Reading 2 – Sabbath, December 5, 2015
The Gift and Spirit of Service
By Alfred Ngwenya, Zimbabwe/Swaziland
“As His representatives among men, God does not choose angels who have never fallen, but human beings, men of like passions with those they seek to save. Christ took humanity that He might reach humanity. A divine-human Saviour was needed to bring salvation to the world. And to men and women has been committed the sacred trust of making known ‘the unsearchable riches of Christ.’ “ –The Acts of the Apostles, p. 134
The gift of service we may understand to be “the spirit of service,” or “the gift of giving.” From the very beginning of human history, we can see that man was created to live a life of activity–of service. He was not created to just sit and think about himself but rather always to focus on what he should do to be God’s helping hand and thus glorify Him. “And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.” Genesis 2:15. Such a life of service would make him healthy and happy and be a shield against temptation. Consider how such a life protects man from selfishness and idleness. Adam was expected to have dominion over even non-living nature, and he named the animals. He would communicate with and take care of them. Thus, “Every one should consider the solemn question, What is my life toward God and my fellow men? No man liveth unto himself. No life is simply neutral in its results….” –The Faith I Live By, p. 30.
God Himself so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. Today we enjoy the blessings of salvation and the saving grace of God through His service. Did not Christ give His life for the children of Adam? He agonized in the Garden of Gethsemane and accepted death upon the cross, because He wanted to give an approved service to man–salvation. We read in Hebrews 12:2, 3: “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.”
“Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.” Matthew 10:8. This was what Jesus said to the twelve when He sent them out to serve; and after accomplishing the tasks, they expressed much joy because they had performed what was expected of them. Today many people want to receive payment or praise in return for their service, but this is not true service, for that comes from a free heart. “Freely ye have received, freely give.” And Paul in the Spirit says: “I have showed you all things, how that so laboring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Acts 20:35.
“Every soul is under obligation to live a Christian life. Our individuality, our talents, our time, our influence, our abilities, all given to us of God, are to be rendered back to Him in willing service. The aim and object of life is not to secure temporal advantages, but to make sure of the eternal advantages. God claims your soul, your body, your capabilities; for He has bought them by His own precious blood, and they all belong to Him. It is robbery to withhold yourself from God…. The question of importance to us is, Is our life interwoven with that of Jesus?” –The Faith I Live By, p. 30.
All the talents we possess are given for service to the Lord and our neighbors. Our talents may not be the same type or size as those of others, but we all have talents. Today there are rich people in the world, some of whom are gifted in singing, in addressing crowds, or in speaking eloquently, and they receive applause from people. But this isnot what God had in mind when He imparted the talents. “In the life of the true Christian there is nothing of self. Self is dead. There was no selfishness in the life that Christ lived while on this earth. Bearing our nature, He lived a life wholly devoted to the service of others.” –In Heavenly Places, p. 166.
Because of self-centeredness this world is groping in darkness and is dying from lack of knowledge about the true, living God, the Creator of heaven and earth. We see people every day who have no food or clothing. Others are sick and in pain from different diseases and have lost all hope of recovering from their difficulties. And crimes are committed every day in every city, town, and village. Because of this darkness, God enlists servicemen and servicewomen.
Seeing the world in darkness and dying, Jesus sent His disciples out with the commission, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” Matthew 28:19, 20. This commission was itself a gift of service that He gave to His disciples and also to us. Everyone has this gift to serve his neighbor and the whole world with the light of salvation. “And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost.” John 20:22. With the Holy Spirit, He breathed into them the spirit of service. He sent them to share the good news with people in darkness.
It is the duty of everyone who has received the gospel to perform faithful service by enlightening others. No one needs to be afraid or to be ashamed of the gospel of Christ, because it has the power to save both the person who serves and the one who is served. As long as there are people who do not know salvation through Jesus Christ, there are plenty of openings for one to enter into this service. “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!” Isaiah 52:7. God knows very well how people suffer under the satanic hand of oppression. The devil has blinded them so they cannot see the way to salvation, but God provided the service of His people to help them find the way out of the prison of darkness.
