James Merritt - Service With a Smile
Jesus, to me, made one of the most remarkable statements about Himself that He ever made in all of the four gospels. As a matter of fact, knowing who Jesus was and believing who Jesus was, it may be the most incredible statement anybody's ever made about themselves. Listen to what Jesus said. He said, "For even I," what do you mean, "Even I". Well, I just happen to be the Son of God. I just happen to be the King of kings. I just happen to be the Lord of the universe. I own you lock, stock, and barrel. Everything that you see's got my name on it. "Even I, didn't come to be served". What? Nope. "But to serve others and give my life as a ransom for many". That amazes me. The Lord of the universe said, "I didn't come for you to wash My feet. I came to wash yours. I didn't come so you'd meet my needs. I came to meet yours. I didn't come so I could see what I could get out of you. I came because of what I could give to you".
So here's the secret I want to let you in on. The secret to greatness in the kingdom of God is not how many servants you have, but what kind of a servant you are. That's what God sees as great. It's not how many people you got serving you, it's how many people you're serving. If you're one of those folks, and I'm not saying this in a fussing way, I'm just being honest. If you kind of, if you're deal is you come here, you sit, you listen, you take notes, you sing, you worship, you leave, and then that's kind of it for you until next Sunday, you're not involved, you're not plugged in, you're not serving, you're not, you know, you're really not doing anything, at least in this church, or maybe even outside this church, if that is you, why should that bother you and why should you have somehow this desire and this passion to say, "Enough of sitting on the bench, get me... you know, put me in, coach, I'm ready to play".
Let me give you three reasons why you should want to do that. Number one, God expects us to serve others. God expects us to serve others. Now here's how Paul begins. We're in Ephesians 4:11. So Christ, Himself, gave the apostles the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service. So let me just state right off the bat. You were created for service. That's why you were put here. You were created for service. As a matter of fact, earlier in this same book, Paul wrote these words. "For we are God's workmanship. We were created in Christ Jesus to do," what? "To do good works". That means to serve other people. You were put on this planet for the express purpose of serving other people. The same reason Jesus came to this world, is the same reason you were brought into this world. Jesus said, "I came to serve". Jesus said, "You came to serve".
See, if you think about it, one of the things I've learned in life, I deserve this, everything was created for a purpose. Everything was created on purpose. Everything was created for a purpose. God doesn't waste anything. And, you know, as you grow old, you kind of figure this out as a kid. You learn pretty early, okay, birds were created to sing. Fish were created to swim. Cows were created to give milk. Bees were created to give honey. Dogs were created to win championships. God has a purpose for everything. Okay? Nothing is every wasted or thrown away. And, you, I don't know why they created gators. I think God missed that one. That's just my personal opinion. But you were created for ministry.
See, God designed everyone of us to make a difference. God made you, listen, God made you the way you are so you could do what God wants you to do. You're unique. We're all different. Twin brothers are different. Twin sisters are different. We're all different. Put two people who have all, they can be 99.99% alike, but they're not 100% alike, we're all unique, we're all different, and the reason for that is, you are unique and I'm unique, because you've got a unique ministry to fulfill and I've got a unique service to perform. And the reason why God made us different is to make a difference. The reason why God made us different is to make a difference. That's why you were created.
See life's kind of like a puzzle. God's put this thing together called life. And they're been billions of people who have come and gone on planet earth. Every one of them were individual pieces that God intended to fit into his puzzle. Not everybody wanted to, not everybody tried to, not everybody obeyed God's will, not everybody allowed themselves to, but God has a place for every one of us, and we are a perfect fit in His puzzle. We were created to serve. But here's something I think a lot of us miss. You weren't just created for service, you're called to service. Now let me just kind of expand on that because a lot of people don't understand that. When Jesus called you to be saved by Him, at the very same time He called you to serve Him. Every follower of Jesus Christ has been called to serve. Every follower of Jesus Christ has been called to service.
Now let me clarify what I mean by that. I'm not telling you that every one of you have been called to full-time Christian service. Okay, I get that. You know, called me to be a pastor. God called some of our staff to do what they do, okay? And God's called people out of our church to be full-time missionaries and all that. You know, most of you, you don't have that specific calling. But here's where we miss the boat. I want you to hear this. Not every follower of Jesus Christ has been called to full-time ministry. But every follower of Jesus Christ has been called to minister full-time. Do you understand that? You know, I get it. You're not called to be a full-time minister, but you're called to minister full-time. Where do I get that idea? Paul said this in Romans 7, "Now you belong to Him, that is Jesus, in order that we might be useful in the service of God".
