Serve God 100%
Do you ever fear that surrendering to God means he'll ask you to do things you don't want to do? That you'll never reach your full potential if you do? Let's remember who we're talking about! The God of all creation isn’t petty. He doesn’t want you to live a small life. Rather he has the absolute best, most fulfilling plan for your life. Because he loves you and knows how to make a plan that allows you to love him, fulfil your desires (the ones he's placed on your heart in the first place!) and contribute to his grand master plan all at the same time. Tune in for reminders of what God says about selfish ambition, our identity as servants (as well as children and friends), and how we can glow as we grow.
Chapter 6: Serve God 100%
*Listen to the chapter on You Are You Podcast on Spotify or Apple Podcasts.*
Serving can be a hard concept to grasp. In today’s world, successful people often talk about the importance of being selfish. They say that to succeed, it’s important to focus on yourself and work harder, smarter, faster than everyone else. It’s not that they don’t give back, but often this is done through a method that allows them to receive glory too. Perhaps they purchase a table at a gala, use a charity race as a PR opportunity, donate enough money to have their name on a building. And if we’re not giving back in such a grand way, we might want to.
At least I did.
When I was a young twenty something trying to build my resume, I chose serving opportunities based on how it would make me look. If I thought my future employers would look more favourably on hours spent volunteering at a literacy organization versus Sunday school, then I’d choose the former. It would be a while before I understood what serving God really meant.
Have you ever heard of the upside down kingdom? It refers to how the Kingdom of God often works in reverse to what the world says. The world might tell us to be selfish. Indeed selfish people can be very successful from a worldly perspective. But God tells us very clearly that he will not reward selfish ambition.
If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying. For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind. (James 3:13-16)
I think that if we’re not 100% surrendered to God, we’ll struggle a lot with selfish ambition. Even if we think we’re giving God 99% of our heart, we’re withholding something from him in that 1%. Shall we take a second and think about that for a moment? Are there any areas in our lives where we’re not trusting God to move - finances, career, marriage? If there are, let’s take some time to pray, confess, ask for forgiveness and wait on God’s direction. Only by surrendering 100% of our hearts can we truly serve God 100%. Because serving God is more than volunteering from time to time. It’s a whole lifestyle.
God’s unique plan for your life
God is so wise. Sometimes it’s frustrating when we don’t know what’s happening in our lives. When we need to surrender and trust God without seeing why. But he knows that if he told us all his plans, then we'd be in danger of focusing on the to do’s and forgetting about him. And forgetting about God is absolutely not in our best interests. We are so blessed to be loved and protected by him. Similarly, we are so blessed to have a unique plan from him. Especially one that he has tailor made for our personalities and filled with things he’s placed on our hearts.
Want to feel super satisfied?
Seek God and do what he says.
I’ve always been ambitious and had big dreams. But seeking to fulfill them based on my own wisdom and strength only left me feeling frustrated. No matter how successful we are by our own efforts, we’ll never feel satisfied because God is missing. Sometimes people refer to this as a “God shaped hole” in our hearts. We might worry that God will call us to something that we won’t like or to something where we won’t be able to fulfill our potential… but let’s remember who we’re talking about! The God of all creation isn’t petty. He doesn’t want you to live a small life. Rather he has the absolute best, most fulfilling plan for your life. Because he loves you and knows how to make a plan that allows you to love him, fulfill your desires, and contribute to his grand master plan all at the same time.
Keep your head on straight
How do you see yourself? Do you see yourself as a servant of God? Or more as a child of God? Maybe you see yourself as both? Or perhaps you see yourself as a royal princess? All of these things are true but sometimes it can get confusing. And we can take it too far in one direction. Perhaps we can get big egos because we know we’re children of God. Or we can start to think we need to serve others so much we burn out. How do we find that balance?
Just a few months ago, I attended a conference where a pastor reminded us we’re sons of God. God wouldn’t want us to say “This is my Father. I’m his servant.” His Father heart would want us to say we’re his daughter. But then… what about all the verses in the Bible where people are described as servants or slaves?
