by Ben Johnson

(All scripture quotations are from the NIV unless otherwise indicated.)

Matt 25:23. His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!' (All scripture quotations are from the NIV unless otherwise indicated.)

Even after being born again, we don't have to go very far into either God's word or the experiences of our lives to begin to see at least in a measure the truth of Isaiah 55:8-9. There God says, "'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' declares the LORD. 'As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.'" How true this is!

Living in a fallen, corrupted world with a fallen, corrupted nature it is hardly surprising that man would be naturally inclined to see many things differently than our omniscient, perfectly holy God sees them. In fact, the unregenerate carnal mind is incapable of truly understanding God or discerning His ways. 1 Corinthians 2:14. But even as Christians we find ourselves at times acting or thinking according to a "wisdom" that isn't from God.

When the prophet Samuel went to anoint one of Jesse's sons to be king over Israel (1 Samuel 16), he was very impressed with what he saw in Eliab, thinking that surely this was God's chosen king. But God used this occasion to reveal to him a simple, yet profound truth saying, "The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." (v. 7). Truly, if we are to understand things properly -- to learn to see things the way God sees them -- we need wisdom and instruction from our wise Heavenly Father.

One of the many areas in which this is true is when it comes to understanding what God is looking for in our lives and learning how to effectively serve Him with the sense of rest and joy that He desires us to have. We know that God's word tells us that we don't belong to ourselves but rather to Him. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20. But we all tend to have our own ideas about what this means in a practical sense. Our natural inclination is to take these ideas and work in our own strength to try to live up to them, believing that we are "serving God" by doing so. Paul spoke in Romans 10:2 of people who had a zeal to serve God, but it was a zeal that was not based on knowledge. Needless to say the results of this approach are neither peaceable nor fruitful. Something else is required if we are to have God regard us as good and faithful servants. God wants to teach us to see things as He does and not according to our own opinions or the world's ideas. As our minds are changed in this way, we will truly be able to discern what God's will for us is. Romans 12:2.

It is also important to realize however that our carnal nature is not our only problem when it comes to learning how to serve God. We also find ourselves pitted against an enemy who actively works against our minds to undermine and distort what God's word teaches about living for Him. If we listen to Satan's subtle lies and entertain his ideas, God's truth is easily transformed in our minds from the easy yoke and light burden that Christ spoke of (Matthew 11:30) into an awful, heavy burden that is laid on our shoulders (Matthew 23:4). The word of God becomes seemingly full of impossible standards that we continually fall short of and becomes to us a condemning catalog of all that is wrong with us. Just as knowing the truth sets us free (John 8:32), this kind of deception binds us up, hinders our testimony to others, and works to rob us of the joy, peace and victory that Christ has won for us.

But thankfully God has not left His people in the dark about this aspect of our spiritual warfare. In 2 Corinthians 2:11 Paul, speaking of Satan, declares that "we are not unaware of his schemes." Ephesians 6 makes it plain that the armor of God is fully able to empower us to take our stand against the devil's schemes. So then what does God's word teach us about what He is looking for in our lives? What does it mean to "serve God" and how can we please Him? What schemes does the enemy use against us to confuse, mislead and discourage us in this area? I believe that by God's grace and help, we can find answers to these questions in His word.

Small Things

All of us tend to have a picture in our minds of what we think it means to be a faithful servant of God. We might envision a great preacher or missionary winning many souls to Christ, a worker of miracles healing the sick through God's power, or someone of great compassion founding an orphanage or school to care for needy children. And there have certainly been servants of God throughout history who have done (and continue to do) such great and important things according to God's leading and His call upon their lives.

However, it reveals something about the way our carnal minds work that we would naturally tend to judge service to God according to how grand it seems and how publicly visible the results are. Our natural inclination is to regard such callings as noble and worthy of great respect, while disdaining the humbler and more private things that God may set before us as small and unimportant by comparison. However, this kind of carnal reasoning doesn't harmonize with what God's word teaches.

