Why would some people give up willingly their good paying job or career and consider doing cross cultural mission? Why would missionaries like William Carey or Adoniram Judson leave their homeland and go to a far away land and sacrifice all? Why do preachers work hard in preaching the gospel or teaching God’s people the Word of God, even with meager pay or no pay at all at times? Why are Christians willing to serve God and forgive other people who hurt them so much? Why?

These are some of the questions that I have had when I started to answer God’s call to Christian discipleship. I was wondering why our InterVarsity staff workers gave up their promising career. Some of them were engineers, doctors, nurses, and teachers. Why would they trade their profession and enter the ministry of serving the students in colleges and universities?

I did not have the answer then. But now I have an idea. While all of us have our own motives in serving God in any vocation, the only God-honoring motive is the glory of God. We don’t offer our lives and use our resources for God in order to be acceptable to God or to be blessed by God. Some of us have this motive in responding to God’s call.

Eventually, however, we become frustrated because no matter how hard we try there will always be setbacks or failures in our service. We also don’t leave parents or give up our comforts at home or prestige and good compensation in our job in order to become famous or great. Most of the time, the opposite is the case. We will be out of sight.

Here is what I’ve learned over the years. Our love for God and our willingness to serve Him in any calling is our grateful response to His grace and goodness. Being saved by grace sets us free to serve freely the God who saved us in Christ to the praise and glory of His name. Service is the natural outcome of our being redeemed from sin by the blood of the Lamb.

Derek Thomas wrote that in dealing with the place of service in the Christian life “we need to get some things straight at the very start. No one can be made right with God on account of his works. We are saved by grace, the unmerited favour of God (Eph. 2:8-9).

“Every religion apart from evangelical Christianity has the same basic flaw: each rings the changes on self-salvation. Being saved is construed as something we do; redemption is God’s reward for a work well done, a payment given for services rendered. The Bible insists that it is otherwise, for as the Reformers so eloquently expressed it, salvation is by faith alone without any obligation to work for it; it is by grace alone without any sense of earning it; it is by Christ alone without there being any need or room for any other mediatorial agent (priest, saint or virgin); it is by Scripture alone, there being no other ground of authority; and all the glory must be given to God alone, there being no place for self-congratulation.

“But if entry into the kingdom is without works on our part, the evidence of entry is a life filled with service: ‘We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works’ (Eph. 2:10). A trilogy of exhortations in the pastoral epistles makes the point clear. Christians are to be rich in good works (1 Tim. 6:18). The Lord has given us the Scriptures, his inerrant Word, to equip us for every good work (2 Tim. 3:17). Members of God’s kingdom are to be zealous for good works (Titus 2:14). As David Wenham has put it: ‘There is truth in the old saying that the entry fee to Christianity is completely free, but the annual subscription is everything we’ve got'” (Derek Thomas, “Serving the King: A Guide to Christian Usefulness,” (EP, 1989), 15-16).

Service in the Christian Life

Vic Bernales is an ordained minister in the Pearl of the Orient Covenant Reformed Church. He pastors the Davao Covenant Reformed Church in Davao City, Philippines. He earned his Master of Divinity at Mid-America Reformed Seminary at Dyer, Indiana, U.S.A.

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