Serve the Church
Topic: English Passage: 1 Peter 4:10-11
One of the most memorable lines in the story of Esther is when Mordecai says to her, “And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
The story of Esther begins with a banquet in the kingdom of Persia. Xerxes, as king of the largest empire the world had ever known, celebrates by displaying the glory and the beauty of his kingdom, and this includes calling the beautiful queen to be showcased as well.
When the queen refuses to stand before the men, that leads to a search for a new queen. Servants of the king are sent throughout the entire Persian Empire looking for beautiful, young, unmarried women. And from that group, the king will choose his new queen.
One of the women chosen was an orphaned Jewish girl named Hadassah. We know her better by her Persian name, which is Esther. Esther was raised by her older cousin Mordecai, whose ancestors were taken into exile from Judah by the Babylonians.
Under the providential plan of God, Esther found favor with those around her, and the king selected her to be the replacement queen. This all happened without anyone knowing she was a Jew.
Sometime afterward, an evil man named Haman devised a plan to destroy all the Jews in Persia, and he deceptively received the king’s permission to move forward. Letters instructing that the Jews were to be killed were sent to all the provinces so that everyone could see the edict. A day was coming when those who serve the king would put the Jews to death. This led to a time of confusion and mourning and prayer.
Esther’s role as queen placed her in a unique position to act on behalf of her people, but there was a risk. Anyone who entered the king’s presence without being summoned risked being put to death.
And when Esther expressed her fear, here’s what Mordecai said to her: Do not think to yourself that in the king's palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?
Mordecai wanted Esther to feel, not just the weight of her position as queen, but the weight of the significance of God’s timing in her life. She had been placed there “for such a time as this.”
I think there’s something in all of us that resonates with the idea of having your life lead up to one moment. There’s a certain appeal in imagining what it would be like to know that all the circumstances of your life are leading up to one moment.
Well, if we understand the Scriptures properly, that is something we can actually say for ourselves every single day. We can say it because the Bible teaches that God is sovereign. He is in control, and He is orchestrating every detail of the universe and of human life.
The same God who placed Esther in the palace is the God who has placed you where you are today.
When Paul preached in Athens, in Acts 17, he said, “The God who made the world and everything in it is Lord of heaven and earth… And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place… He is not far from each of us.”
God is as involved in human history on a macro level as He is in your own life on a personal level. Psalm 139 reminds us that God formed us in our mother’s womb, and He has ordained in His book every single one of our days.
So, what is this “thing” you are being called to? Why are you here?
First of all, if you have never repented of your sin and surrendered your life to Jesus Christ, God has you here today to call to turn away from everything the world and the culture is saying about how you got here and how you find true satisfaction and purpose. God is calling you to recognize that He made you. And even though you have rebelled against Him by pursing your own desires—even though you deserve His eternal judgment—if you will trust in Jesus Christ alone, who died and was raised from the dead for sinners, you will be forgiven, and you will be made part of God’s eternal family. That’s why God has you here today.
For those of us who have already been brought to Jesus Christ, we should recognize that God isn’t done with us. He still has us here for a reason. He has a special plan for your life. But what we need to understand is that “special plan” has our lives as a means to a greater end. Our personal lives are not an end in themselves.
The message of this world, and even of some so-called Christian churches or preachers is that God wants you to have a better life—better finances, better emotional or mental or physical health, and better relationships. That may happen at times, but that’s not what we’re supposed to be pursuing or chasing after.
God’s special purpose for our lives is to bring Him glory. And many times, that will include pain and suffering. And it will also include the spiritual fatigue of battling sin and pursuing righteousness.
As most of you know, First Peter was written to a group of Christians with an acute experience of persecution. And throughout the letter Peter is trying to get them to look past this life into eternity. He reminds them about their hope. And he also wants them to look past the physical things in life and focus on the spiritual. In that, he calls them to holiness.
Living a life of righteousness for the glory of God has many applications. Peter’s main application is that it means we show love to one another. That’s at the top of the list. Adding to the importance of love, Peter also reminds his readers that Jesus Christ is coming soon. Therefore, we need to be all the more dedicated. Time is short, so we need to walk in love.
Starting in verse 8 of chapter 4, Peter gives us three distinct ways that love is demonstrated. It’s demonstrated, number 1, through forgiveness. Verse 8 says, “love covers a multitude of sins.” Love overlooks petty offenses and forgives major ones.
A second way love is demonstrated is though hospitality. That’s what verse 9 is talking about. That is a recognition that your stuff doesn’t exist just for you. We are united in Christ and we should demonstrate that unity by helping and serving our brothers and sisters.
