disciples’ dirty feet, a menial task that they should have done for Him instead. When He finishes, He utters these astonishing words: “If I, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.”
In Matthew 20:25-28, Jesus makes it clear that, just as He became our servant, we must show our service to the Lord by ministering to the needs of others:
You know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: even as the Son of Man came not to be ministered to, but to minister and to give His life as a ransom for many.
Serving as a Woman
As women, we have been given specific commands about how to serve. 1 Timothy 2:10 tells women to “adorn [themselves] with good works.” Lydia in the Bible sold garments and offered hospitality to the apostles (Acts 16:14-15), Ruth supported her mother-in-law (book of Ruth), and the Proverbs 31 woman “stretches her hand to the poor” (Proverbs 31:20).
Not much is said to single young women about their particular “ministry,” but married women are told to serve their husbands as they would serve the Lord (Titus 2:3-5, Ephesians 5:22). If God grants that we marry someday, then we are destined to be ministers of God to our husbands—a heavy responsibility indeed! What can we learn about ministry that will help us to best serve God and others both now and in the future?
What is Ministry?
Many young women today strongly desire to be involved in some type of ministry for the Lord. This is a good desire, but it can be easily misunderstood.
I have always had a heart for young women, both believers and unbelievers. I knew that these desires were from the Lord, and I expected that He would allow me to participate in ministries through which I could help both secular and Christian young women. He helped me, but not in the way that I expected!
In my own estimation, I was ready to be a servant. I wanted to serve these young women, I had a likable personality to which young women felt attracted, I had great communication skills, I liked to listen and give advice, and I wanted to do something big for God. In the Lord’s mind, however, I lacked the heart of a true servant.
This was demonstrated when I became discouraged by my lack of a ministry outlet. The only answer He gave to me was He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much (Luke 16:10). I swallowed my frustration and tried to get into the spirit of the thing. I tried to view my every-day services as service to God, but even then I felt frustrated by my lack of a “real” ministry. Yeah, sure. I serve God by correcting my younger sister’s math pages. I mean, come on!
The Humility of Servanthood
That’s when God showed me that I was limiting my idea of servanthood. I wanted to do something “big” for God. I wanted to be involved in a ministry organization, or begin a ministry program, or write a fantastic Christian book, or be involved in some church missions trip, or do something that evangelical Christians would recognize as a full-fledged ministry. I thought that ministry was something like glorified servanthood, involving foreign places, Christian organizations, or at least church programs and activities.
The Lord showed me that He doesn’t categorize ministry. The director of a crisis pregnancy center is no more important than the woman who folds the baby clothes in the back of the center. Both servants love the Lord and take advantage of the service opportunities and responsibilities that He gives to them. In His eyes, both are true servants.
I began to ask myself hard questions. What if the Lord wanted me to simply serve—whether or not I liked the particular service I was doing, whether or not anyone recognized it as an “official” ministry, whether or not it seemed to make any difference? What if the Lord never gave me a chance to be involved in a recognized, “real” ministry? What if my service to family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, classmates, and others was not just an intermediary stage? What if that was my life ministry? Could I be content with serving the Lord no matter what that service looked like?
God also pointed out that I was making a distinction between my “regular” life and my “ministry” life. He showed me that there is no such distinction. I am a servant of the Creator of the Universe, and everything I do and say must reflect that reality.
I am always on duty. There are no breaks, no intermissions, no furloughs, no recuperation periods.
An old Bob Dylan song says, “It may be the devil, or it may be the Lord, but you’re gonna have to serve somebody.” According to Matthew 6:24, these lines are Biblically true. Bearing that in mind, if I take a “momentary break” from serving the Lord, then just who am I serving?
A Lifetime of Ministry
This brought me to the pivotal realization: My whole life is a ministry.
Ministry is a lifetime of cheerful service to Him through serving others. I have found joy in the “little things” and in serving in whatever capacity I can. As a single young woman, I have the responsibility to serve my father, who is my earthly authority, and to help my mother, who is training me to serve in my own household someday. Titus 2:3-5 tells older women to teach younger women, and even though I am not an older woman, I have the responsibility to teach those younger than me about the Lord. I consider myself a minister of God to my younger siblings and friends.
Despite the fact that I am now involved in what I used to consider “the big stuff,” I choose to view these ministry activities as being on the same plane as my family chores. All my activities are opportunities to serve the Lord.
Whether I am made responsible for little or for much, I delight to be faithful to the Lord and to see what He will do through me. I urge each one of you to likewise recognize your unique places as God’s ministers as single young women. Consider how you may serve your fathers, your mothers, your siblings, your friends, and your co-workers.
Determine to make your whole life a service to His glory!
None of my life has gone the way it was "supposed to go," but I don't love my life any less because of the hardships and new directions. I see so much unexpected good in it, and I want others to see the good in theirs.