“I the Lord have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.” Isaiah 42:6, 7. This is a call to service. Will you not heed the call? For how long are these souls to remain in this prison of darkness? Are you not the recipient of God’s grace? To you, to me, and to all His people He says, as He did to Saul of Tarsus: “… For I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in Me.” Acts 26:16-18.
God has selected you to preach the word, because this word testifies of Christ, whom you have heard, met, and accepted. God expects us to preach the gospel faithfully, meeting people where they are. We should not wait for them to come to us so we can share this word of light. True Christian service is to get up and go seek those to whom you can give this gospel that saves. The results of such service will be marvelous. “And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.” Acts 6:7. In this preaching service, there should be no fear of disappointment or failure, for the promise is: “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.” Psalm 126:5, 6. When this service has all been completed, those who are faithfully engaged in it now will hear the great words: “… Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.” Matthew 25:23.
Service for the sick
“I was sick, and ye visited Me.” “How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with Him.” Matthew 25:36; Acts 10:38.
“Read the Scriptures carefully, and you will find that Christ spent the largest part of His ministry in restoring the suffering and afflicted to health. Thus He threw back upon Satan the reproach of the evil which the enemy of all good had originated. Satan is the destroyer; Christ is the Restorer. And in our work as Christ’s co-laborers, we shall have success if we work on practical lines. Ministers, do not confine your work to giving Bible instruction. Do practical work. Seek to restore the sick to health. This is true ministry. Remember that the restoration of the body prepares the way for the restoration of the soul.” –(Manuscript 55, 1901) Medical Ministry, p. 240.
Every single day, sick, suffering souls need our help; we see them left and right. At our work places, in our neighborhoods, in hospitals, and wherever people live, there is suffering. Jesus said that at the end of time there would be “famines, and pestilences.” Matthew 24:7. People sense their need of help most when they are under the power of disease. Then they are ready to accept our prayers and songs. Then they can recognize the helping hand and pitying love of God. Do what you can to help those who are in pain, remembering how Christ was ever ready to enter the house of the sick and the crying. Before sending His disciples to preach the gospel, what did He do?
“And when He had called unto Him His twelve disciples, He gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease.” Matthew 10:1. This shows how near Christ is to the sick, and He entrusted all of His followers with this important service.
The shepherd’s service
“So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love Thee. He saith unto him, Feed My lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love Thee. He saith unto him, Feed My sheep.” John 21:15, 16.
A shepherd protects, looks after, and feeds the sheep. Christ calls Himself the “good Shepherd” because He lays down His life for His sheep. Christ Himself was ever with His disciples, and not only they but also the multitudes were blessed by His presence. People came in search of Him at the crack of dawn, because they felt protected and at peace in His presence. “And seeing the multitudes, He went up into a mountain: and when He was set, His disciples came unto Him: And He opened His mouth, and taught them….” “Then He took the five loaves and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, He blessed them, and brake, and gave to the disciples to set before the multitude. And they did eat, and were all filled: and there was taken up of fragments that remained to them twelve baskets.” Matthew 5:1, 2; Luke 9:16, 17. This is what we call Christian service–to care for our brethren, to feed them spiritually and physically. That is why Jesus said to love your neighbor as yourself. It is the responsibility of pastors, church elders, and officers of the church, as well as members, to take care of God’s flock.
When those who are spiritually weak are not cared for properly in the church, it declines quickly. In other cases, poverty causes some to fall into temptation and leave the church. But it is the work of the minister and every brother and sister to watch over the souls whom Christ has purchased with His own blood.
“Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enterin among you, not sparing the flock.” “Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly.” Acts 20:28, 29; 1 Peter 5:2. God’s flock needs to be fed regularly from His word. Now is the time to do this, because a time is coming when it will be very hard to teach the truth. God’s flock needs to be firmly established in the present truth.