Consider the word of God to Zerubbabel through the prophet Zechariah. As the leader of the group of Israelites that had returned to Jerusalem following the Babylonian captivity, Zerubbabel was charged with overseeing the reconstruction of the destroyed temple. After the foundation was completed shortly into the daunting project, fierce opposition from the surrounding peoples brought work to a halt for several years. God raised up the prophets Haggai and Zechariah in part to encourage the people to finish the work they had been given. After receiving words of encouragement for Zerubbabel in Zechariah 4:6-9, Zechariah said in verse 10, "Who despises the day of small things? Men will rejoice when they see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel."

Consider the implications of this seemingly simple statement. The picture described here is one of a man using a common tool to carry out a mundane construction task. It is hard for our natural minds to imagine that such a thing could have any spiritual value or could be in any way important in the eyes of the omnipotent God of the universe. Yet God said that this would be an occasion for rejoicing both among the people and for Himself! Why? Simply because that was what God had given Zerubbabel to do at that time. In God's sight there is no more precious and pleasing kind of service than humble submission and obedience to His will for our lives, whatever that may be.

Whatever God would give us to do is the greatest thing we could possibly be doing. Wherever He would place us is the greatest place we could possibly be. Contentedly and earnestly yielding to His calling for our life, whether great or small in our own eyes, will bring peace and fulfillment to us and great joy to God. Satan will certainly try to work on our carnal minds to convince us that our various callings and our lives as a whole are small and unimportant in the big spiritual picture. But God, whose ways are high above our own, tells us not to minimize or disdain such "small things." They're not small in God's sight.

The Greatest Servant

This principle is clearly demonstrated in Matthew 18:1-4. There the disciples asked Jesus who was the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, no doubt wondering what mighty works must be done or what great words spoken to merit such a prestigious title. However, Jesus' answer painted quite a different picture. After calling a little child to come to him, Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."

What an amazing truth! Once again we see that the greatest service we can offer God is to simply humble ourselves to His will, walking by faith wherever He would lead us. In Romans 12:1 Paul wrote, "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God -- this is your spiritual act of worship." This is what God is looking for in our lives and is the key to how we can truly worship and please Him. The more we learn to do this through God's power the more we will experience the renewing of our minds that will enable us to see and understand things more as He does, and less according to the world's pattern. Romans 12:2. As we learn God's ways we will see that His truth does indeed set us free from the error of our carnal minds and from the lies of the enemy.

God values this surrender and genuine faith from the heart far more than any external expression that may result from it. This is not an exclusive calling, able to be obtained by only an elite few. Every one of God's children, no matter what our circumstances, calling, or abilities, can offer service to God with which He is greatly pleased.

Consider the Bible's testimony about Enoch who was of the sixth generation after Adam (Genesis 5:1-18). Except for a brief quote attributed to him in Jude 14-15 we have no biblical record of any great words that Enoch spoke or any great works or miracles that he did. But we know from Genesis 5:24 and Hebrews 11:5 that he did not experience death, as God supernaturally took him from the earth at an appointed time. How did Enoch merit such an unusual intervention by God? What did he do that so greatly pleased Him? These scriptures tell us simply that he "walked with God" and it was because of this that he "was commended as one who pleased God." What a simple and glorious testimony! I pray that more and more God will be able to say of my life and yours that we "walk with God."

We can see another example of how God sees these things in the account of the widow mentioned in Mark 12:41-44. As Jesus watched, many rich people put their large offerings into the temple treasury. But then a poor widow came and put in a tiny amount, not even worth mentioning in comparison to the great offerings that had already been given. But Jesus took special note of this and pointed it out to his disciples saying, "I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything -- all she had to live on." God saw someone who truly wanted from their heart to give their all to Him. Because of that sincere conviction, her gift to Him was far greater in His eyes than the gifts of all the others regardless of how much money it involved. It was a case of spiritual quality over natural quantity. May God help us to learn to view such things as He does.

Unique Creations

If we are to learn to lay hold of these truths in faith, it is vital that we understand God's foreknowledge and purpose concerning His children. We are not random accidents whose arrival into God's kingdom took Him by surprise and forced Him after the fact to haphazardly fit us into His plans somewhere. The same God who makes each snowflake unique wants His people to know that He knew us before we were born and He created each of us as a uniquely loved individual and with a unique purpose for our lives.

