DISCIPLESHIP:
HOW DO I SERVE GOD?

There comes a time in all of our lives when we realize just how much our parents have done for us. Perhaps the awareness arrives as we are dialing our parents for advice at two in the morning. Maybe it doesn’t come until we have our own children and appreciate just how much work it is to raise a child. But there is a moment when most of us realize we are indebted to the people who raised us for the hours of care they invested in raising us. There is no real way to repay this debt. After all, how do you give back time or repay selfless love? Somehow a Christmas present or even a thoughtfully written card just doesn’t quite do.

The same realization is true in the life of any believer in God.

The acceptance of and faith in a Creator is a life-changing belief. When we believe that there is a God in heaven who created the world and everything in it we begin to comprehend our place in the universe. How small we humans are! How much God has done for us in giving us life and everything we need in order to thrive. One is left wondering, what is the appropriate response? What could I possibly give God in return for everything He has done for me? How does He want me to live and serve Him?

It is therefore a great blessing for us that our God wants us to know Him and has given us a book that answers these questions of how best to please Him. The Bible makes it plain what it is God is asking us to do.

Faith in God is the Heart of Pleasing Him
The book of Hebrews gives us a clear and simple answer to the question: ‘what must we do to please God?’ It states:

Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)

This verse tells us is that the heart of pleasing God, of doing anything that satisfies Him, is to have faith in Him. We must believe in Him first: have total and complete trust in who He is, before any of our actions can produce anything useful. God says that it is impossible to please him with out it. So what does it mean to have faith in God?

Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. (Hebrews 11:1-2)

A belief that we are sure of is one we are willing to put our trust in. For example, if we are crossing a stream and we have faith in the log we must walk across, we step out on it and put our full weight down, trusting it will be able to carry our load. The same is true of a faith in God. This belief in things we cannot see should be strong enough that we are willing to walk forward and act on the things God calls us to do, even though we can not touch or see them. This is what the ancient people of the Bible are praised for doing.

The express purpose of Hebrews chapter 11 is to detail example after example of individuals who, because of their faith in God, acted on things they could not see. For example,

By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. (Hebrews 11:7)

Noah’s faith in God allowed him to act on the promise of a Flood he could not see, nor had ever seen. The idea of sufficient water coming from heaven to flood the Earth would have been completely foreign to Noah. It would have seemed ridiculous to build a boat the size of a football field in the middle of a plain. Noah’s neighbors must have wondered what on Earth he was doing during the many years it took him to build the ark. But when God told Noah, “I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish. But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark, you and your sons and your wife and your sons’ wives with you,” (Genesis 6:17-18) Noah trusted God and acted on God’s commandments. And because of his faith in God, Noah acted according to what he had been told, built an ark according to God’s specifications, and consequently saved all living creatures through his actions. Noah also necessarily pleased God with his faith, a detail that must not be overlooked.

Noah is not the only person in Hebrews 11 God gives as an example of the faith He is calling us to have. God tells us of Abraham, who was willing to leave his family and country to look for a future land God had promised him. He says, “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” (Heb 11:8) There is Moses, who left behind power and fortune as the adopted son of Pharaoh’s daughter in order to lead the nation of Israel out of slavery. God says, “By faith [Moses] left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible.” (Heb 11:27) There is, “Gideon, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised.” (Heb 11:32-33) All of these men trusted in things that seemed impossible to the human eye, believed in God, sought Him earnestly and as a result were rewarded for their faith. Their faith in God helped these people to understand that they were not looking to the things of this world to fulfill them. Instead,

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country – a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. (Hebrews 11:13-16)

They trusted God and were willing to walk blindly forward because of their belief that God would bring them a reward in the future. It is this same faith that God is calling us to have in our own lives. And it is this same faith God says is necessary if we are ever to please Him.

Christ as the Ultimate Example of Faith
Without question, the greatest example of faith in the Bible is seen in God’s son, Jesus Christ. Because of his unwavering faith in his heavenly Father, Jesus was able to accomplish tremendous things. God tells Jesus’ disciples, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him.” (Matthew 17:5) Jesus is the only one who was able to live a life of perfect faith and as a result perfectly please God. God tells us to listen to Jesus because Jesus can teach us how to best please Him. His actions have proven him a worthy model for us to follow.

