THRIVE: SERVE. SERVING VS VOLUNTEERING.

I make a lot of resolutions. I fail a lot of resolutions. But one new fall resolution I have is to celebrate more. I don’t do that very well both in my personal life and church life.  And I should.  I tend to look more analytically at stuff. But God wants us to celebrate early and often!

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

"Rejoice always" means to find something positive in everything. Pray continually.  Give thanks in all circumstances, including church! The church needs to celebrate better!  If not for us, for all the people who attend our church to see that God is doing some amazing things in people's lives!

So, what does serving and celebrating have in common?

When you get to be my age (I'm in my mid-40's), you start to care less about your own birthday but make a big deal out of your kid’s or grandkids birthdays (no I do not have grandkids yet).  You get more joy out of their wins than your own.  You get more joy out of seeing other people’s successes more than your own. 

When we serve and we see our service benefiting other people’s lives as we point them to Jesus, it makes us joyful!  We celebrate!

So the Apostle Paul makes a big deal out of this issue of serving others in 1 Corinthians 12:1.  He says, “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed.

This is crucial.  Paul says, "Ya gotta know this.  Don’t ignore this.  Don’t treat this lightly. The entire functionality of the church hinges on this idea of joyfully using your spiritual gifts to benefit and grow the church!"

He goes on to say: “All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines. 12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body. 1 Corinthians 12:11-12

Think about this: body parts get their very existence and definition from being part of the body.  The liver is a liver because it’s part of a body.  The eyes can’t exist independently of the body. And we, like a physical body, get our definition and purpose by being part of a body of believers: the church.

Paul says it is God Himself who distributes the gifts, just as He determines.  What a comfort to know that we can’t earn gifts like gems on a game on our smartphones.  We can’t buy them, earn them, or sign-up for them!  Each gift is given for the building up of the church for God’s glory.

So, what is a spiritual gift?  It is a divine, God-given ability that He gives to people to use to build up and strengthen the local church.

Here’s a great list of the spiritual gifts and a free online test you can take to learn more about what your spiritual gift(s) might be that God has given you: www.spiritualgiftstest.com.

Here’s a few spiritual gifts fact checks:

1. Serving is God’s idea. It's not a religious pyramid scheme to get office work done.

2. Serving with zeal is God’s plan for the growth of the church and the kingdom. We should be fanning into flame the abilities God has given us.  We should use our gifts with zeal, not boredom!

3. You can serve with supernatural joy. If you try to serve in your own strength, it won't last.  God offers his strength to do His tasks.

So, what is a spiritual gift? It is a divine, God-given ability by which God gives to people to use to build up and strengthen the local church.

I think we are officially going to ban the word “volunteer” at NorthCreek. Why?  Well, it might be just a matter of semantics, but follow me on this one:

  • My volunteering is based on my schedule
  • My serving is based upon my obedience to God
  • My volunteering is based on a cause I care about
  • My serving is based upon what God cares about
  • My volunteering is based upon what I want to do
  • My serving is based upon what God wants to do

Serving is better than volunteering!

So, here’s where serving starts:

  • It starts in your heart. Jesus came to serve you and me salvation, forgiveness, and joy.
  • Then it moves to our homes.  Great family members serve one another.
  • Then it moves to our church. Our gifts are not for us. They’re for others!
  • Then it moves to our communities and world.

So how do you know what your spiritual gift is? Try these:

  • 1. What turns your crank? What makes your heart thump when you hear about serving?
  • 2. Take a spiritual gifts survey. www.spiritualgiftstest.com 
  • 3. Test drive some spiritual gifts. Find out what you might be good at.
  • 4. Ask other Christians. They can reflect back to you what you're gifted at!
  • 5. Just do it!  There's nothing like just going for it.  Start while you wait if you don't know what your spiritual gifts are yet.
  • 6. Talk to your church leadership and let them know what your gifts are!

Finally, Paul gave one final piece of advice to the Ephesian church in Ephesians 6:10- Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.

  • You can’t be a great father or mother for a lifetime without God’s strength.
  • You can’t be a great son or daughter for a lifetime without God’s strength.
  • You can’t be a great church member for a lifetime without God’s strength.
  • You can’t be a great leader for a lifetime without God’s strength.

Jesus knew this well. It was the Father’s power that God tapped into when he was tired, exhausted, discouraged, and criticized.

So what's the formula for serving?  This is it: when we serve, God gets the glory, we get the joy.

“for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10

Serving really is celebrating what God is doing.  When we use our gifts for God, something awakens in people’s lives to God.

Looking for a place to SERVE Jesus and others?  Join us at NorthCreek Church and use your gifts for God’s purposes.