The third way that love is shown among brothers and sisters in the faith is through Christian service. Christian service. This is part of the purpose God has for your life if you belong to Jesus Christ, and it’s going to be our focus for our study today.
You may not be called, like Esther, to act in order to save an entire ethnic group of people. But you are called every day to serve your brothers and sisters in the faith. You have been called “for such a time as this.”
Wherever you are today, God has purposefully placed you there. He gave you your spouse. He gave you your kids. He placed you in that family. He placed you in this church. And He has a purpose for you.
As we look more closely, then, at verses 10 and 11 of 1 Peter 4, I’m going to frame our time around 3 questions. What should you do? How should you do it? And why should you do it? What, how, and why?
We could also just label these as the mandate, the manner, and the motivation.
Let’s start with the first one, the mandate. What should you do? What am I supposed to be doing with my life?
Verse 10 gives us our answer—As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace.
Simply put, the answer to “What should I do?” is “serve the church.” Serve the church. That’s the mandate.
First Peter 4:10 is one of the passages connected to the topic of spiritual gifts. There are tons of theological views concerning gifts and ways to approach this topic. Personally, I think a lot of them are very misguided. They exist to sell books or merchandise. And in doing so, they miss the heart of God on this topic.
A lot of material about spiritual gifts tries to help us answer the question: “What is my gift?” And frankly, that just isn’t the question that the Bible is trying to answer when it talks about spiritual gifts. The question, “What is my spiritual gift?” is a very self-centered one. And that approach can often manifest itself in people who refuse to serve or minister in ways other than their exact gift.
So, someone in the church points out that they need helpers in the nursery. And someone else very quickly responds “That’s not my gift.” Or your brother or sister in the faith asks for help ministering to their coworkers by helping him move. And someone else says, “Sorry. That’s not my gift.”
The main question you should be asking is not, “What is my gift?” It should be, “How can I serve?” How can I serve? That’s the main command in verse 10. Use your gift, use your abilities, to serve one another.
In other parts of the Bible, we get lists of gifts. But those lists are never the same, which means that none of them are exhaustive. Peter and Paul weren’t trying to say, “Here’s a menu of gifts. Pick the category you fall into.” That’s not the intent. Their intent was to give examples of how people contribute to the health and the strength and the maturity of the church and then urge all of us to do the same. Use your gift to serve one another.
What kind of service is he talking about? Well, Peter isn’t specific, but other parts of the Bible help us understand. We as a local church are the body of Christ. And we have a variety of strengths and abilities. Those capacities to serve have a purpose.
First Corinthians 12 says they are for the common good. Ephesians 4 says that our gifts build up the body of Christ. When all the parts are working properly, the body builds itself up in love.
So, the basic idea is that if you belong to Christ, you are responsible to demonstrate the love of God to your brothers and sisters for their spiritual good. This is all for our spiritual good.
First Peter 2 says we are all living stones being built up as a spiritual house. We all have a personal responsibility for our own spiritual growth and maturity, but we are also responsible to help others as well. That’s not optional. You need to be serving. You need to be ministering. That’s what God has you here to do.
Now, when I say that, I don’t want you to assume that service and ministry has to mean some official capacity in this organization. It’s wonderful and important that we have ushers and childcare workers and teachers and people who prepare coffee and bread, and who repair things around the church. And we need more people serving.
But even if you don’t have some official role in our church, if you are a member, you are responsible to serve others. You contribute to our church’s health by giving, by praying, by encouraging others every day, as Hebrews puts it.
And if you do have a specific role, don’t assume that that’s all you can do. Romans 12 says we should outdo one another. Don’t be slothful in zeal. Instead, be fervent in spirit.
Peter isn’t saying, “Just be busy,” or “just sign up for a ministry.” He is saying, “You need to make this a defining part of who you are in Jesus Christ. You are a contributing member of the body of Jesus Christ. So, how do you contribute? How are you making yourself useful?
There are all kinds of ways to do this. The lists we have in 1 Corinthians and Romans and Ephesians are good examples, but Peter breaks up this list into two general categories. Verse 11 talks about those who speak and those who serve. That’s such a simple and helpful way to think about it.
By your words and by your actions, you can and should minister to and serve others in the church. Your job is to think about how to best do that.
The speaking gifts are usually more visible, right? Preachers and teachers have a much more visible ministry. But don’t imagine that that’s all the church does. We are not confined to official teaching ministries, and we are definitely not confined to Sunday mornings only.