Unfortunately, often only pleasing sermons are taught and many people stop listening to the real truth, fearing that their sins will be pointed out. But everyone needs to base his life and experience on a “thus saith the Lord,” “to the law and to the testimony.” And those who faithfully care for God’s flock will one day hear the blessing to be pronounced upon them, “Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34), while at the same time those who did not do faithful service will hear God pronounce irreversible judgment casting them into darkness. “Then shall He say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” Matthew 25:41.
Yet today, as in ancient times, people make excuses. “And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it is sealed: And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned.” Isaiah 29:11, 12. After he received the gospel commission, the apostle Paul did not feel at peace if he had not preached to and fed God’s flock with the word: “Woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!” 1 Corinthians 9:16. He knew that everyone will be called to account on the judgment day for souls who were committed to them for safe keeping. If we fail as God’s watchmen on the walls of Zion, a terrible negligence will be charged against us. Let us do faithful service as undershepherds.
Service for the poor
“For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.” Deuteronomy 15:11.
Every person–rich or poor–is very precious to God. He does not belittle anyone who lives in poverty. “For He shall deliver the needy when he crieth; the poor also, and him that hath no helper. He shall spare the poor and needy, and shall save the souls of the needy.” Psalm 72:12, 13. When Christ began His ministry, He began with the poor; in fact, He says He was anointed “to preach the gospel to the poor.” Whenever an opportunity arises, we need to do whatever we can for the poor and weak so they will receive the joy of the rich. “Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble. The Lord will preserve him, and keep him alive; and he shall be blessed upon the earth: and thou wilt not deliver him unto the will of his enemies. The Lord will strengthen him upon the bed of languishing: Thou wilt make all his bed in his sickness.” Psalm 41:1-3.
Kindness shown to poor, weak, suffering ones is like having bread for the future, for “the merciful” “shall obtain mercy.” Matthew 5:7. God will pay him back. God does not forget our work and labor of love if we do everything as if done to Jesus, in His name. We cannot afford to close our eyes and ears as though we are blind and deaf to the cries of the poor, thinking that we will not be seen by God. In this world and in the church, there are people who are oppressed–widows and the fatherless. Our eyes, ears, and sympathies should be drawn to such people. Our light should shine so that these suffering ones may see and glorify God. “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” James 1:27.
Members and leaders in the church have great truth and knowledge about the current events surrounding us. We even fast often, asking for God’s favor. But God in His mercy poses a question: “Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?” Isaiah 58:6. This will open the ears of God to hear our prayers, and He will guide us into the paths of righteousness. We should be like a father to the poor and fatherless, even searching out the cases which we do not know. There is one young man in the Bible who was called to be a disciple of Jesus on condition that he sell all that he had and give it to the poor and destitute. Matthew 19:21. This shows that Christ identifies with the poor and will hold us responsible if we do not serve them. “For I was an hungered, and ye gave Me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave Me no drink.” “Then shall He answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to Me.” Matthew 25:42, 45. We are our brother’s keeper.
Service to prisoners
“I was in prison, and ye came unto Me.” Matthew 25:36.
There are many people in the world who are afflicted and chained because of crimes that they have committed, and the law has not been merciful to them. God in heaven looks down and sees and hears the groaning of these souls. In compassion, He sent His only Son to give them relief. Jesus said that His mission was “to open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.” Isaiah 42:7. Before Christ comes into our lives, we are all prisoners of the devil. Christ preached the gospel of deliverance for the captives and for those who were chained. It would not be possible for us to praise God if Jesus had not come and delivered those who were imprisoned by the prince of this world “that made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed the cities thereof; that opened not the house of his prisoners.” Isaiah 14:17.
