“You must worship the Lord your God and serve only him” – Matthew 4:10
One day a man eagerly described to his friend his dream of serving other people. His friend listened to him intently and asked, “that’s awesome, but when do you propose to make your dream come true?” “As soon as the opportunity arrives,” the man replied. “Opportunity never arrives,” said his friend, “It’s here.”
How true! The world we live in is full of opportunities. Whether it is at home, in the Church community, at school, at our workplace, while traveling or among friends, opportunities to serve others are never absent. But it seems like we have more excuses for not serving than for serving. Sometimes we pay attention to the opportunities and serve well. Sometimes we manipulate others in our serving and serve poorly. Other times we remain indifferent and refuse to serve at all.
Regardless of where we find ourselves, it is important to be aware of the three common temptations that lure us from serving God only and serving others rightly.
1. “Be In Control”
Jesus’ first temptation when he was hungry after fasting for forty days and nights was to turn stones into bread. Although his hunger was intense he did not take an easy way out. In fact, Jesus said that he will not live for his own appetite but will live to follow God’s will. Often times, we feed our own appetites and try to control the way we serve God. In other words, we serve God like volunteers. We like to be volunteers because volunteers are in control of their lives. They serve when they want to, where they want to and if they feel like it. But servants of God trust that God is in control and follow his will- whenever, wherever and however.
2. “Be Noticed”
Jesus’ second temptation was when the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple and said, “If you are the Son of God throw yourself down and God will save you.” Jesus refused to do something spectacular to prove himself or to get attention or applause. He was secure in his identity as the Son of God and did not want to test it as he trusted it. Today, our temptation is to spend our time and energies in proving that we are better than others. We doubt our worth as God’s child. So even when we serve, we are so insecure that we constantly compare and compete with others to gain approval and receive applause. In other words, we serve to be noticed.
3. “ Be Served ”
Jesus’ third temptation was when the devil took him to a very high mountain and said, “worship me and I will you all the kingdoms of this world.” The devil was suggesting that Jesus take another way to win the world than God’s way, which was the way of the cross. Jesus decided to be faithful to God and His calling despite the struggles he had to face and the sacrifices he had to make. Today, we are tempted to serve only when it is convenient and comfortable for us. So we choose a path that does not require much from us but demands everything from others. In other words, we are tempted to be served and not serve.
The first temptation says we are volunteers not servants, we are in control. The second temptation says people’s attention and applause is necessary, we need to be noticed. The third temptation says we need to be convenient and comfortable, we deserve to be served.
Friends, the only way to overcome these temptations is to be secure in our identity in Jesus and live out of this identity. We can choose to love God only and serve others rightly because God first chose to love and serve us. Now, just look around. The opportunity to serve never arrives, it is already here and it is all around us.
John Stott rightly states, “Christian freedom is service not selfishness.” Service is not about what we can get, but what we can give. When we serve, may we not serve to fulfill our own appetites or to manipulate others for our own gain or out of our own convenience and comfort.
“May our eating and drinking and serving and everything else we do, be done for the glory of God” – 1 Corinthians 10:31
Samuel Williams is co-founder & content director at Fluid. He is also the teaching pastor at Avenue Community Church in Toronto, Canada.