Speaking gifts, include the ability to exhort others and to administrate and to teach your kids. You contribute to the health and strength of the church in your emails and your texts and your personal conversations. Our words teach and remind other about the truth of Jesus Christ.
Serving gifts accomplish the same thing by putting God’s truth on display. So, when you have another family over for dinner, or when you help someone move, or when you set up tables and chairs, or when you give someone a helpful financial gift, you are contributing to the health of our church.
So, whether its through speaking or serving, you are called to minister to your brothers and sisters in the faith. That’s part of the reason we pass out an updated members list. That’s the specific group of people that this “one another” applies to.
Rather than sit around in endless contemplation and hypothesizing, or rather than wishing you were better at something, God would much rather just have you get to work. Just do something. And watch God lead you in greater and greater usefulness.
For some of you that’s going to mean trying out new things. Maybe you will help in the nursery. Maybe you will have a family over for dinner. Maybe you will host or lead a Family Life Group. Maybe you will start a prayer group. Maybe you’re going to be intentional about who and how you text people during the day. Whatever it is, think about what you can do to contribute to the health and the strength of your brothers and sisters in the faith, okay?
That’s the mandate. What should you do? You should serve the church. You should minister to others in the church. You are responsible to help one another grow in Jesus Christ.
Christianity was not meant to some kind of self-help philosophy. In a culture where everything exists for you, you need to remind yourself that you are here to serve others. You do that in your speech and in your actions. “Serve the church” that’s the mandate.
Next, we move on to the manner. This is the answer to the question: “How should you do it?” We know what we’re supposed to be doing, but God doesn’t just care about the what, he cares about the how. He cares about the manner. God wants us to have the right heart in all of this.
When you describe a noun, you use and adjective. When you describe a verb, we call that an adverb. Adverbs describe action. The adverb describing how we should serve the church is humbly. We should serve humbly.
How do you do that? You do it by keeping some important truths in mind. Number 1, you should recognize that God gives you the gifts. God gives it. That’s what a gift is, by definition: something you were given.
In the church of Corinth, people were using their abilities to boast. And so, Paul says to them, “What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?”
If you have big muscles to help move heavy things, that’s from God. If you’re a great cook, that’s from God. If you have the ability to retain information and pass it along to others, that’s from God. If you have an ability to organize thoughts and communicate effectively, that’s from God. If you have the ability to say things in a way that speak right to someone’s heart so that they “get it,” that’s from God. If you have the ability to motivate and lead others, that’s from God. They’re all gifts that He’s given to us. Saying they are gifts doesn’t erase the human component to any of this—we should want to get better—but it’s a reminder that ultimately, as the sovereign Lord, God has, by His Spirit, given us every ability we have.
Instead of patting yourself on the back for whatever abilities you have, you should be thanking God. That’s humility. You don’t take credit.
There’s a second recognition that produces humility. First, humility recognizes that God gives them. Second, humility recognizes that God expects them. In other words, these gifts come from God, and they come with a purpose.
You can be arrogant by boasting in your gifts, and you can be arrogant by hoarding them. Both are sinful. Notice the last part of verse 10. We are called to be “good stewards of God's varied grace.”
You are a steward. A steward is someone responsible for something that belongs to someone else. Ultimately, that gift isn’t yours. It belongs to God, just like the rest of creation. God gave it to you for a specific purpose, so that you would use it for the edification of the church.
When Peter says we are steward of God’s grace, what he’s saying is that your gifts, your abilities, are an extension of God’s grace to our church. When you use your gifts, you are putting an aspect of God on display for the rest of us, and for the watching angels. None of us can perfectly display God in this world. And even if we just pick one attribute, we can’t display it perfectly either. But as we serve together, the church and the watching world gets a better picture of who God is.
So don’t worry so much about ranking your contribution with others. Worry about how to best put your gifts into practice. Worry about being faithful.
In Matthew 25, Jesus shares a parable about a master who was leaving and gave his servants various amounts of money. One guy got five talents, one guy got two, and another got one. A talent, by the way, was a significant sum, worth about 15-20 years of wages for a day laborer.
Well, once the master gets back, he wants to see what the servants did with what they were given. The point of the story is not to argue over why one guy got more or less than the others. The point is that we need to be faithful in putting to work what God has given us.
As stewards, God will either say to us, “Well done, good and faithful slave,” or we will prove to be wicked and lazy servants unworthy of the Master. That’s a sobering thought. If someone does not invest in the things of Christ while He is away, if someone bears no fruit, Christ will return and reveal that that individual never belonged to Him in the first place. This is a great responsibility. We need to humbly recognize that God gives the gifts, and God expects us to use them.
