Be Fervent In Spirit
Serving The Lord

In a Brief Survey of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans
Based on sermons preached in PCC Worship Services, July 2003 to Sep 2005
Part 62c of 83


“Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord” (Romans 12:11).

[This is our third instalment of our study of the 4th of Paul’s 15 or so directives on how a church may grow together in unity of love. We considered previously how we must not be slothful in business, but fervent in spirit. But now finally we must look at how we should serve the Lord. —JJL]

3. Serving the Lord

a.   Now, the word rendered ‘serving’ (δουλεύω, douleuō) here describes the service of a bond-slave rather than the service of a paid servant.

We are slaves of the Lord. We have been purchased or redeemed by God—not with silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ (1 Pet 1:19).

Therefore, we must be grateful and loving slaves of Christ our Lord. We must serve Him cheerfully and lovingly without expecting return: for He laid down His life for us sacrificially and unconditionally. We can never repay Him for what He has done for us.

b. But how are we to serve the Lord? Well, we considered how we must use our spirit gifts when we looked at verses 3-8. Every one of us, whether male or female, young or old, has been given at least one spiritual gift, which we may use to build up the church. If you are an inactive member of the church and fail to use your gift to contribute to the well-being of the church, then the church is languishing or lacking in some particular area, because of your failure.

I have known of churches with very good preachers, but because no one wants to use their gift of ministry, there are too few deacons in the church, and too few people helping out. So the church suffers. The pastor runs about doing everything from printing the bulletin to emptying the dustbins after the service. This is sad. We must contribute our gifts. We must not hide our gifts in the ground.

But we must serve the Lord not only with our spiritual gifts. We must serve Him with all our talents. Now, in the Parable of the Talents, which we referred to earlier, a talent is a huge sum of money.

According to some archaeological studies, it is equivalent to about 6,000 denarii. A denarius is what a labourer in the vineyard earns in a day (cf. Mt 20). A talent is, therefore, 6,000 day’s wages for a poor labourer. Consider what that means today. If a vineyard worker earns $1 a day. What is one talent? It is $6,000. Now suppose he earns $10 a day, one talent would be equivalent to $60,000. In Singapore, the equivalent of a vineyard worker might earn, say, $50 for a day’s work. If so, one talent will be equivalent to $300,000. I wonder how many of us have that kind of money in our bank account. In any case, the exact amount is not important, but it is significant that one talent is a very large amount of money. Much could be done with one talent. And if you have five talents, you will be like a millionaire.

What do the talents in the parable represent? Well I believe they represent anything and everything that we can use to glorify God and to promote the kingdom of Christ.

It includes your life itself, and the members of your body: your hands and your feet, your intellect, your tongue. Paul teaches us to offer our bodies as living sacrifices unto the Lord.

It also includes your possession, your money, your time, your knowledge, your job, your position in society, your office in church, your place in your family.

And it includes all your opportunities: of hearing good sermons, of serving the brethren on the Lord’s day, of serving the brethren during the week, of being a witness for the Lord at your work place, etc.

To serve the Lord is to serve Him in all situations in your life, and not just when the church is gathered. You are serving the Lord if you serve as an elder or a deacon, or as a PA crew member or in preparing lunch or translating the sermons, or teaching the children to sing, or even looking after your children in church.

But remember that you must serve the Lord in all other sphere of your life too. Thus, Paul says in Colossians 3:22—

22 Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God: 23 And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; 24 Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.

In the context, the apostle is, no doubt, speaking to slaves or in the modern context, employees. But what he says is applicable to all servants of the Lord:

“Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ” (v. 23-24).

Every true believer must serve Christ by his obedience in every sphere of his life—whether at church, at work, at school, at home, or in the public. We must serve the Lord by doing our duties which are appointed to us cheerfully.

“Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might” (Ecc 9:10a) says Solomon.

c.   Christians must never be slothful. We must be fervent in spirit. But we must be fervent to do the right thing. We must be fervent to serve the Lord.

We must walk worthy of our vocation as servants of Christ. Christ has put us in various spheres of life. Some of us are called to be covenant children or students; some are called to be parents; others are called to be employers and superiors at work; yet others called to be employees and subordinates. Some are called to be officers in the church; others are to be ordinary members. But all are called to be Christians!

We are called to be Christians in every sphere of our lives. We are to serve Christ wherever we are and in whatever we are doing.

Are you a student? You must not just be the best student; you must be a Christian student. There is a difference between the best student and a Christian student.

The best student tops the class; the Christian student does not only do well in his subjects but wins the heart of his teachers and class mates. He is enthusiastic in all he does.

The Christian child who is walking aright does not grumble and complain when he has to do homework or housework? He rather serves the Lord fervently by being enthusiastic in all that he has been appointed to do.

Are you a doctor? You must not just be the best doctor; you must be a Christian doctor. There is a difference between the best doctor and a Christian doctor. The best surgeon is very skilful. He diagnoses very accurately and prescribes the most effective medicine; and if he is a surgeon, he cuts well and he stitches well. But the Christian doctor is not only accurate and skilful; he brings the love of Christ into his work and his patients glorify God because of him.

Are you a salesman? You must not just be the best salesman; you must be a Christian salesman. There is a difference between being the best salesman and being a Christian salesman.

The best salesman may sell big volumes and earn great commissions. The Christian salesman is known for his honesty even though he sometimes lose customers for that reason.

Are you a mother? You must not just be the best mother; you must be a Christian mother. There is a difference between the world’s idea of the best mother and a Christian mother.

The best mother according to the world is one who looks well to the physical well-being of her children and provides them with a good education. The Christian mother does the same but radiates the love and tenderness of Christ in the process—so that her children grow up with the same love and tenderness.

Are you a father? You must not just be the best father; you must be a Christian father. There is a difference between being the best father winning the acclaim of the world and being a Christian father winning the acclaim of God.

The best fathers of the world are those who not only provide for their families but also spend quality time with them. The Christian father does these things and more; he look to their spiritual well-being. He leads the family in worship. He instructs the family that they grow to fear and love the Lord Jesus Christ, the Head of the House.

Conclusion

Dear reader, what is your calling? What has Christ appointed you to do? Will you not do it as unto Him, serving Him with boiling fervent spirit and not with lukewarm slothfulness?

Remember that the servants of Christ must never be slothful. We must be gratefully and lovingly full of zeal serving Christ, that His name may be magnified by our lives. Amen.

—JJ Lim