Oftentimes, during my most hectic days, I stop and think to myself; Why am I doing this? Do I truly feel happy? Is this what God wants me to do?

It’s inevitable that as we grow older, more expectations weigh us down. Whether or not we meet these expectations is a different story, but how we approach them is more important. 

Serving God in ministry or our day-to-day lives is something we must all do as followers of Christ. But when this turns into a mere expectation or something we simply do out of habit, we lose our joy in serving God… Or maybe it wasn’t there in the first place.

Back to the basics

Before we continue, let’s talk about what serving God is in the first place. The most obvious examples we know are singing in your church’s choir or being a Sunday School teacher. But serving God isn’t limited to the things you do at church or just the “God-related” things. Serving God can also mean things that aren’t tangible. It means obeying your parents or doing your best in a school test paper. 

When thinking about being used by God, a hymn that comes to my mind is Let Me Burn Out For Thee. You might be familiar with the chorus - it goes;

Let me burn out for Thee, dear Lord
Burn and wear out for Thee
Don't let me rust, or my life
Be a failure, my God to Thee
Use me and all I have, dear Lord
And get me so close to Thee
That I feel the throb
Of the great heart of God
Until I burn out for Thee.

The idea of serving God from a young age and giving our all to Him seems to follow me everywhere - in hymns, sermons, conversations with adults, etc. After time, it started to pressure me. And it’s not because it’s wrong to serve God and give my best to Him, but it is our hearts - our sin - that destroys our idea of serving God. 

If you’ve grown up in the church, you might be familiar with this usual trope; maybe you were put in the children’s choir from a young age, or you’re used to an environment of people that are so religious and holy - maybe almost to the point where they’re unreachable

Being used to this context leads to a fatal flaw; serving God or giving our all to Him becomes something that we are numb to. It becomes a part of our life, in a sense that our ministry becomes a matter of legalism - something we are accustomed to. In other words, we don’t find joy in serving God; our ministry isn’t a result of a personal relationship with Christ

The Unheeded Secret

A long time ago, I read a devotion by Oswald Chambers that changed my view on serving God. He quotes, “The great enemy of the Lord Jesus Christ today is the idea of practical work that has no basis in the New Testament but comes from the systems of the world. This work insists upon endless energy and activities, but no private life with God”.

When serving God turns into something we are accustomed to, we find that we serve Him for the wrong reasons and with the wrong heart. The heart of our ministry mustn’t be our usefulness to others or the amount of service we do. 

It isn’t our ministry or reputation that redeems us, setting us free from the bondage of sin. In fact, serving God based on a desire for reputation and approval from others is a sin in itself

The only way we can be saved is through Christ, our living Saviour who died for us. Because of this, as Christians who have heard the good news, there is no doubt that we will naturally want to share it with others. Because we’ve heard this good news, our hearts are renewed and we can have a personal relationship with God. This personal relationship with God should be the basis of our ministry.

What happens when we don’t serve God in joy or based on our personal relationship with Him?

When serving God (specifically, but not limited to church ministry) becomes based on the wrong things, its purpose is ruined. As humans created in the image of God, we were made with a purpose. That is, to serve our Creator with joy. The Creator Himself does not need us, but we need Him to sustain us. 

As we go through the ups and downs of life, it is God that keeps us from falling. It is God that we must fully depend on, because He is perfectly omnipotent and faithful to us, though we may go astray. 

When we’re at the lowest points of life, it isn’t our practical work or reputation that can bring us back up. Doing practical work or ministry just to meet deadlines to make yourself feel better might work, but that is only temporary. After a time, when years worth of stress and strain are piled upon us, we will only snap when we reach our limit. 

Now, do you see the difference? Serving God by performing certain deeds will not us grant our salvation, and nor will it be accepted by God. When our ministry is based on our personal relationship with God, we will have joy in serving Him. And should stress or strain surround us, we don’t need to fear, because we have God to guide us

So, together, let us serve God with a renewed and joyful heart, for His glory.

Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!” - Psalm 100:2