As we continue through the series on the Transformed Life based on Romans 12, in this post, we will see the subject of “Serving the Lord Enthusiastically” based on Romans 12:11. This is yet another evidence of a life that is being transformed by the Holy Spirit.
Paul says, “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” The word “lacking” is the same word translated “lazy” in Matthew 25:26 where Jesus rebukes the man who received that one talent [gold bag] and went and hid it in the ground. It’s also the same word that is used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament called the Septuagint when describing lazy people in the book of Proverbs. They are often called “sluggards.” For example, we find in Proverbs 6:9 these words of rebuke directed toward lazy people, “How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep?”
In Isaiah 56:10, the Lord rebukes the spiritual leaders of Israel for failing to fulfill their responsibility. And one of the aspects of that rebuke refers to their laziness. “Israel’s watchmen are blind, they all lack knowledge; they are all mute dogs, they cannot bark; they lie around and dream, they love to sleep.” Jeremiah 48:10 echoes the same thought as well, “A curse on anyone who is lax in doing the Lord’s work!” The Lord does not look favorably when he is served with a careless and slack attitude.
How we serve God does matter to him is also made clear in the New Testament in Hebrews 12:28-29, “28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe,29 for our “God is a consuming fire.””
That’s why it’s essential for each of us to continually keep asking ourselves, “Is my worship or service to the Lord done with fear and awe? Is it done with a sense of gratitude, joy, and enthusiasm? Is it an acceptable service?” Why? Because God demands it!
In the context to Romans 12:11, this is what Paul is essentially saying: “Don’t be lazy when it comes to serving the Lord. Do it with great enthusiasm.” This would also include putting one’s God-given spiritual gifts to good use to benefit others [Rom 12:3-8] and thus glorify God in the end!
In fact, that word “spiritual fervor” has this idea of something that is boiling or bubbling over. We are to have that kind of enthusiasm—an enthusiasm that is rightly prompted by the Holy Spirit. Obviously, Paul is not talking about some kind of mad spiritual frenzy that is often called as zealous service. He is talking about an inner attitude that enthusiastically gives itself wholeheartedly to serve the Lord.
It is that type of a heart that knows it is wholly owned by God. In fact, that word “serving” comes from the word from which we get the word “slave.” So, the verse 11 can also be legitimately rendered as “enthusiastically slaving for the Lord.” Slave is not to be understood in the negative sense but in a positive sense of being bought by the blood of Jesus and hence owned by God [1 Cor 6:20]. And this ownership calls for complete allegiance.
We are only doing what we are supposed to do when it comes to serving the Lord. This is what Jesus taught us in Luke 17:7-10 “7 Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant [slave] when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? 8 Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? 9 Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? 10 So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.'” We have only done our duty. That’s the humble attitude which should mark us. We bear the rich title “Slaves of Jesus Christ.” Slaves do what their master commands them to do. And the Master commands us to serve him enthusiastically.
In writing about the kind of attitude we need to have it comes to serving God, this is what Donald Whitney says in his book Spiritual Disciplines [p. 129]:
Wanted: Gifted volunteers for difficult service in the local expression of the Kingdom of God. Motivation to serve should be obedience to God, gratitude, gladness, forgiveness, humility, and love. Service will rarely be glorious. Temptation to quit place of service will sometimes be strong. Volunteers must be faithful in spite of long hours, little or no visible results, and possibly no recognition except from God in eternity.
In essence, what Whitney says is this: Serve God faithfully—no matter how hard the task and how fruitless your efforts may seem!
And we must not limit serving the Lord only to church-related activities. Elsewhere, in 1 Corinthians 10:31, we are told, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” In every aspect of life, we should live for God’s glory. We are to be living sacrifices for him 24/7.
So, even in other areas of life, we must function with the reminder that all of our actions are to be done as though it was ultimately for the Lord. This is what Paul, for example, told the Ephesians when it comes to secular work.
Ephesians 6:5-8 “5 Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. 6 Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. 7 Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, 8 because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free.
So, even in the workplace, we ought to serve the Lord enthusiastically although it might be a service outwardly rendered to human beings.
At the end of the day, when it comes to service, we need to remember that God is in control of where we are kept, what kind of work we are called to do and what kind of results would come out of our service.