This letter is from Paul, a slave of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ. I have been sent to proclaim faith to those God has chosen and to teach them to know the truth that shows them how to live godly lives. (Titus 1:1)
“The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’ (Matthew 25:23)
And they were singing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb: “Great and marvelous are your works, O Lord God, the Almighty. Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations. (Revelation 15:3)
Our small group discussed the sermon afterwards. We had great discussion but no crystal clear conclusion. In doing more research, it seems like many others also wonder why we’re called children, sons, friends, servants and slaves. Pastor Randy Alcorn of Eternal Perspective Ministries, explains it well:
I think the answer is we are no longer only slaves or only servants. God looks at us genuinely as both His children and His friends. Incredible! I think this means we should never deny or minimize the fact that we are God’s servants, and should realize that itself is a high calling. But we should simultaneously affirm the wondrous fact that we are His children and His friends—and also His heirs and delegated rulers of His creation. We are all of those simultaneously.
We belong to God and we have the privilege of living for him. Even if we don’t understand, it’s quite the adventure stepping out in faith and waiting for God to reveal his plan. Just think about how many YouTube videos there are about handbag reveals. How much more exciting is the reveal of God’s plan! It’s worth waiting for even if we have no idea how long we’ll need to wait. So let’s learn to seek him not only each day but throughout the day, being in a relationship with him like we would our best friends. Let’s pray for sensitivity to the Holy Spirit so we can react quicker and more accurately. To go, stop, speed up, slow down as he leads.
If you’re anything like me, we need to die to ourselves multiple times a day. Even when we believe God has revealed our calling and we’re on the fast track to success, are we willing to slow down if God says so? The more we surrender our hearts, the less chance there is of pride and selfish ambition building up in our hearts. May we allow God into 100% of our lives and live to serve him. Ultimately what matters isn’t necessarily what humans would consider successful. It’s not the amount of things we’ve accomplished but that we’ve accomplished God’s will.
Keep an eternal perspective
Even when we love God 100%, living for and surrendering to God isn’t always easy. We might understand the concept of loving others like God loves us, but every person is a human. And all humans are dealing with their own sins and hurts, and can take it out on others intentionally and unintentionally. But God gives us lots of insight into how he wants us to serve others.
Pastor Rick Warren reminded me that the Bible uses “__________ one another” phrases 58 times. This includes to love one another, care for one another, pray for one another, encourage one another, and more. In doing some research, there doesn’t seem to be a master list anywhere of ways God wants us to serve others. But the Bible is full of examples of how Jesus and others served the body. May we continue to love and study God’s word and ask the Holy Spirit to give us more and more ideas on how to serve.
In this season of my life, God has been speaking to me about a few areas. One is about carrying one another's burdens (Galatians 6:2). Before when I focused on selfish ambitions, it felt very difficult to give up productivity in favour of community. It was more important to me to network and build up my writing portfolio than to spend time enjoying community. What I didn’t recognize was that community is best when it involves real relationships. As we share our lives, we grow in love and build trust, and then carrying one another's burdens can feel like a natural extension of this relationship.
Even when people are not ‘deserving,’ if they haven’t invested in relationships, God still wants us to love and serve them. It’s not always easy, but it’s God’s grace and mercy. It was in the thick of my selfish productivity that I experienced a personal crisis and could barely see straight. Pain and anger were all I could see. Though I’d been distant for some time and felt undeserving of their support, my small group covered me with prayer, listened to my angry rambles and gently pointed me to God’s better way. They showed me patience and I will absolutely never forget how they showed me God’s love. I pray for more opportunities to do this with others both offline and online.
My amazing small group leaders are also role models at hospitality. They are so generous with their time, always welcoming others into their home and sharing their lives. As they both have high powered careers and also have two toddlers, it would be easy for them to focus inwards and enjoy God’s blessings. But they make the effort to maintain their friendships, support singles, serve the poor, and more. Right now I live in a studio apartment and feel it’s not so easy to practice hospitality. However I think it’s an area where God is warming me up. In the future, he may provide blessings and opportunities for me to serve others in the area of hospitality. I pray now that I will recognize that every blessing comes from God to be used for his will. For sure he wants us to enjoy our blessings but also to pass them on.
