Last year I lost my grandfather. A recurring phrase from his funeral was one he used after he became a Christian: he declared himself ‘saved to serve.’ Whatever he could find to do for his Saviour he would do, and he did.
Over the course of his life, he was involved in telling others about the Lord Jesus through many different channels. He was never daunted by a task too big – he founded a Bible Exhibition and travelled the length of the British Isles with it to teach school children about God’s love for them.
But equally he never hesitated to turn his hand to smaller acts, especially as he grew frailer, such as writing short poems and cards about his Saviour to set out at his church’s coffee morning where they would be read by a handful of pensioners.
Not long after his funeral I came across this verse in my daily reading that brought the idea of service back to my mind:
“Everyone who could come to do the service of ministry and the service of bearing burdens . . . According to the commandment of the Lord through Moses they were listed, each one with his task of serving or carrying” (Numbers 4:47,49 ESV).
In the almost two years since the pandemic began, most of our churches have been in suspended animation. And it’s easy to get into the mindset that we can only really “serve” once our churches are completely back to normal and our many weekly activities resume. But the verse in Numbers doesn’t mention much in terms of specific work – it was a general call to service, not grand or complicated but most definitely necessary. The verse also doesn’t refer to any particular group of people – it wasn’t restricted to only those who were especially gifted or well-taught or with plenty of free time – the call was to everyone. Because we can be quick to decide not only what service is but also who can do it.
It was a call for carrying. Whenever God called the children of Israel to move on in their journey, they had to dismantle the entire tabernacle and carry it to their next camp. They didn’t know how long they would be settled for before they had to do it all over again. Glamorous and challenging? No. Repetitive and tiring? Yes.
I frequently complain to my husband that motherhood right now seems to involve just carrying the same old stuff off the floor back to its place, making the same old meals, drilling the same old lessons into our children week after week, month after month. He pointed out that even these, often monotonous, tasks are a form of service; someone has to do it for our children, would I not rather be that someone?
If motherhood doesn’t apply to you there are other small but essential tasks that you can pick up. Perhaps there are new students or elderly people in your church who would benefit from a lift to gatherings; regular cleaning that you can help out with; someone struggling to access online teaching who just needs a quick tutorial.
The call was also to be burden-bearers. You may not have noticed, but after the last two years there are a lot of people carrying big burdens around.
People have lost jobs, lost their health, lost loved ones, lost their way spiritually or simply lost their confidence, and we are all capable of picking up our phones, or better yet meeting up face-to-face, and checking in with one of these people. Send them a verse, get them out for fresh air, tell them about Jesus, take them for a coffee, offer a listening ear, pray with them – help them with their heavy load, whatever it is.
Not only will you be bearing their burden but, for those who have had the responsibility of leading churches through these difficult times, you will be lightening their load too. These acts of burden-bearing are often a quiet and private service, but rest assured that just as those who did it for the tabernacle were listed, so, too, God sees and remembers all you are doing.
So, as we begin 2022 and many of our churches make tentative plans to restart various activities remember that there will always be these simple but necessary ways to serve every day, and that not only are we all “saved to serve” but that all our service is for the same Saviour:
“and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord: and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone” (1 Corinthians 12:5,6 ESV).
Photo credit: Rajdeep Mitra