“Why have you buried yourself in this forsaken place?” a man asked a foreign missionary. “I haven’t buried myself,” the missionary replied. “I was planted.” That type of attitude makes all the difference. [Warren Wiersbe, When Life Falls Apart, p. 63].
We need to wholeheartedly accept where God has kept us and enthusiastically serve him there. I understand that at times we become discouraged. And discouragement can be due to many reasons. God’s prophets and his apostles did face discouragement. And so, will we! However, even in those times, by faith, we need to keep asking him to help us to keep pressing on by doing 2 things.
1. We need to keep reflecting on the mercies of God [Rom 12:1].
2. We need to remind ourselves of God’s promises that our labor for the Lord is never in vain.
Along the lines of #2, here are a few verses to keep us motivated when it comes to serving.
1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
Galatians 6:9-10 9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
Hebrews 6:10-12 10 God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. 11 We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. 12 We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.
God’s word is an encouragement. God’s people who have given their lives for the Lord’s work are also a great encouragement. Read biographies of Christians who have given their all for Christ and his people amidst great suffering. And yet these folks never regretted their decision in serving the Lord. Here is an example.
William Borden graduated from high school in Chicago in 1904. He was the heir of the Borden Dairy estate. For graduation, he received the uncommon gift of a trip around the world. Little did those who gave him this trip realize what it would do to him.
While on the trip, William began to feel a burden for those less fortunate and those in need of Christ around the world. He wrote home expressing a desire to give his life in service to Christ as a missionary. Though friends and relatives stood in disbelief, Borden wrote two words in the back of his Bible: “No reserves.”
He returned to America and enrolled at Yale University. He was a model student. Though others might have thought college life would quench William’s desire for the mission field, it only fueled it.
He started a Bible study, and by the end of his first year 150 students were meeting weekly to study the Scriptures and pray. By the time he was a senior, one thousand of the thirteen hundred students at Yale were in discipleship groups meeting for weekly Bible study and prayer.
He did not limit his evangelistic efforts simply to the up-and-out around Yale’s pristine campus. His heart was equally for the down-and-out. He founded the Yale Hope Mission. He ministered to those who were on the streets of New Haven, Connecticut. He shared the ministry of Christ with orphans, widows, the homeless, and the hungry, offering them hope and refuge.
A visitor from oversees was asked what impressed him most during his time in America. He responded, “The sight of that young millionaire kneeling with his arm around a ‘bum’ in the Yale Hope Mission.”
When Borden graduated from Yale, he was offered many lucrative jobs. Yet to the dismay of many relatives and friends, he refused. Instead, he wrote in the back of his Bible two more words: “No retreat.”
He entered Princeton Seminary and, upon graduation, set sail for China. Intending to serve Christ among the Muslim populations, he stopped over in Egypt to study and learn Arabic. However, while there, he contracted spinal meningitis. He lived only a month longer.
At the age of twenty-five, William Borden was dead. Borden counted all things loss for the sake of knowing Christ and making Him known. He refused to be taken in by the futility of the life inherited from his forefathers, but rather sought to live out the glory of his ransom by the blood of Jesus Christ.
When his Bible was discovered after his death, it was found that he had added two more words to the back page: “No regrets.”
Those who know the price of their redemption also know that a life lived for the One who ransomed them is a life with no regrets. William Borden chose to go with the One who had ransomed him.
[Anthony Carter, Blood Work (pp. 106-108).]
Agreed, not all of us called to a ministry like Borden’s. But the point is this: In whatever way we are called to serve, we must do so with enthusiasm! You see, in the end, giving up of our lives wholeheartedly in service for Jesus is a life of No Regrets. And this giving is motivated on the mercy we’ve received from God. That is why Paul started out Romans 12:1 with mercy as the motivator of giving our all to Jesus. Mercy should motivate us to give ourselves wholly to serve the Lord because mercy is the basis of all spiritual service.
Have you received this mercy? If not, why delay? Go to Jesus in true repentance and faith and ask him to grant you his saving mercies. He died for sins and rose again so that all who look to him can receive a full pardon for their sins. That’s how great his mercy is!
If you have received this mercy, are you serving him with enthusiasm? If you are, keep on doing it. If not, repent of your lack of zeal, keep reflecting more on God’s mercies, know that your labor in the Lord will never be in vain and thus allow the Holy Spirit to transform the way you serve him from this day forward.