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Serving Out of Gratitude Rather Than Obligation


Some time ago, during the holiday season, I came across a Ralph’s employee who, upon charging me for my items, said, “Looks like you are prepping for a big breakfast!”  “Yes,” I replied, “It’s a family tradition.”  I looked at her name badge, and observed that she had been with Ralph’s for 40 years. “Wow, Connie, you have been with Ralph’s for 40 years, huh?  Congratulations!”  Her answer surprised me, “Yes, and it has been a wonderful 40 years!  I am 1 year away from retirement.  You know what they say, ‘If you do what you absolutely love in life, you never work a day!’  I love what I do!”   

What an amazing attitude this lady had! “If you do what you absolutely love in life, you never work a day!” I wonder how many Christians view serving Christ and His people with the same attitude. How many of us would honestly say the same, "If you do what you absolutely love in life (that is, serving Christ), you never work a day!"? For many Christians, service to Christ and His people often times becomes burdensome, cumbersome, an unnecessary distraction to their personal desires and plans. Instead of considering our service to Christ as a privilege, a joyful part of being included in God’s family, a grace imparted to us by a loving Heavenly Father, many times we grumble and complain about the many “duties” we must perform for Christ and His people, as if we were not already busy enough. We approach service as if it is a job, where we simply clock in and out, putting in our time, as long as it does not hinder our personal plans and objectives in life.

We must check our hearts, and consider our motivation for service to Christ and to His beloved people. In 1 Thessalonians, Paul opens his letter with a word of greeting (1:1) and then nine beautiful verses of prayerful thanksgiving to God for this beloved body of believers (1:2-10). The motivation for Paul’s exuberant thanksgiving on behalf of these believers was the powerful work of the gospel in their hearts and lives. He praises God for His choosing of them (v. 4), for the wonderful reality that the Gospel had come with power, in the Holy Spirit, with full conviction and the compelling example of the Apostles (vv. 5-6). He praises God that these Thessalonians had embraced the message, even in much tribulation (v. 6). He praises God that the message of the gospel had had such a tremendous, transforming effect on their hearts and lives. Paul praises God that in their embracing of the gospel, these believers had become a powerful example to other believers in Macedonia, Achaia, and other regions beyond (vv. 7-8). So great was their testimony for the gospel to others, that the Apostle Paul says, “we have no need to say anything” (v. 8)! In other words, the testimony of your lives speaks loud enough, and I am so grateful for what the Lord has done in you!

What a prayer of thanksgiving! What a joyful embracing of Christ! What a powerful testimony! These believers had recognized that they had been bought with a price.  Therefore, they fully embraced the cause of Christ, and their service to God was not out of obligation, but out of gratitude! Don’t miss what Paul says in verses 9-10. Paul says that these Thessalonians had “turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come.” So grateful were these believers for God sending His precious Son, Jesus, that they now gave their lives to serving the only true God. Why? Because of mere “duty?”  No! Far from mere duty, though certainly duty has its proper place when we don’t “feel” like serving others, they were utterly grateful for their deliverance from God’s wrath! They could do nothing else but serve Him, Who had delivered them from the pursuit of vain idols and personal ambitions. They were now a family, in joyful submission to the one, true God.

We need to learn from the example of these Thessalonian believers, whose motivation for service was gratitude. They were compelled to serve God in response to His wonderful transforming work in their lives. Paul remembers their “work of faith, and labor of love and steadfastness of hope” (v. 3).  In other words, what motivates Christian men to “work” for Christ and His people? Faith! What motivates “labor” to the point of fatigue, for Christ and His people? Love! What motivates “steadfastness” (i.e., perseverance or endurance)? Hope! My challenge for us is this: what is your motivation, Christian beloved by the Father, for service to Christ and His people? Is it guilt? Is it to appease the watching eyes and opinions of others in the church? Is it mere obligation or duty, something you “have to do” only because “no one else wants to do it?”

The point is: we don’t serve Christ and His people out of MERE duty! We serve Him because we love Him, and are filled with gratitude for His transforming work in us. We are motivated by faith in our Almighty God, love for our Mighty Savior, hope in our coming King that is sure and will not fail. Remember, this is the greatest CAUSE worth living for. We must ask God to help us be able to say with Paul, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil 1:21). As Dr. Steve Lawson once said, “If living is not Christ, then you are merely existing.” So true. Is life for you personally about serving Christ and His people? Is your service for Him out of mere duty, or because you are a part of God’s family, His people?  Do you realize that as part of God’s redeemed family, you serve Christ for His glory and the good of His people?  May we be able to say, as it pertains to service to Christ and His people, "If you do what you absolutely love in life, you never work a day! I love what I do!”  Or, more precisely, “I love the precious Savior I serve!”