We can see a clear example of this in Jeremiah 1:5. There God told Jeremiah, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations." God's custom plan for Jeremiah's life was made before he was born, not according to anything he had or hadn't done, but according to God's sovereign purpose alone. We also see similar thoughts expressed by Isaiah and the apostle Paul. Isaiah 49:1, Galatians 1:15. In Psalm 139:13-16 David spoke of being known by God in his mother's womb, saying in verse 16, "your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." What security and hope we have when we commit our lives into God's hands!

It is especially important to understand this truth in a society such as ours where the idea of random, chance evolution is so prevalent and so adamantly preached by its adherents. We're continually blasted with the message that not only is human life on earth a random, meaningless accident, but the very existence of our planet and the universe itself is just a cosmic "lucky break" with no purpose beyond what we choose to assign to it. If we are deceived into building our thinking on such an anti-biblical foundation, we will be prone to be an easy target for Satan's messages of discouragement and worthlessness.

The truth of God's word reveals that He knows each of us so personally and intimately that He even has the very hairs of our head numbered! Luke 12:7. He is always mindful of what is going on in our lives (Isaiah 49:15-16, Psalm 139:7-10) and in His love He has intricately planned for each one of us. Ephesians 1:4-5 says, "For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will." Romans 8:28-29 also confirms that every child of God has been called according to God's purpose and predestined by Him to be made like Christ. How encouraging it is to know that God is with us and is in control of the circumstances of our lives and that we can trust in His loving purpose for us.

Different Kinds Of Service

Although God loves and values all of His children equally, as unique individuals we don't all have the same calling or follow the exact same path in our spiritual journey. In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul was writing to the Corinthian believers concerning different spiritual gifts and callings within the church. In verses 4-6 he says, "There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men." After listing a few different gifts he goes on in verse 11 to say, "All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines."

All of our various gifts and callings come from God according to His sovereign purpose. As a result, different ones may offer service to God in many different ways. But the ability and strength needed for any such genuine expression of faith, whether it seems spectacular or insignificant to us, comes from the same source. God is pleased and blessed not by how "much" we produce in His name, but rather by what He sees in our hearts as we engage ourselves in whatever He has set before us.

God may call someone to preach to hundreds or thousands every week and reveal to them wonderful truths from His word for the benefit of the people. God may give another great musical talent and teach them to write or sing songs that can edify His people and speak to the hearts of lost sheep. Praise God for every one of these vital ministries that has truly been raised up by God!

But another may be a wife and mother who doesn't publicly do any great thing for God that men would take note of. But through God's help she is faithful to His word, loving her husband and diligently caring for her children and teaching them the fear of God from their youth. God doesn't overlook such a one or consider her minor or unimportant. He sees her desire to be faithful to His calling for her life and He hears her earnest prayers for her home and her family. God is just as pleased with such genuine service to Him as he is with that of the preacher or singer.

Regardless of our specific calling, this kind of faithfulness to God's word is what He is truly looking for in our lives. He sees fathers who are faithful to His word in providing for their families and being the spiritual heads of their homes. He sees employees who are diligent at their jobs, working faithfully as unto the Lord as the Word teaches. Ephesians 6:5-7, Colossians 3:22-24. He sees those who do as Jesus taught in Matthew 6 and tithe or pray or fast in secret, sacrificing to God not to be seen by men but because it is truly in their heart to do so. Jesus said of those who do such things that "your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you" (v. 4, 6, 18). I sincerely believe that the day will come when we will see many faithful servants of God that mankind as a whole never knew anything about who will be greatly honored by God for their simple and sincere devotion to Him.

What God Requires Of Us

Satan desperately desires to rob God's people of the peace and joy that comes when we enter into these truths by faith. He will work diligently to paint God as a harsh taskmaster who makes impossible demands of our own human strength and ability and whom we have no hope of ever really pleasing. We see this attitude reflected in the wicked servant in the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30. He was given 1 talent by his master, but unlike his faithful fellow servants, he didn't put it to use but rather buried it in the ground. When giving account of this to his master later he said, "I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground " (v. 24-25). He saw his master as harsh and unreasonable, making unfair and unrealistic demands of him that he had no right to expect. So, paralyzed by fear and this false picture of his master, he produced nothing.