There’s a final aspect to this humility, and that is that we recognize that God empowers the gifts. God empowers the gifts. God gave them to us. God expects us to use them, and God is the One who empowers us to use them.
Look with me at verse 11. This is Peter expanding on this idea of stewardship and humility—whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies
Everything needs to be done depending on Christ completely. If you have a speaking gift, you don’t give your own message, you give God’s message. That’s why I’m constantly telling you to look at your Bible. I’m no here to give you my message. I’m here to help us understand the message God has already given us.
I’m not aiming for creativity as a pastor. I’m aiming for clarity. Clarity is what I’m after. I want us to leave here looking at our Bibles, saying, “I get it. I know what it means. Now, how can I be obedient to what is says?” And that should be the main goal of any Bible teacher.
It should also be the main goal when you’re exhorting or admonishing or encouraging a brother. We’re not just looking for some magical words to help someone. We’re trying to give them God’s wisdom from His word. It’s the word of God that comes with the power of God to teach, to reprove, to correct, and to train in righteousness. It’s the word of God that pierces the soul like a two-edged sword.
If you lean more on the serving gifts, the importance of dependency doesn’t change. You serve, Peter says, by the strength God supplies. It’s not your own strength; it’s God’s. There’s a call to humility there, but there’s also n encouragement. It’s a reminder that God empowers you.
If you’re a tired wife or a tired mom, remember, God will supply your strength. If you don’t feel like loving your boss or your husband or your coworker, God will supply the strength. By the grace of God, you can do what He calls you to do. You can persevere, you can endure, because God works in you so that you can work for His good pleasure.
So, no matter how God calls you to serve, whether it’s primarily through speaking or through serving, you should do it humbly, depending on the resources God has given you. You don’t do it in your own strength. You don’t give yourself the credit for your efforts. God gives the gifts we use, God expects them to be used, and God empowers them to be used. So, we serve the church humbly.
As we wrap up verse 11, we come to our final section for today, and that is the motivation. We looked at the mandate, we looked at the manner, and no we look at the motivation. The question we’re answering now is: “Why should you do this?”
Look again at the end of verse 11 with me. This is the heart behind all of this. We do it all—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
The mandate is: serve the church. The manner is “humbly.” The motivation is “for the glory of God in Jesus Christ.” You put all those together and you get today’s message in a sentence. Serve the church humbly for the glory of God in Jesus Christ. Serve the church humbly for the glory of God.
Our deepest and most significant motivation is not to grow our church budget. It’s not so that people will know how loving we are. It’s not even that our church would grow. Our deepest motivation should is the glory of God in Jesus Christ.
If you don’t belong to Christ, your righteous deeds are filthy rags. But if you belong to Christ, you need to recognize that everything we do should be for His glory, and for the glory of the Father. As the Apostle Paul said, and like we were reciting a couple months back: For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever.
If you’re teaching little kids, if you’re helping in the nursery, if you’re setting up tables and chairs, if you’re opening your home to others, if you’re praying for people—whatever it is you’re doing to serve and strengthen the church, it all needs to be done for the glory of Jesus Christ. It’s all for Him.
Don’t do it because you want to impress people. Don’t do it because you feel a certain kind of pressure from the elders. Don’t do it out of compulsion. Do it because you want to give glory to Jesus Christ, who is the King of kings and Lord of lords.
Christ is coming soon, and you and I are going to be judged. You and I are going to give an account for how we’ve used the time and the money and the skills and the energy God has given us. First Corinthians 3 says that our work will be tested by fire. Some work will be like hay and straw; it’s going to burn because we didn’t do it for the glory of God. But what we do with a heart of humble obedience for the glory of God will be like gold and silver and precious stones.
Regardless of what the earthly outcome is of your service, if your heart is to glorify God through Jesus Christ, you will be rewarded for it.
Charles Thomas Studd was a British missionary who decided that the best use of his gifts would be proclaim the message of Jesus Christ in China, India, and central Africa. Though he died in 1931, Studd left behind a legacy of faithfulness and personal sacrifice for the glory of Jesus Christ. He also left us a poem called “Only One Life.” I encourage you to look it up and read all of it. Again, it’s called “Only One Life.” I won’t read you the whole thing, but I do want to share the most memorable line. Maybe some of you have heard it.
He says, “Only one life, ‘twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.” Only one life, ‘twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.
What are you going to do for the glory of Jesus Christ in the lives of His people? God has you here today for such a time as this.