This summer, we are reading Don Whitney’s book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life together. With certain goals for us as individuals, we all desire to grow in grace and personal holiness. The purpose of this study is to help us make necessary adjustments in our spiritual lives that will enable us to achieve such goals by incorporating the use of spiritual disciplines.

In the previous chapters, Don Whitney has outlined the specifics of Bible reading, meditation, prayer, worship, and evangelism. In each chapter, he has demonstrated how these disciplines function to produce godliness in the lives of a child of God.  This week’s focus is on the discipline of serving.  In the opening words of this chapter, Don Whitney writes, “The ministry of serving may be as public as preaching or teaching, but more often it will be as sequestered as nursery duty” (142).

Every Christian Is Expected To Serve

In this section, Don Whitney points out several motivating factors regarding service.

  1. Motivated by Obedience
  2. Motivated by Gratitude
  3. Motivated by Gladness
  4. Motivated by Forgiveness, Not Guilt
  5. Motivated by Humility
  6. Motivated by Love

Beneath each heading, Don Whitney points out how the child of God is expected to serve, but it’s fueled by a specific motivation within the heart.  When it comes to angels, Whitney makes the case that they obey the Lord on the basis of His command alone rather than selfish motivating factors.  If we can’t imagine angels refusing to serve the Lord, how much more should we desire to serve the Lord – the One who has saved us?

Psalm 100:2 reads, “Serve the LORD with gladness (ESV)!  Don Whitney writes, “In the courts of ancient kings, servants were often executed for nothing more than looking sad in the service of the king” (146).  Imagine what a contradiction it must be for children of God who have been saved from eternal wrath by a gracious and sovereign King to have a lack of gladness in their service to God.

Don Whitney points to Isaiah’s vision in Isaiah 6:6-8 and makes the case that Isaiah was motivated to serve the LORD out of forgiveness, not guilt.  How often do we serve God out of guilt?  How often do leaders motivate the church to serve out of guilt?  The guilt factor is not a true motivator in serving the Lord, and it often fizzles out and crashes in the end.

As we examine our hearts, if we don’t see love as a motivation to serve the Lord, we have crossed the line into error (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).  Don Whitney writes, “No fuel for service burns longer and provides more energy than love” (150).

Every Christian Is Gifted To Serve

Just as angels are created to serve the Lord, we as Christians are saved to serve the Lord.  Each child of God is gifted with at least one spiritual gift to use for the glory of God.  Whitney makes an important point regarding spiritual gifts.  He writes, “Regardless of your theology of spiritual gifts, the two most important points about them remain those given in 1 Peter 4:10, namely, (1) if you are a Christian you definitely have at least one spiritual gift, and (2) God gave you that gift for the purpose that you serve with it for His kingdom” (151).

As we consider the fact that God has gifted us for service, what good does such giftedness do if we are segmented off from the local church?  We must note that spiritual gifts are for God’s glory, but they make no sense if separated from the local assembly of believers.  Whitney writes, “I encourage you to discipline yourself to serve in a regular, ongoing ministry in your local church.  You don’t necessarily have to serve in a recognized or elected position.  But find a way to defeat the temptation to serve only when it’s convenient or exciting.  That’s not disciplined service” (152).

Catch up in this series:

Opening Article
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6

Questions to Consider:

  1. Do you have a good grasp of the relationship between worship and serving?  How do they both promote one another?
  2. You are expected to serve and gifted to serve, but are you willing to serve?
  3. The gospel of Christ creates Christlike servants.  Is your heart motivated to serve God by the gospel?
  4. Do you find yourself consistently looking for ways to serve the Lord outside the church?  Why are you not rooted in your local church and seeking to serve the Lord together with the body of Christ?

Next Week: Next week, we will turn to chapter 8 and look at the subject of stewardship. Read ahead and think through the content of that chapter, and we will gather here next week to discuss what we’re learning.

Discussion: Post your comments, thoughts, and questions in the comments section. I will engage with you at times, but the purpose is to allow everyone to have a conversation regarding what we are learning and considering through this book. I do hope you will be encouraged.