So how is it that Christ pleased God so perfectly? Why was God so happy with His son? It is because Jesus was the ultimate example of the faith God calls us to in Hebrews 11. Jesus’ faith in God was so strong that he was willing to give over his entire life in complete trust to his Father. Jesus states,

“The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life.” (John 10:17)

Jesus understood what it meant to have complete faith in God. As a result he spent his life sacrificing his own will to the will of his father. Most crucially, Jesus had faith enough to submit to God’s command that he give up his life on the cross. Jesus had the faith to believe God could raise him up again from the dead and that God would reward him for his faithfulness. He said,

“I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will live in hope, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.” (Acts 2: 25 – 28, quoting Psalm 16:8-11)

God calls us to follow Jesus’ example. The Bible tells us,

Be imitators of God therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:1-2)

Therefore I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1-2)

In order to please God, we need to sacrifice our own lives to God just as Christ did. And how do we live our lives as a sacrifice like Christ did for us? We need to sacrifice our own will to the will of God. We need to stop thinking of what is best for us and think instead of fulfilling God’s larger purpose with the Earth. Jesus’ faithful life of service and willing crucifixion are the perfect living examples of the faith God is calling us to have. It isn’t until we give ourselves fully to God, rather than our own selfish desires, that we will begin to understand what it is God wants from us.

But it wasn’t just in Jesus’ death on the cross that he sacrificed his life to God. Jesus’ entire life was an act of sacrifice. He spent his days caring for others and teaching them God’s word. He put the needs of everyone else above his own. His entire life was an act of faith in God as he exchanged his own will and desires for those of his Father.

The Transforming Power of Faith
While Hebrews 11 is filled with examples of men and women who, because of their faith, pleased God, all of mankind is ultimately destined to fall short of this calling. Each person in this famous list did something to displease God at some point in their lives. David committed adultery with a woman named Bathsheba, Abraham lacked the faith to tell Abimelech king of Gerar that Sarah was his wife, Samson was infatuated with many women. Our human nature ensures that we will not be able to act as we would like all of the time.

This is why our faith in God is crucial. Without complete trust in the Lord, God’s work of salvation can never take place. In order to be saved from sin and death we must believe that God really can save us through His son’s sacrifice. We must believe that we really can be forgiven for our sins and transformed from fleshly creatures into spiritual beings. We cannot make this change ourselves. No matter how hard we try to be good, try to do the right thing, try to please God, we are destined to fail. The basic flaws of our human nature will overturn and undermine our endeavors. If we don’t believe God loves us and wants to save us, we will never ask Him for forgiveness. And forgiveness can not be given if it is not asked for. This is why the Bible tells us to believe in the salvation God offers us through the sacrifice of His son. It explains,

Since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16)

God wants us to trust in His ability to save us through His son. He wants us to come to Him in or weakness and have faith that His grace will cover our sins. This truly is the most remarkable belief of all.

What Happens to Those Without Faith?
Besides showing us examples of people who are rewarded for their faith, the Bible also shows what happens when humans doubt God. One of the clearest examples of this can be seen in the actions of the Israelites after they were freed from slavery in Egypt. For years they had been crying to God for deliverance from their harsh taskmasters. At a time that suited God’s Will, He brought His people out of Egypt through the leadership of Moses, desiring to guide them to His Promised Land. The Israelites initially showed good faith in leaving Egypt under Moses’ direction. The Bible commends them for this faith saying, “By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.” (Hebrews 11:29) But after this good start, the Israelites quickly began to waver in their faith once they reached the desert – as any humans might! They started to grumble and complain against God, ultimately doubting God’s ability to fulfill His promises to them. Their behavior shows how trusting God can bring us towards the Promised Land, yet a lack of trust can keep us out of these promises forever. God explains what happened to the Israelites because of their lack of faith saying,

“Do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the desert, where your fathers tested and tried me and for forty years saw what I did. That is why I was angry with that generation, and said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.’ So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’…so we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.” (Hebrews 3: 8-11,18)

The Israelites’ collapse of faith in God’s ability to save them cost them their lives. Because they questioned God at every turn in the wilderness and were afraid of every obstacle, God was displeased with them and punished them. God needs his people to trust Him completely if he is going to be able to work with them.

Conclusion
Therefore, how do we serve God? We must set our hearts to believe in God completely and we must earnestly seek Him out in a life of thankfulness and prayer.

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

God calls us to leave behind every other desire or distraction in this world and put our faith in Him first. We must be like His son, Jesus Christ, who sacrificed his will to live a life of service to his Father. In striving to know our God better we must seek him out by reading His Word find out more about him. Jesus tells us,

“Do not worry saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or “What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given unto you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)

Let us learn to trust our heavenly Father with the faith of the ancients so that we too might receive the reward God has promised those who love Him and more importantly, that our lives might be pleasing to our Creator.


SOME RESPONSES YOU MAY HAVE TO THE ABOVE ARTICLE

So what practical things should I be doing today as a disciple of Jesus Christ?

How does being a disciple of Jesus Christ influence my relationship with everyday society?

Other than the pleasure of living a good life, does being a disciple of Christ provide me with hope for a future?