However, as we are seeing, when we look through the light of God's word Satan's lies are exposed and destroyed and an altogether different picture of our Heavenly Father is revealed. We see him not as a stern and impersonal monarch who is asking something of us that we are unable to do. Rather, we are able to correctly see Him as a loving father who only requires us to yield whatever He has given us back to Him. When Paul wrote to the Corinthian believers regarding the collection he was taking up for the saints in Jerusalem he said, "For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have." 2 Corinthians 8:12. It is not spiritual heroics that God seeks, but rather humble and genuine surrender. What more can we be than what the potter has made us? Like the boy who gave his meager lunch of bread and fish to feed the 5000 (John 6:1-13), we simply surrender our all to God and we trust Him to make it sufficient for whatever He has ordained for us.

Consider Moses' words to the Israelites before they entered Canaan in Deuteronomy 10:12-13. There he said, "And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the LORD's commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?" Micah 6:8 says, "He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." Are these the harsh commands of an angry God or the peaceable counsel of a loving father who longs to draw His children into a deeper relationship with Himself?

Serve God with all of your heart. Obey His word and thank Him for His mercy. Walk humbly with Him in all of His ways. This is what God is looking for in the lives of His children. It's true that such genuine faith will lead to some form of external expression according to God's calling. So-called faith that produces nothing is not genuine faith. James 2:17. But it is our hearts that God truly desires, not our efforts and accomplishments. Praise God that these things are not only for a super-spiritual few, but are available to every one of us through Christ!

Attacks Of The Enemy

As we discussed earlier, we cannot expect to lay hold of these truths and enter into the joy and rest that God has for us unopposed. Peter writes (to Christians) in 1 Peter 5:8, "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." While the devil certainly cannot pluck us out of God's hand (John 10:28-29), he can rob us of the joy and victory that is rightfully ours through Christ if we don't properly combat his lies with God's truth.

One approach Satan will take is to try to minimize God's calling for our life. He will continually work against our minds to try to convince us that we are unimportant and insignificant in God's kingdom. He will mockingly declare that the "small" things God is accomplishing in or through us don't matter much in the grand spiritual scheme of things. But we know that our enemy is "a liar and the father of lies." John 8:44. As we learn to recognize such earthly, unspiritual, devilish wisdom (James 3:15), we can more quickly and more consistently cast it down and have greater victory in our lives.

Romans 14:4 says, "Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand." When under this kind of attack from Satan, we would do well to remember this simple yet powerful truth.

What place does the devil have to tell us whether we are or aren't serving God effectively? Who is he to say what is and isn't important in God's sight or what God's expectations of us are? Even if he knew, surely the enemy of our soul and of God would never share such important truth with us! Has not Christ purchased us with his own blood? 1 Corinthians 6:20, Acts 20:28. We no longer belong to ourselves and certainly not to the devil, but to God. It is He and He alone who has the right to direct the paths of our lives and He alone who has the authority to say whether or not our lives are pleasing and acceptable to Him.

And God has not left us to ourselves to try to measure up to what He wants us to be on our own. His promise to every one of His children is that "he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand." Philippians 2:13 says, "for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose." Praise God that our ability to live for Him and to fulfill His purpose for our lives is not dependant on our strength or wisdom.

I recently heard brother Phil Enlow describe this battle by saying "I refuse to use the devil's ruler to measure God's work." Amen! We should thank God for everything He's doing in our lives and everything He has given us to do even if it seems minor and unimportant to us. Let's not let Satan cheapen God's work in and through us by suggesting it doesn't really matter. May God help us to be able to say as Paul said in 2 Corinthians 10:5 that "We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."

A Practical Example

I remember hearing Brother Thomas refer from time to time to an experience he had at one point in his ministry. He had been used by God at times to travel to different locations and hold large meetings in which many people were brought to Christ. And he had seen God move in many mighty ways at various times throughout his ministry. But in time God led him to a place where (as he saw it) he was simply pastoring a small church with no great and grand spiritual things seemingly taking place.