Many people are locked away in the prisons of this world. Not all have been rightly judged. Some were condemned falsely, like our Lord, so there is no excuse for refusing to visit the prisoners or for asking why they broke the law. In this world, there is little justice. We do not know why so many people are in jail. Let us remember Peter, Paul, John, and others who were imprisoned, even though they had done nothing wrong in the sight of God. But even if people are in prison for a real cause, let us visit them and win them to the everlasting hope of eternal life.
Remember the thief on the cross. Christ was revealed to him and promised him eternal life, even though he was not freed from the cross. He died that day, but in eternal hope. Likewise, visiting prisoners does not mean that we are to fight to get them released from jail, rather that they may be freed from the prison of sin even while they remain in jail, with the hope of eternal life and liberation. In fact, there are people whom God permitted to be placed in prison so they may receive the crown of life. The promise of God is, “Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” Revelation 2:10. Therefore, let us “Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.” Hebrews 13:3.
Support of the ministry
“Honour the Lord with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase.” Proverbs 3:9.
God is calling us to join Him in the service of ministry by supporting those who have left their families, homes, and countries to preach the gospel. How do we serve them? God instructs all to give their tithes and offerings so that those who preach the gospel may live–they and their families. The Lord, who owns this world and everything in it (silver and gold), has given man talents, wisdom, and the ability to obtain wealth. Let us remember how faithful Abraham was, giving tithes and offerings to the King of Salem (Melchisedec). Similarly, Jacob understood his obligation to the ministry and promised God that he would pay the tithes and offerings to support the sacred service if God would spare his life and return him to his home country. This service of tithes and offerings is as old as human history. The promise connected to faithfulness in such service states: “So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.” Proverbs 3:10.
“Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.” Romans 12:10-13.
Many people say to friends and strangers, “God bless you,” rather than sharing their blessings with those who are needy. Such verbal blessings have no value if someone is in need and we do not supply those needs. As bornagain children of the Most High, we are to love one another and do good to our fellow pilgrims–those of the household of faith. When we show hospitality and welcome the needy into our homes, we may be welcoming heavenly beings into our dwellings. God is able to supply us abundantly. “For I was an hungered, and ye gave Me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave Me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took Me in.” Matthew 25:35.
Tracing the divine footprints
“Many feel that it would be a great privilege to visit the scenes of Christ’s life on earth, to walk where He trod, to look upon the lake beside which He loved to teach, and the hills and valleys on which His eyes so often rested. But we need not go to Nazareth, to Capernaum, or to Bethany, in order to walk in the steps of Jesus. We shall find His footprints beside the sick bed, in the hovels of poverty, in the crowded alleys of the great city, and in every place where there are human hearts in need of consolation. In doing as Jesus did when on earth, we shall walk in His steps….
“Jesus worked to relieve every case of suffering that He saw. He had little money to give, but He often denied Himself of food in order to relieve those who appeared more needy than He. His
brothers felt that His influence went far to counteract theirs. He possessed a tact which none of them had, or desired to have. When they spoke harshly to poor, degraded beings, Jesus sought out these very ones, and spoke to them words of encouragement. To those who were in need He would give a cup of cold water, and would quietly place His own meal in their hands. As He relieved their sufferings, the truths He taught were associated with His acts of mercy, and were thus riveted in the memory.” –The Desire of Ages, pp. 640, 86, 87.
Reward of service
“It is not a vain thing to serve God. There is a priceless reward for those who devote their life to His service.” – Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, p. 107.
“… Every sacrifice that is made in His ministry will be recompensed according to ‘the exceeding riches of His grace.’ “ –The Desire of Ages, p. 249.
“Our reward for working with Christ in this world is the greater power and wider privilege of working with Him in the world to come.” –Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 361.
Dear brothers and sisters, let us consider it a great privilege to be engaged in the service of God and our fellow man. Let us not faint but endure the hardships we may meet while doing this wonderful service. When we have done God’s will, relieved many who might have remained forever without hope, helped others to escape the gross darkness that covers the world, and then meet in eternity those who were rescued through our service in various lines, our joy will be unspeakable. What a gift our Lord gives us in the spirit of service! Amen.