Both supporting another and offering hospitality can be great tools for evangelism. Certainly not the only ones though. Jesus often evangelized by giving people an encounter such as healing or casting out demons. People can also respond to the Gospel simply by hearing the word being preached. God uses many, many different ways to draw others to him and he includes us in this. However he’s called us, wherever he’s called us, we’ll meet people who do not know him. Or maybe they know him but aren’t in love with him. Their salvation isn’t our responsibility but we are called to evangelize. We may all know this verse in Matthew but it’s so beautiful and powerful, and I’d love for us to meditate on it now.
Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
Our lives have been transformed by God’s love and what a privilege it is to share this love with others. Love God by loving people, and be encouraged even when this is hard. When we get hurt. When we may not see any fruit. Continue to follow and obey as God leads knowing that our Heavenly Father not only sees everything you do but knows your heart. What is he speaking to you about this season? In good and tough days, remember that nothing you do in obedience to him and his word is insignificant. There is purpose in everything he asks you to do. We might not ever see the full picture while on earth but we can trust that God is in control.
Serving God certainly relates to specific tasks but also to our whole lives. It’s our privilege to give our whole lives to God and obey wherever and in whatever he leads us to. But we’re not puppets. God loves partnering with us and hearing our ideas. And, incredibly, our ideas affect how our lives turn out. Mike Bickle explains,
It is important to remember that we cannot do God’s part, and He will not do our part. Some wrongly assume that if God wants something, He will do it. This is true in terms of the broad strokes of His salvation plan in history. … But there is so much more He longs to do with us and for us, when we take action and ask him! We each have a free will, which means we have been given the ability to make choices that make a real difference. He has chosen to give his people a dynamic role in determining some of the measure of the “quality of life” we experience.
Exciting, isn’t it? Yes, we for sure need to watch our hearts and ensure selfish ambition doesn’t take hold. But think of all the need in the world. Think of all the great men and women of God that have lived and are living today. Some are household names affecting millions of lives. Some have started NGOs that are serving and sharing the Gospel with previously unreached groups. Some are starting prayer groups in corporate banks. Some are faithfully serving three teenagers in the youth group of a small church. Every single one of these people is doing valuable work. We know it’s not about the numbers. It’s not about impressing the world. We’re all called to different things because God has given us different talents and desires. And at the same time, we all have free will that enables us to choose God.
What do you feel God has placed on your heart? How do you feel about that? Do you want to do those things? How do you want to go about doing them? We are so blessed to partner with God and be able to dialogue with him. Share your heart and let him lead. We have our ambitions but it’s still important to seek God. Maybe we want to start a YouTube channel but God knows a podcast would be better. Maybe we want to write a book but he wants us to focus on speaking instead. Maybe we want to start an NGO but he wants us to make it a business. Whatever it is, if God is in it then it will succeed. It may look exactly like we envisioned, it may look different. But one thing is for sure. God is not in the business of squashing your God-given dreams. He’s not about making you small or keeping you down. God has endless ideas, blessings and opportunities ready for those that are willing to serve him.
Glow as you grow
As we seek God and follow his will, success will come. It might not always look like we expect but, as my friend likes to say, “God’s inspiration through you, his bill to pay.” I say this because in the past, I worried that serving God would always mean struggle and slow success. Let’s always remember that God is so mighty, friends! He is for you and he wants you to succeed. And this involves making sure that we’re ready for his blessings. If we’re dealing with insecurity and pride, it may not be time for God to ask us to start an Instagram ministry. If we haven’t dealt with our sexual struggles, then it may not be time for God to introduce us to our husbands. Just a few examples, God works in many different ways so I’m definitely not trying to say otherwise. Just that we’ll succeed where God calls us. And when we do, we must ensure God stays in the number one position in our lives. That he has 100% of our hearts. Even 99.9% won’t cut it. We’ve got to give him all because he deserves it and because it’s for our best. As we grow in our callings and achieve our wildest dreams, we must be fuelled by God, the glow from his light pouring out of us for all to see.
So are you ready for more? Ask for it! Give God your all. You can’t even imagine all the things God wants to do through you.
We are God’s servants but also his children and friends.
God is not in the business of squashing your God-given dreams.
God has endless opportunities ready for those that are willing to serve him.
To feel super satisfied, seek God and do what he says.
God, I pray I give you my best effort.
God, I pray for a heart that loves to serve.
God, give me compassion to serve those who don’t ‘deserve it’ — like Jesus did for me.
God, help me to serve out my God-given callings well.