One day he was praying and asking God why things were this way and why he couldn't be doing something more productive with a greater spiritual impact. God spoke to his heart through Jesus' words to Peter in John 21:18. There Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go."

This simple word from God ministered the faith Brother Thomas needed to continue serving diligently where God had placed him even though he couldn't fully see God's purpose in it at the time. In time however God opened many doors to enable him to share the word through radio, television, publications and the internet. As a result of his being faithful and content where God had placed him, I and many others were brought to faith through his ministry. But this is not just a lesson for preachers. Learning how to let God lead us and how to be content being in His will is critical for every one of us if we are to learn to serve God with joy and rest.

Comparisons To Others

Another common tactic that Satan uses to discourage God's people is to trick us into comparing ourselves with other Christians. He will try to build up in our minds the importance and effectiveness of the life and calling of the other person to try to minimize the place God has given us by comparison. In the light of the truths we discussed earlier about the uniqueness of God's purpose for each of His children this seems foolish. Yet we are all guilty of falling for this at times.

In Matthew 13 Jesus told a parable about a farmer who sowed seed which fell on distinctly different kinds of soil. Most of the seed never produced any fruit because of the problems with the soil into which it fell. But there was also some good soil where the seed did take root and produce a crop. In verse 23 Jesus was explaining this parable to his disciples saying, "But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown."

Notice that even though different people produced different amounts after receiving the word, Jesus made no distinction between any of them. He did not exalt those who yielded a hundred times what was sown as being an elite group that was worthy of more attention and love than the rest. Nor did he condemn those who only produced thirty times what was sown or imply that God only grudgingly tolerated their meager production. It all was simply called "good soil."

This seems counterintuitive to our natural minds. But just as the different seed could only produce according to the capacity God had put within it, so we can only be what He has made us. And He has made each of us distinct from one another in many ways. God's pleasure with those who produce this crop is not based on how much is produced, but rather on the fact that (and the degree to which) we are walking in His unique plan and calling for us.

This same principle is also reflected in the parable of the talents in Matthew 25. One of the two faithful servants was given five talents by his master and by putting them to work, he had produced five more. The other had been given two talents and had likewise produced two more. When the master returned and the first servant relayed what he had done, the master said, "Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!"

But what of the second servant who had only made two talents? Would the master think less of him and regard him as some sort of second-class citizen? No! Instead his master had the exact same benediction for him that had been given to the first servant.

The master had the same praise for both servants, even though one had produced more than twice what the other one had! Once again we see it was not the quantity produced that mattered but that they faithfully and diligently put what their master had given them to work. As they did that, they found that they were able to produce in proportion to what they had been given. This was all their master was looking for from them.

It All Comes From God

In fact, this is all any of God's children can do. Like the servants in the parable who had no money of their own but only what they had been given, so we have no ability in ourselves to produce anything for God. But when we give our lives to Him and act according to His direction, we will find that through Him and only through Him we are able to do what He has set before us.

In 1 Corinthians 3:1-9 Paul was trying to explain this principle to the believers there who were arguing over the ministries of Paul and Apollos. Some were promoting one over the other, not understanding that the same God was with both and using both according to His plan. They were placing too much emphasis on the human vessel involved and not enough on the God that was truly accomplishing the work. As a result some were saying, "I follow Paul" while others were saying, "I follow Apollos" (v. 4).

In verses 5-7 Paul writes, "What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe -- as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow."

Who assigns the tasks? God does! As His servants all we can do (and all God asks of us) is to simply move in response to his instruction. No matter what our particular calling, none of us are anything in ourselves. Only God can show us what to do and then enable us to do it effectively.

Paul goes on to say in verse 8, "The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor." Note that each of us is rewarded according to our own labor, not according to someone else's labor. Let's not play the devil's game of judging our lives by someone else's, but rather by God's word. None of God's children have any reason to feel either proud and self-sufficient or ashamed and unimportant over God's calling for their life.

Battling Our Pride

Another obstacle to our being contented and effective servants is the pride that is so much a part of our fallen nature. The exhortation in Zechariah 4:10 not to despise the "small things" that God gives us to do is not only an encouragement in the face of the enemy's lies. It is also a warning against disdaining God's work in us and His calling for our lives.

