The early morning fog had not yet lifted as the raindrops fell steadily onto my windshield. Wishing I could have stayed curled up in the comfort of my bed, I resolved myself to the task before me. Of all the things on my to-do list, delivering the load of food bags in my trunk felt like a chore I didn’t particularly want to do.
I began volunteering for a food packing ministry for students several years ago. When a woman witnessed a student eating paper to fill her stomach before she left school for the weekend, she did some digging and discovered the depth of need in our community. From that a ministry formed to provide children with food during the weekends. Each week we order and pick up groceries, then sort and deliver brown bags filled with food to children at each school in our community.
In the beginning, I had such passion. But as the years have passed, the faces of the children have been replaced in my vision with only bags and food. It’s easy to forget why I serve. It simply becomes another responsibility on my to-do list.
I know I’m not alone. I see others around me serving too, dragging themselves out of their comfortable spaces when they’d rather hit snooze.
I see them folding clothes, washing dishes, making beds, and preparing meals.
I see them rocking babies, changing diapers, and playing Legos on the floor.
I see them reaching for their spouse’s hand, greeting him at the door with a hug, and listening to his day.
I see them showing up to work tired, going from meeting to meeting, phone call to phone call, and email to email.
I see them preparing their hearts and notes for the Bible study they lead while making copies, sending texts, sharpening pencils, and brewing coffee for those in attendance.
I see them folding bulletins, visiting shut-ins, and walking door-to-door on Monday night visitation.
Our life’s work differs, but all of us serve in some capacity day after day, week after week, and year after year. And honestly, it can feel monotonous. We work diligently and question if what we are doing has any significance. We go through the motions, check tasks off our lists, and try to get through the day. As a result, we grow weary of serving and end up giving out of obligation or recognition instead of enjoying the privilege to simply serve.
We begin each task with passion and the right intentions, but as life goes on we are tempted to quit when we are met with opposition or don’t see fruit from our labor. It is difficult to keep up with our own responsibilities, let alone serve others. If we’re honest it feels easy to love God, but difficult to consistently love His people.
Jesus speaks to this hardship in John 21. His disciples were returning from an unsuccessful fishing trip when Jesus arrived at the scene and told them to throw their nets out on the other side. Even though they didn’t yet recognize it was Jesus, they did as He asked and caught so many fish they were unable to bring their nets in! When they realized it was Jesus, Simon Peter jumped into the water to get to Him. After they had enjoyed breakfast together, Jesus questioned him.
“‘Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ He said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ He said to him a second time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ He said to him, ‘Tend my sheep.’ He said to him a third time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ and he said to him, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep’” (John 21:15-17).
Jesus asks us the same question: Do you truly love me? And if the answer is yes, then He is giving a clear directive to feed His sheep. If Jesus is our Good Shepherd (John 10:11), and His sheep are His people, then our purpose is to love His people. And by loving people we express our love for God.
This is confirmed by the two most important commandments, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31, NIV). Clearly, loving God and His people is important. But how do we consistently love well with our lives?
EMULATE THE LIFE OF JESUS
The answer comes when we look at the life of Jesus—the ultimate example of God’s love. He taught, fed, healed, forgave, wept, accepted, saved, and performed more miracles than could be recorded. Scripture tells us, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45, NIV). Even on the night He was betrayed, Jesus humbly washed His disciples’ feet, telling them, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you” (John 13:15, NIV). And so this is our directive, to be a living example of Jesus’ love.
In fact, Jesus said our Christlike love shows we are His disciples (John 13:35). His goal was to extend His mission on earth after He was gone. This is now our mission.
VIEW SERVICE AS A MEANS TO GOD’S END
In order to do this, we first must allow God to shift our mindset. When we begin to understand our purpose is to love people, we serve with a different perspective. We no longer see a task; we see a person. We realize everything we do is for the glory of the Lord, and every act of loving service is holy work. This brings us confidence because we know even the mundane, familiar, and ordinary tasks can add up to real, lasting, eternal change.
Looking through this lens, we realize each interaction has the potential to either point someone away from Christ or toward Him. When we view every task and conversation as a divine appointment, we realize our service in itself is not the end; it is a means to God’s end. Our goal in every act of service is to spread the love of Jesus, so more people may know Him and His love.
PRAY FOR GOD’S PASSION AND PERSEVERANCE
I parked my car to unload the bags in the rain that dreary day and noticed my wavering passion. I paused to bring the children’s faces back into focus and to remember why I was serving. The bags of food were not just for filling stomachs, they also served to fill their hearts and remind them there is hope—there is someone who loves and cares for them.
We are human and cannot serve in our own strength. We need God to work through us. When we are weary, He gives us strength to press on; when our desire to serve is unsteady, we can pray for Him to reignite our passion to serve and love others. He aligns our desires to meet His.
It helps knowing Jesus says whatever we do for the least of these we are doing for Him. Even when our serving goes unseen and unappreciated, we can have faith God sees our effort and knows our heart. Jesus knows all too well the ingratitude and rejection of His offerings, but He gave anyway. Those feel-good emotions of recognition for our service won’t always occur, but we aren’t giving for accolades or for what we receive in return. We give because of what God has already given us.
Remembering my ‘why’ changes my mindset, helping me to continue giving, even when my willpower is weak.
LET GO OF INACCURATE EXPECTATIONS
Knowing God sees our efforts helps us remain faithful in our serving, giving us freedom to let go of inaccurate expectations. Somehow, we have developed a notion that serving should look a certain way. We compare our gifts and offerings to the service and talents of others, falsely thinking what they have to give is better. However, Scripture tells us we all have a gift, time, and talent to share. We simply must be willing to offer what we have.
God is more concerned with our availability rather than our ability. Sometimes, our service is just a matter of showing up. One of our greatest offerings can simply be our presence. So often we complicate giving. We worry about giving the perfect gift or quoting the ideal Bible verse, but in actuality, we can give without saying a word. Anyone, anywhere, can choose to be available, but it takes willingness to be used and even be interrupted.
TRUST IN GOD’S POWER AND TIMING
Our contributions may seem insignificant, but we should never underestimate the power of our small, everyday offerings. We tend to believe only large contributions matter, forgetting God’s power to multiply our offerings. Just like when the disciples obediently threw their nets over to the other side, when we serve in obedience to Him, He turns what we perceive as ‘not enough’ into ‘more than enough’. Our service makes an enormous impact whether we see it or not.
This inability to see immediate fruit from our labor can be a challenge. As a society, we have grown impatient, but so much of our giving isn’t measurable or quantifiable. While we want proof that our efforts mattered, the truth is we may never know the positive impact of our love offerings to others. However, we do know if we don’t give, serve, love, and act in accordance to the Gospel, the consequence of our inactivity is even greater. The salvation of people for all eternity is at stake and we have the privilege to play a part. Our contribution matters.
This purposeful life of serving isn’t rules, rituals, or religion. It is a relationship with God and others. We live a lifestyle of love, because our lives have been changed by Him and now we want nothing more than to live for Him. Friend, do you love Jesus? Then let’s go feed His sheep.