See, in God's service there are no part-timers, there are no half-days, there are no holidays, there are no nine-to-five hours, you can't go on strike, there's no retirement. Every one of us in this room is on call 24-hours a day to serve God and to serve others whenever we're needed. As a matter of fact, you'll find something very interesting in the Bible. You wouldn't know this if you read it in the English language. But in the Greek language, the word for service is the same word for ministry. And the word for ministry is the same word for service. They are totally identical. In other words, a servant in the Bible is a minister. And a minister in the Bible is a servant. So there's one thing you and I have in common. We're all ministers and we're all servants, because they all mean the same thing. And you don't have to be ordained to be one, you don't have to go to seminary to be one, you don't have to formally trained to be one, that's just what we are.
I mean, think about this. Think about this. There are people who think, "Well, the only reason I think that God saved me was to take me to Heaven. I mean I don't know why else God would take, save me, except take me to Heaven". All right, let's say you're right. Let's just say the only reason that God sent Jesus to die for our sins and raised Him from the dead, let's just say the only reason He did that was so that He could take us to Heaven. Then I got one question. So the moment you get saved, why doesn't God take you to Heaven? Well, evidently there's something else He wants you to do. Evidently He's not through with you yet. So the reason why God saves you is not just to take you to Heaven. He saves you because, "Hey, I've still got a ministry for you to do. I've still got a task for you to perform".
Let me ask you this. Why does God want people in church? Why did God create the church? But, you know, I've heard people say this and I want to make a very candid confession to you, Okay? I don't like to say this, but I have to admit it because it's true. You do not have to go to church. You don't have to be involved in a church to be a Christian. I know some of you just said that was worth coming to church for right there. Okay. Now let me just add an addendum. You don't have to go to church, and you don't have to get involved in a church to be a Christian. But you do have to go to church and you do have to be involved in a church to be the Christian God wants you to be. No choice in the matter. You have to do it. You know why? Why does God bring needy people across your path during the week? So you can serve others outside the church. Why does God bring you to church on Sunday or the weekend? Because God's got people He wants you to serve inside the church. God expects us to serve others.
All right. Here's the second thing I want you to learn. God equips us to serve others. He doesn't just expect it, He equips us. Now, let me just confess this to you, okay. This is my favorite part of this message. Because I get to show you two things right now. You ready? I'm going to show you what God expects of me and I'm going to show you what God expects of you. Now let's go back and read these verses again. "It was He who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers to prepare God's people for works of service so that the body of Christ may be built up". Now what you're reading right there, in effect is a job description. There's two of them in that verse, those verses. There's my job description. There's what God wants me to do for Him and there's your job description. There's what God wants you to do for Him, as well. So there's one for the pastor and there's one of the people.
Here's what I want you to notice. First of all, Paul said, "It is God's people who have to assume the works of service". All right? Now if you grew up in a traditional church or maybe a small country church like I did or maybe a small city church, but if you grew up in more of a traditional or a very, very small kind of a church, this may kind of rock your world a little bit. Okay? I'm not here to do the ministry of the church. I am here to give my ministry to the church. I'm not here to do the ministry of the church. I'm here to give my ministry to the church. See, there's a big difference. The ministry doesn't belong to the pastor. The ministry belongs to the people.
Now a lot of churches get that totally, totally swapped. They don't get that. They don't understand that. I'm going to elaborate that in just a moment. But leads us to the second truth. All right. My number one job, as your pastor, is not to do the work of the ministry. My number one job, according to Paul, is to equip you to do the work of the ministry. That's the primary job I've got. That's the primary job our staff has. We talk about it every week at our staff meeting. How can we do a more effective job in teaching you and training you and equipping you and motivating you to do the work of the ministry. Let me tell you why this is so important. The most important decision any church will ever make is this decision, who is going to give leadership to the church and who's going to do ministry of the church. That's the biggest decision a church is going to make.
All right. Who's going to give leadership to this deal and who's going to do the ministry of this church. We made up our mind when we started this church, we said, "If we're going to be the church that God wants us to be, I knew going in, all right, I've got to give up something and you've got to give up something". You have to give up control of the leadership of the church, because that's what God's called me to do. To lead. On the other hand, I've got to give up the ministry of the church, because that's what God has called you to do to minister.