The idea of doing great and noble things for God for which we will be recognized and honored among men is very appealing to our pride. But we tend to place much less value on the simpler and more private things that God would do in and through us. Our nature resists taking the low, humble place of a servant and allowing God to lead us and work in and through us as He wills. Yet God values humble obedience far more than any seemingly grand sacrifice we might try to offer Him according to our own will. 1 Samuel 15:22. Regardless of what our particular calling is, we must all contend with these tendencies of our nature if we are to offer acceptable service to God.

A good example of this can be seen in the account of Naaman in 2 Kings 5. Naaman was a mighty military man highly regarded by his king and his people, but he had leprosy. After hearing of God's prophet in Israel, Naaman went there in the hope of being cleansed. When he arrived at Elijah's house, the prophet sent him a message through a servant telling him to wash in the Jordan river seven times and he would be cleansed.

Rather than rejoicing over this simple instruction and obeying gladly, Naaman became very angry. He had thought the prophet would come see him personally and perform some grand and dramatic ceremony. Such a foolish and simplistic thing as washing in a river was surely beneath a man of his position and dignity! He further rationalized his rejection of God's instructions by pointing out the superiority of rivers in his homeland to the muddy waters of the Jordan river. In essence he was saying, "I could have come up with a better plan than that myself!" He left in a rage, fully intending to forsake this opportunity to be healed rather than humble himself to God's simple instructions.

Fortunately God had blessed Naaman with a faithful servant who exposed Naaman's true motives when he said "My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, 'Wash and be cleansed'?" 2 Kings 5:13. If he had been given some grand task that men everywhere would hear about and that he could have taken credit for accomplishing, Naaman would have been more than willing to obey.

Praise God that Naaman was able to humble himself in the face of this simple word of wisdom from God. After doing as the prophet had instructed, Naaman was cleansed. Afterwards he returned to Elijah's house and said to him, "Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. Please accept now a gift from your servant." 2 Kings 5:15. After coming face to face with God in his life and seeing the fruits of humbling himself before Him, the formerly haughty Naaman was now ready to call himself a servant! We all must likewise come to this place before we can effectively serve God in the face of the proud aspirations of our carnal nature.

Discontent And Aspiration

Satan will certainly work to try take advantage of these aspects of our nature. His appeal to Eve in the garden was to suggest that she and Adam could be more than what God had made them and could have more than what He had given them if only they would reach out to claim it. He painted God as an unfair ruler who was really looking after His own interests rather than His children's. His ultimate subtle aim was to suggest that they couldn't really trust God to lead and direct them, but that they were going to have to do things themselves to ever live up to their ultimate potential.

These attempts to make us feel under-used, under-appreciated, and like our talents are being wasted are hardly surprising when we consider Satan's own rebellion against God. Having grown discontent with the place God had given him, he began to grasp after more. Isaiah 14:13-14. He will likewise work on our minds to try to cause us to minimize and even resent the things that God has placed before us in our lives.

But we must remember that all ability to serve God and to produce spiritual fruit in our lives comes from Him. In John 15:5 Jesus said, "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." Our various gifts and callings in life have been uniquely crafted for us by God and assigned to each one "just as he determines." 1 Corinthians 12:11. While we certainly don't have the right to selfishly try to excuse ourselves from the responsibilities that God would give us, neither can we aspire to something He hasn't called us to and expect Him to bless us.

Isaiah 45:9 says, "Woe to him who quarrels with his Maker, to him who is but a potsherd among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter, 'What are you making?' Does your work say, 'He has no hands'?" Who are we to argue with the divine potter about what kind of vessel He has made us? What right do we have to despise the so-called small things He sets before us? Zechariah 4:10.

May God help every one of us to be able to humbly bow to His will for our lives with genuine joy and rest in our heats, knowing God's works are perfect and His ways just. Deuteronomy 32:4. This is the only kind of vessel God can truly use. As these things are accomplished in our lives we "will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work" 2 Timothy 2:21.

