How do we serve God? The question took on a finer point recently when it went to “How will we serve God when we get to Heaven and no one has needs, needs that we can help fill in His name, no one lacks a knowledge of God that we can help fill in His name, and so on.” I like questions that make me go deeper, and answers that help me live better, so I dove into the search. Understanding feels good.
How do we serve? I think of the first and obvious answers. I serve God by the church experience of expression through music, letting that shared expression call me into remembering and learning from adoration. For me, the preaching is part of worship (the biggest part, in fact) as I encounter the pathos of a text from God’s revelation in his word. We serve in other ways at church, teaching, sweeping, giving, decorating, cooking, visiting the sick, encouraging each other, repairing stuff from the light switch to the air conditioning, and in many more ways.
But there is more serving of God outside the church. Whether through a church sponsored event or one we find on our own, we serve God through taking food to the hungry, helping people in need because of failing health, age, catastrophe, being the kind witness for the person struggling with their own internal questions about the purpose of their life, and many other ways.
What does the Bible say?
Perhaps we can find the simple advice helpful about service to God. Be like Jesus, and do what comes naturally. Look at how many times “Love one another” and “Build up one another” appear in scripture. This is serving God.
The most basic service to God is about where it all begins, which is not any of our efforts at all. We are saved by his grace. He came looking for us and found us. “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:10) He has begun a work in our life that he will finish. (Philippians 1:3-6) Out of this new creaturely-ness (II Corinthians 5:17), our serving of God begins.
Again with the basics, I see Romans 12:1-2, and then Romans 12:3-8, and don’t stop reading even there.
1Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
This phrase often translated “spiritual service” or “reasonable service” can also be translated “logical, philosophically sound, service”.
3For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. 4For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, 5so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; 7if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; 8or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.
One of the challenging stories from the early writings is the story of Rehoboam. In II Chronicles 12:1-16. It is a sad story of how he “Forsook the law of the Lord.” He weakened the nation of Judah spiritually, and also practically, so that Shishak of Egypt marched against the nation. When many leaders of the land humbled themselves, God spared Judah from vast destruction, but the land became subservient to Egypt. God allowed this as the scripture says in verse 8 …“so that they may learn the difference between My service and the service of the kingdoms of the countries.”
Yes, serving God is different from serving those people or things that oppress us, or call for us to follow along with them. “The way of the treacherous is hard.” So says Proverbs 13:15. Galatians 6:8 says “For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.”
But, what does it mean to serve God? As stated above, it is being like Jesus and doing what comes naturally. It is bringing others to Christ and his salvation; it is loving each other in our treatment of each other; and building up each other by helping each other be stronger and encouraged, and forgiving each other. It is concern and social action for a world in its paralysis and its shame, it is turning a broken person’s hiding place into a meeting place… thus building this new community and fellowship we call Christ’s church. We call these actions being obedient to The Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) and The Great Commandment. (Matthew 22:36-40) It is the prayer for God’s Kingdom and Will to become real in this Earth as it is in Heaven.
One passage that I think should be read and re-read every few weeks is John 15:7-17. There in v.15, Jesus says, “I have called you friends.” Is that a glimpse of serving God in heaven… friends sharing each day together, in that place God has prepared for us.
As I read the description of heaven in the book of Revelation, I am struck by all the things that won’t be there. No sorrow, no pain, no sin, and the list goes on. We won’t serve by reform movements or challenging social ills. We won’t serve by growing the church. We will still serve by loving, won’t we? We will have full and complete fellowship with Jesus, with no interference between. Heaven seems to be about relationship, worship, friendship, thanksgiving, freedom, knowing even as we are known. But when we are there, perhaps we will see that these were a large part of what we called service while we were here.
 See the excellent writing about this prayer, in Prayer- the Cry for the Kingdom, Revised Edition, by Stanley Grenz.