In the social media age it is easy for us to catch glimpses of our brothers and sisters in Christ serving Him in big and exciting ways. Mission trips to Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and other countries can feel like the epitome of serving God’s Kingdom. However, not all of us receive a call from God to leave behind our homes, families, or countries, to serve His children across the world (though if you do, praise Him!). Not long ago, as a twenty-something woman living in the same area I grew up in, with a career outside of ministry, and with no sign in neon lights prompting me to become a “missionary” in the most obvious sense, I began to grow frustrated. I was wondering how and when God would choose to use me to build and serve His Kingdom.
Unfortunately, we Christian women can often feel like we need a prestigious career, or a husband, or an impressive income in order to truly have an impact in God’s Kingdom. However, when we look at Scripture, the necessary components of servitude according to the Lord are much different. Paul tells us in Galatians 5:13-14:
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.
The only two requirements connected to the service Paul speaks of are humility and love. Do we want to serve out of a grateful response to the price Christ has paid for our eternity with Him? Are we willing to humble ourselves to the level Jesus Himself did with His disciples, washing their feet? If the honest and genuine response to these questions is yes, then we have all we need in order to faithfully and mightily serve the Lord (in addition to His help, of course!).
Once we evaluate our motives and determine whether these simple requirements for service are present in our lives and in our hearts, there are a few practical steps we can take in order to seek God’s will for how we are to serve Him.
1. Schedule time to speak, and more importantly, to listen to the Lord. To be honest, most of the time, committing to “making time” to spend with God doesn’t work. Our lives fly by quickly, filled with the unexpected, and we are in a constant flux pattern in order to keep up with it all. Reminding yourself to “make time” for God sometime today, even with the most honest and genuine intentions, just isn’t practical. Set an alarm and write in your planner the exact time of day you commit to spending in God’s Word and in prayer. This may mean waking up earlier or staying up later in order to ensure you’re scheduling a time that will not be interrupted, but it is so worth it. If it’s a purpose we are seeking from the Lord, we need to make that prayer known to Him and schedule time to sit, wait and listen in His presence. David modeled this same behavior for us: “In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly” (Psalm 5:3). When we want an answer from a friend, don’t we ask them directly, rather than hope they shoot us an unprompted text at some point? We need to give God at least this same attention and communication, if not more!
2. Schedule time to serve the Lord. Sensing a theme? As Christians, we need to be intentional about ensuring we have the time and the headspace to serve the Lord however He might want to use us. If our schedules are jam-packed, we won’t be able to commit to spending a Saturday afternoon with a local non-profit, or a Sunday morning serving at church. Try looking through your weekly (or even monthly) schedule and identify activities that are either unnecessary or unproductive, and consider replacing them with a form of service. Maybe you won’t find any spare time – I would encourage you to try again next month. You’ll identify some activities already in your schedule that you will realize are in fact where God wants you to be serving. Maybe you’ll realize your schedule has a whole lot of free time that you have intentionally built in because you like to have time to do what you want, when you want (as a single woman, I fell into this category before I began actively serving!). Check your heart and evaluate whether that free time might ultimately be more valuable spent serving others and the Lord rather than serving yourself (I found the answer was yes).
3. Pay attention to your gut. A good place to start once you’ve found some space in your schedule for service is to research service opportunities that match your strengths and passions. 1 Peter 4:10 tells us, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” Let the activities that you are drawn to naturally guide your search for an opportunity to serve, because God built you that way to serve Him! However, don’t let your own understanding of yourself limit the ways God might want to use you. Personally, I’ve found a lot of the time that when an opportunity to serve presented itself to me, and my natural response was Ooooh, that is out of my comfort zone. That wouldn’t be right for me. That doesn’t really fit what I believe my strengths are, that was exactly where God wanted me to be serving. What I had to realize was that God knows my strengths and weaknesses even better than I do (and of course He does – He knit me together and gave me all of my gifts!), and that His plans for me as His daughter are to become more and more like Christ, no matter how that may happen. Sure, building upon our strengths is useful in God’s Kingdom, but so is trusting the Lord to grow us in our weaknesses.