Jesus Our Example

What a wonderful example we see in the scriptures of what it truly means to serve God in our Lord Jesus. On the numerous occasions where Jesus spoke of being a servant or submitting to the Father's will, he was not merely conveying an abstract theological principle that he knew in theory. Jesus had to face these same issues himself when he was tempted by Satan in the wilderness. Matthew 4:1-11.

In verse 6 Satan suggested that Jesus throw himself down from the temple and attempted to rationalize this idea by twisting and misapplying God's word. He was attempting to entice Jesus into sin through pride, wanting him to misuse the power of God to show off. Jesus recognized this trap and correctly applied the word in his answer, saying "It is also written: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'" Failing that, Satan offered Jesus the rule of the whole world if he would bow down and worship him. Jesus again countered Satan's lies with the truth, saying "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'"

Jesus knew that there was a purpose for which he had been sent into the world, and it wasn't to be a celebrity or an earthly ruler, but rather to be a heavenly servant. He declared this clearly in John 6:38 where he succinctly summed up his own ministry by saying, "For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me." What greater thing could any Christian aspire to than to learn to do God's will instead of ours?

Paul affirmed Christ's willingness to serve in Philippians 2:7 writing that he "made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant". Jesus' sole focus was to be in the center of his father's will at all times and to fully yield his vessel in service to the father regardless of what the external expression entailed. Whether that meant preaching to huge crowds and doing great miracles, going out of his way to reach out to one lost, tormented soul (Mark 5), or submitting to the mocking abuse of sinners and death at their hands on the cross Jesus continually made himself a servant for our sake.

But this death to self and humble submission to God is not something to which only Christ was called. The truths he exemplified stand as a pattern for all who would follow him. In the Philippians 2 passage cited above, Paul's emphasis of Christ's humility was made as a means of encouraging the believers to likewise be humble servants to one another and to have the same attitude that Christ did (v 1-5). That attitude is plainly expressed in John 5:30 where Jesus said, "By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me." What better thing could we do for God than to follow the example of Christ and submit our lives to the perfect will of our Heavenly Father?

God's Truth In Proper Balance

As we are seeing, our very clever enemy has no shortage of strategies to try to undermine our ability to effectively serve God. God's word is truly the armor that will enable us to stand against such schemes. Ephesians 6:11. But just as Jesus experienced in his temptation in the wilderness, Satan will not simply abandon his efforts to work on our minds just because we proclaim confidence in the Word. If he can't convince us to think and act contrary to the Word altogether, he will try to corrupt and twist it's meaning in our minds and drag us to an unscriptural extreme in one way or another.

The truths we have discussed concerning God's sovereign design for our lives and being surrendered and contented within His calling for us are no exception. In all that I have been saying, I don't want anyone to get the wrong idea that being humble and content where God has placed us means that we can't or shouldn't ask Him to work in our lives in a greater way. Nor is it necessarily wrong to ask God to enable us to serve Him in a greater way provided we are asking for the right reasons and with the right attitude of heart.

In fact it is important that we continually feel the need and desire to serve God more fully. Revelation 3:15-22 contains a sober warning to a church that had fallen from being hot (actively and earnestly involved in God's work) and become lukewarm, having the trappings of serving God but without spiritual reality behind it. God's warning was that he couldn't use people like that and He was ready to remove His calling from them altogether if they didn't repent and turn back to Him.

This stands as an important lesson for us. We live in a world where it is very easy to grow spiritually lukewarm in the face of the world's pull on our flesh and the attacks of the enemy against our minds. We need to be asking God to give us the strength and wisdom to enable us to effectively serve Him. We need to be asking Him to work in us in a greater way to increase our faith and to empower us to be the lights that He has called us to be in the world.

Some Scriptural Examples

We see this desire to have more of God taught in the scriptures in many places. In 1 Corinthians 14:1 Paul told the Corinthian believers to "eagerly desire spiritual gifts." Not only was it not wrong for them to seek a greater manifestation of God's power and presence in their midst, it was actually the instruction of God to them to do so! But the purpose of these gifts was to build up the body and to glorify God, not to exalt the individual vessels involved. This is why Paul went on to say in verse 12, "Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church." This is also why he said earlier in 1 Corinthians 3:7, "So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who makes things grow."

