The Highest Service

In everyday speech we often use short phrases that are understood by some but could be misinterpreted by others. Countless times I have been asked, “Do you drink?” If I took that question literally, the correct answer would be, “Of course I do.” However, the questioner is not curious to know whether I have any fluid intake, but whether I drink alcoholic beverages, and the answer to that is, “No, I do not.”

The Highest Service

Are You in Full-Time Service?

Using short phrases can be helpful if we all realise what is meant by them but there can be confusion and misunderstanding if some do not. If you have been in the company of Christians it is quite likely you will have heard statements such as, “He’s in full-time service now” and “They have moved into the Lord’s work”. These assertions are not usually made about people who have recently come to faith in Jesus Christ and are now living for Him but to people who have been called to move from secular employment to a particular Christian ministry.

A biblical perspective on full-time service

Unfortunately, such phrases can lead to a perception that only Christians who serve in certain areas (e.g., missionaries, full-time preachers) are in the Lord’s work or are in “full-time” service for Him. They have often caused some believers to think that once you get to a certain spirituality then this type of work is the next step.

Certainly, there is a great need for believers to devote their time to serve the Lord in pioneering Gospel work to the lost and in discipling His people. We can thank God that He does call and gift His people for different areas of service. There are, without question, numerous reasons to praise God for the work He has done and is doing through those who have given themselves to serve in difficult areas.

However, we need to understand that all work, paid or unpaid, can be done in service for the Lord. Paul wrote to the believers at Colossae,

“you serve the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:24b).

This statement was not made to other apostles but to those who were bondservants. The original word for “bondservants” could be translated as “slaves”. These believers would have been employed in a variety of occupations, from those regarded as menial to those where a high degree of skill was required. The commonality between them was that all their work could be performed as to the Lord and in service for Him. The believing farm labourer and cleaner would be in “full-time service”. They were “in the Lord’s work”.

What was true in the 1st century is true in the 21st century. As a believer, you must understand that your work, paid or unpaid, can be done in service for the Lord Christ. This knowledge gives a dignity to all work. Until recently a good friend of mine was employed at Buckingham Palace and we could rightly remark that there was a tremendous privilege in directly serving the Royal Family. But serving the Lord, in any job, cannot be compared to anything else.

A right approach to full-time service

The knowledge that all work performed by believers can be service to the Lord should then dictate our approach to work.

Paul instructed the Colossians:

“Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God” (Colossians 3:22).

Seemingly, the fleshly tendency to only work hard when people are watching is not new. The problem existed in the 1st Century and probably before then! When we realise that our work is to the Lord and with His eyes upon us then it will be shown in our obedience to all instructions. A healthy fear of the Lord will ensure that our quantity and quality of work is unchanged by the presence of others.

There are often times when a task we must do seems pointless or menial. During a previous employment I well remember spending hours populating spreadsheets wondering who was going to read the information and what they would do with it. If only I had remembered this verse:

“And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men” (Colossians 3:23).

Paul was not just writing about pleasant activities but about all activities that we are free to do without violating God’s Word. The word translated “heartily” means “from the soul”. This gives us the idea that there can be an inner joy in every activity when we recognise it is done in service for Him.

One of the great comforts and encouragements believers can have in their daily work, no matter how unnoticed it seems, is that it is noticed by the Lord: 

“knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance” (Colossians 3:24a).

The highly visible work that was noticed by many and the obscure work that was seen by no one will all be judged fairly by the One who sees and knows everything. In a coming day, the Lord will give believers rewards for service to Him; they will not be based on success but on faithfulness.

The knowledge of this coming review, by the Lord, can be an encouragement, comfort and challenge for all believers as we work “full-time” for the Lord.

The Titus 2 section of UtG has a great article on our attitude to work.