Now here's what happens. I've seen it happen many times. When the pastor does the ministry of the church and the people become the leaders of the church, everybody's frustrated, nobody's happy, there's dissension, there's disunity, and that's when people start getting mad over whether the carpet's red or blue. They get made whether the piano is on that side of the building or this side of the building. That's when they get all upset. Because they're doing what they're not supposed to do and the pastor's not doing what he was called to do. But when a church says, "Okay, we get it. We understand, Pastor, you lead us. You feed us. That's your job. On the other hand, we are going to follow you and you teach us how to minister to one another". Here's what happens, everybody's fulfilled, church is happy, everybody's on the same page, the church moves forward, everybody's unified. Why? Because I'm doing what God called me to do. You're doing what God called you to do. Even what I'm doing right now, I'm simply trying to equip you to do what God called you to do.
So number one, God expects us to serve others. Number two, God equips us to serve others. And here's the last thing, God empowers us to serve others. He empowers us. See, God's not only giving you equippers to help you do the ministry of the church, that's the pastor and those who serve under him. God is also giving you the equipment to do the ministry that God has called you to do. Let me tell you what that equipment's called. It has a name. It's called spiritual gifts. Okay. Everyone who's a follower of Christ has those gifts. As a matter of fact, Paul said this in Romans 12, "God has given each of us," who's us? People in the church. People who don't know Jesus. "God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well".
You know that. I've got abilities to do certain things well. There are a lot of things I don't do well. God's given you certain things that you do very well. There are certain things that you don't do very well, right? Here's the point. Every Christian is gifted. You're gifted. If you're a child of God, if you're a follower of Jesus Christ, you are gifted. Now, we don't all have the same gifts. But we're all equally gifted in the sense that God has given every one of us in this room and listening right now, God has given every one of us the abilities and the gifts that we need to pull off whatever it is He has called us to do. So whatever it is God created you to do, God's given you the ability to do it.
See, I told you a while ago, God never wastes anything. That's what I love about Him. God is not just effective. God is efficient. And every spiritual gift and every natural ability that you have is a God-given gift to be used in His ministry. It's not just for your enjoyment, it's for His employment. God wants you to use your gifts in His service. Standing up here right now, I have the joy of knowing, "God this is why you made me. This is why you put me here. You didn't put me here to show off. You didn't put me here to make a big name for myself. You put me here to preach Your truth. You put me here to preach Your word. You put me here to encourage the discouraged. You put me here for me to lift up the downtrodden. You put me here to tell people who are without hope there is hope. You put me here to tell people who are lost, you can be found and you can be saved".
That's the sweet spot of life when you find out what God called you to do and then you get out and do it. So I just want to leave you with just two thoughts today and then we're done. Just two thoughts. Number one, this church needs you involved in service. We need you. See, here's what some of you are going to do right now. You're going to say, "Look around. Look at this crowd. They don't need me. That pastor don't even know who I am. He don't even know whether I serve or not". Yeah, we will. We'll know it. Because I've never served a church ever in my life, ever, this has never happened when I said, "Please don't volunteer any more. We just don't need any more people". Never happens. Never happens. We need you involved in service.
Let me tell you. I'm going to prove it to you. I'm going to show you how much we need you. I want you think about a pencil. A what? Just think about a pencil. Just an ordinary lead pencil. All right, you ready for this? You know, we think we're brilliant. We think that because we can send a man to the moon and we think because we got computers now and cell phone, we think we're brilliant. Let me know what you think about this. Did you know, there is not a human being on planet earth, not one, that knows enough how to do what needs to be done to make one lead pencil. Now think about this. In order for a pencil to become a pencil, first thing somebody's got to do is mine the graphite. Anybody here know how to mine graphite? No, don't raise your hand. You'll make a fool of yourself. Nobody here knows how to mine graphite.
Okay. Well, then you can't make a pencil, because you don't know how to mine graphite. But let's just suppose somebody said, "Well, no I know how to mine the graphite. Okay. Do you know how to process the wood"? "Well, no, I don't know how to do that". "Really? Well, so you know to process the wood. Well, then do you know how to produce the rubber that makes the little eraser that goes on that pencil". "Well, no I don't know how to do that". "Well, do you know how to manufacture the paint that goes on the pencil"? "Well, no I don't know how to manufacture the paint". Let's say you said, "Well, smart aleck, I know all those things". "Would you know how to put all together"? "No". And let's just say, "I know how to put it, I can make a pencil". "Okay. So do you know how to market it? Do you know how to distribute it? Do you know how to sell it"? You say, "No, I don't".