Paul also wrote in 1 Timothy 3:1, "Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task." Desiring to do important and honorable things for God is not necessarily wrong by any means. But ultimately these tasks can only be done effectively in accordance with God's calling. Our desire to serve must be due to God laying a genuine burden on the hearts of vessels He has chosen and who are spiritually mature enough to enter into these responsibilities with diligence and faith. If we feel such a desire in our hearts, we can certainly do as Philippians 4:6 says where Paul writes, "Do not be anxious about anything , but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."

This encouragement to seek God about the things we desire is also confirmed in James 4:2 where James laments that "You do not have, because you do not ask God." There ARE things that God wants to give us that we don't currently posses in a practical sense. Crying out to God to work in us in a deeper way and to give us more of Him in our lives is the key to laying hold of these things. There is no excuse for self-centered spiritual laziness that in essence puts the blame on God if we are failing to enter into all that He has for us.

The apostle Paul certainly gave no indications that he thought he had attained everything that God had for him. Even doing all that he was doing in God's name, he was not satisfied that he was serving God as fully as he could. He wanted more of God in his life and he wanted to be more useful to Him.

Beautiful expression is given to this in Philippians 3:10-14 where he said, "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."

God is greatly pleased when we desire to surrender our lives to Him and to serve Him in a greater way. The key is the attitude of our hearts as we bring our desires and requests to Him. If He chooses not to grant our requests in the way we envision, can we trust Him and continue to serve Him with joy? Can we be like Christ who even in his most difficult battle with his flesh said, "yet not my will, but yours be done"? Luke 22:42. May God help us not to settle for less than He has for us, but not to selfishly aspire to more either.

Good And Faithful Servants

As long as we are living in this corrupt flesh, the desire and ability to serve God is never going to come naturally or easily. By nature our carnal minds are at war with God and cannot submit to His rule. Romans 8:7. Unless God works in us to humble us and to teach us His ways, we will truly find ourselves walking in darkness, not understanding where we're going or what's going on around us. John 12:35. Satan will seek to work on our minds through these weaknesses of our nature to confuse and discourage us about what God seeks to do in our lives and to render us ineffective for Him.

Praise God that He has revealed the truth about such things to us in His word! He has given us a foundation to build our thinking and our lives on that can stand against every weakness of our flesh and every attack of the enemy. Christ gave his life on the cross that we might have a way to come to God and to enter into the joy and rest and victory that comes from surrendering our lives to Him. Let's not let the enemy rob us of that by painting a false picture of what it means to serve God or to please Him with our lives.

Every one of God's children is equally important to Him. He loved us even before we were born and He has uniquely planned for our lives according to His will. While our callings are unique, God's promise to every one of us is to work in us to make us like His son and that He will see the process He has started through to completion. Romans 8:29, Philippians 1:6. While this process is one that spans our entire lives, we should never let the enemy discourage us along the way over our importance to God or over His evaluation of our service to Him.

We are NOT a constant disappointment to God because we fail to measure up to some artificial grand spiritual standard that we have conjured up in our own minds or received from the enemy's mouth. God's word tells us that He considers those who simply put what He has given them to work where He has placed them in proportion to His calling good and faithful servants. He invites such servants to share in His joy and promises to reward the faithfulness they have shown.. Matthew 25:21, 23. If this is God's assessment, why would we listen to the lies of one who has no authority to judge our lives? Who is Satan to accuse or condemn God's servants? Romans 14:4, Romans 8:33, 34. Our accuser has been forever cast down through what Christ accomplished! Revelation 12:7-10.

When the devil tries to tell us that our lives are insignificant in the big spiritual picture and tries to suggest that if we were really serving God we would be doing "more", we can have an answer for him. We can proclaim with confidence on the authority of God's word that simply being faithful to His word with our lives, whatever that entails, IS serving God! We can do no greater thing for Him than that.

God is perfectly content and at rest with the idea of us simply being what He made us to be. Why then do we so easily and often struggle with this idea? May God help us to lay hold of His word in faith in a greater way and to enter into more of the rest, joy and victory that He has given us through His son Jesus Christ. Praise God for His love and faithfulness!

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