The Spirit of Service

 •  4 min. read  •  grade level: 11
The service of God in this world has always been attended with difficulty and opposition. In Old Testament times the servants sent to the Lord’s vineyard all came back disappointed, beaten or stoned; some never got back at all, but were put to death by those from whom they sought fruit for Jehovah. In the New Testament service, the one who was chiefly used in carrying the gospel of God’s glory to the Jew first and then to the Gentile had to feel not only the cruel opposition of the world at large—the scourge, stones and bonds—but had to lament, at the end of his course, the desertion and neglect of the greater part of those who had received the truth from him.
There would be enough to deter even an active and zealous man in such a course. I well remember the words of an old servant of the Lord to one who was discouraged by the ingratitude of those he had endeavored to serve: “Christianity is not shown forth in seeking anything upon earth, not even the gratitude of Christians, but in bringing into the earth power from another sphere.”
By Love Serve
The spirit of service in Christianity is love, and love that is willing to spend and be spent for others, with no reward, but even ready to love the Corinthians all the more, the less they loved him (2 Cor. 12:15).
It must have been very trying to carry on this service to the Corinthians. There is indeed a pleasure in working for others who show a little gratitude and interest in return for the service, but what must it have been to the heart of the devoted Apostle to receive nothing but unkindness and ingratitude from those for whom he had suffered and labored so much? If in natural things it is more painful to have a thankless child than to feel the serpent’s bite, what is it in spiritual things where the active care and service, the fruit of true Christian affection, is slighted? The motive and reason for continuing thus to serve the ungrateful is found in the love itself, and not in its objects. This is exactly the character of love, the divine nature; there is nothing self-seeking in it, and if the eye be single, the most gifted servant will be quite content to be misunderstood and ill-requited in carrying out service towards the church of God.
We should notice the self-denying way in which the Apostle met the needs of the weakest; being free from all, he made himself the servant of all, that he might gain the more. “To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some” (1 Cor. 9:22). The spirit of service in Paul was evidently the spirit of love; there was that true seeking the good of others, though at his own expense, and the perseverance in it that is peculiar to love. In 1 Corinthians 13, love is insisted upon by the Apostle. The gifts are found in chapter 12, the use of them in chapter 14, and the thirteenth chapter comes between as being the preparation for their use.
The Service of Jesus
But we have a far more glorious and touching impression of love than that which was seen in Paul; we have the perfect love of God shown forth in the service of Jesus Himself. His service was characterized by self-denying perseverance in a path of condescension that could come down to the feeblest objects and where nothing but ingratitude from man was found. This is divine love. We shall never fully understand what that love was, that could descend from supreme glory to the place of the dependent man, who learned obedience by the things which He suffered, so as to be able to help and serve the weary. But it is a happy thing for us that we have the Lord Himself as the pattern and model of service.
“I am among you as He that serveth,” He said, at a time when all the sufferings of the cross were before Him and when there was but little response from those who were the objects of His care. If we really wish to fulfill our mission, we must be near Him whose blessed life here on earth was spent in perfect service to God and man, who never sought anything for Himself, but always the good of others.
If our resources are in the Lord Himself, no matter what our gift or service may be, we will accomplish it with a heart happy in Him and sustained by Him to the very end. In that day, “His servants shall serve Him: and they shall see His face; and His name shall be in their foreheads” (Rev. 22:3-43And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: 4And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads. (Revelation 22:3‑4)).
E. L. Bevir, adapted