Paul wrote to his young protégé, Timothy, “Train yourself to be godly” (1 Tim. 4:7, NIV). We have discussed several examples of this training in previous posts. Today, we are picking our gloves and dusting the equipment off in order to resume our training.
As an athlete, we work hard to grow in our likeness to Christ. One of the ways in which we can train ourselves for godliness is to serve. Donald Whitney writes this about serving,
“The ministry of serving may be as public as preaching or teaching, but more often it will be as sequestered as nursery duty. It may be as visible as singing a solo, but usually, it will be as unnoticed as operating the sound equipment to amplify the solo. Serving may be as appreciated as a good testimony in a worship service, but typically it’s as thankless as washing dishes after a church social. Most service, even that which seems the most glamorous, is like an iceberg. Only the eye of God ever sees the larger, hidden part of it.”
I do not know about you, but when I read that paragraph, I could immediately recognize the deep truth of what Whitney is saying. In fact, I would argue that most service in the church is the kind that most do not observe and for which most will receive little earthly recognition. But this is precisely why it requires discipline.
We enjoy being in the spotlight. We love being recognized for our hard work, our contribution, our giving, or our talents. Too often we mimic the Pharisees more than we do our Savior. It is of these types of people that Jesus speaks, “Be careful not to display your righteousness merely to be seen by people. Otherwise, you have no reward with your Father in heaven….When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray while standing in synagogues and on street corners so that people can see them. Truly I say to you, they have their reward!” (Matthew 6:1, 5, NET) Jesus warned us against such showy service. Instead, we should follow His example. Consider the Son of God, the Creator of everything, Who donned a towel and washed His disciples’ feet (John 13:1-17). Jesus tells His disciples, “For I have given you an example—you should do just as I have done for you” (John 13:15, NET). This is the example, or the pattern, that we should serve in humility as He has done.
“Train yourself to be godly,” wrote Paul to Timothy (1 Tim. 4:7, NIV). The question is, How do we train through service? Whitney provides two points worthy of our consideration. First, he writes “EVERY CHRISTIAN IS EXPECTED TO SERVE.” Whitney then offers several “motivations” for which the Christian should be encouraged to serve. The truth is, Scripture commands believers to serve. It is not always glamorous, and in many cases is less. However, this does not excuse the Christian from giving his or her time in service to God. This discipline mimics our Lord and Savior.
The second aspect of service involves spiritual gifts. In passages such as Romans 12:4-8, 1 Corinthians 12:27-31 and chapter 14, as well as 1 Peter 4:11, we read about the various equipping of Christians by the Holy Spirit for His service. Our gifts are to be used in the life and health of the Church. Paul writes to the church of Ephesus, “As each one does its part, the body builds itself up in love” (Eph. 4:16, NET). Did you catch that? Builds itself up in love, but that only occurs when “each one does its part.” The question is, Are you training yourself for godliness through service?
Far too often Christians attend church for what they can get out of it. This ought not to be so, my brothers and sisters! We should attend church to be feed by the nourishment of the Word, no doubt. But we should attend church equally to serve our brothers and sisters in Christ.
I end this post with the challenging words of Whitney, “The Lord Jesus was always the servant, the servant of all, the servant of servants, the Servant…If we are to be like Christ, we must discipline ourselves to serve as Jesus served.”
 Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1991), 116.  Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines, 117, emphasis original.  Ibid., 118-123.  Ibid., 129.