Here's my point. If that's true of a pencil, how much more true do you think that is of our church? Nobody, beginning with this guy right here, I don't know enough about everything that needs to be done to make this church what it ought to be. I don't know it. Listen, get on your knees and thank God every day I don't work in the nursery. That's not my gig. Okay. The first time I ever changed James' diaper, I said, "This is not what God has called me to do". Okay. I can't do that. So I'm just simply telling you, we need you to get off the bench, into the game. We need you to get into the front line of service. We really need you to do that.
Now here's the other thought I want you to carry home with you and that's this. You need to ask God if you don't already have it to give you the attitude of a servant. Now let me tell you why I said that. See, some of you probably thought, "Okay, second thing he's going to say is, 'You need to start serving.'" No. Because until you have the attitude of a servant, you're not going to serve. Until you have the attitude of a servant, you are not going to serve. You know why? Because it's against our nature to want to serve others first. We want to be served first, then we'll think about serving others.
As a matter of fact, let me just tell you this. What do you think, you probably already know this, because maybe you're one of them. When the average person is looking for a church, what do you think's the number one question they're asking? When they're looking for a church, what do you think is the number one question they're asking? You know what it is. Here's what they're asking. How can this church meet my needs? How can this church meet my needs? Now when you get to the stage of maturity where you ought to be as a follower of Jesus Christ, you won't ask that question anymore. Here's the question you will ask, "How can I be used in this church to meet the needs of others"?
That's what you'll start asking. If I left this church today, if I were to leave this church, somebody else come pastor this church, and let's just say for a while I said, "You know, maybe it's just good, I just need to be away and let the new pastor come, whatever". And I just start attending another church for a while, the first question I'm going to ask when I walk in there, first question I'm going to ask, do they preach the word. That's the first question I'm going to ask. Second question I'm going to ask is, "How can I be used here"? Can I be used here? Is this the best place for me to put my spiritual gifts and my abilities to work?
Now, I already know what some of you are thinking. You're saying, "Now wait a minute. Wait a minute. Time out, bro. You keep talking about meeting others' needs. Can I ask a question"? Sure. Well, who's going to meet mine? Let me tell you what I've learned. When you start meeting the needs of others, God will bring others into your life to meet your needs. He will. He will. He does it every time. So you know what God's looking for in a church. He's looking for servants. That's what He's looking for. He's looking for servants.
Someone once asked Leonard Bernstein, who used to be the New York Symphony conductor, they asked him this question. They said, "What is the most difficult position in the orchestra to play"? Without hesitation he said, "Second fiddle". They said, "Wait a minute. Second fiddle. You mean, playing second chair violin is tougher than playing the piccolo or tougher than playing the bassoon". He said, "No, it's not tougher, it's just that everybody wants to be first chair violin. Nobody wants to be second chair violin".
So I want to close with this. In God's orchestra, there are no second chairs. Every act of service is a way to be blessed and every act of service is a way to be a blessing. So let me just kind of wrap this up. Listen, I just want to disabuse you of one other notion and then we're going to pray. See, some of you sitting out right there, right now, and you're cynical. And I know what you're saying. And I don't think it's a bad thing for you to do. You're saying, "Boy, you're slick and your sharp now. Boy, you all need servants. You all need people in the preschool. You all need people in children's area. You need people in the Next Gen. You need people here. Man, I tell you what, you're slick. Because this is all for your benefit".
You're wrong. The number one reason why I want you to get in the game is not for my benefit, it's for your benefit. I'm going to prove it to you. I told you a while ago, I can't believe I get paid to do what I do. I just can't believe it. Yeah, I'm not going to lie. I hope that what I do every Sunday blesses you. And I hope every Sunday that what I do helps you. What do you think is done for me all these years I've gotten in my study by myself and gotten into the word of God? Who do you think gets ministered to first? When I'm working on a message on encouragement, who do you think gets encouraged? Me. When I work on a sermon on prayer, who do you think gets blessed by praying? Me. I'm the one that gets blessed by serving. I'm the one that reaps the benefits. I'm the one that gets so honored that I get to do what I do by serving you.
So what I'm asking you to do today, it's not primarily for my benefit, it's primarily for your benefit. You're the one that's going to get the number one blessing, not us. So don't waste your God-given life. Don't waste your God-given gifts. Don't waste your God-given abilities. Get off the bench, get into the game and say today, "okay. I get it. I'm in. I want to find a place where God can use me. I want to serve". Because I give you my word when you do, it'll put a smile on your face. It will put happiness in the lives of others. And it will put joy in your heart.