Just like the other values of the Army, selfless service has so much impact, especially to Christians. The Army’s full definition of selfless service is a great way of defining it for a soldier, but the following is how I would define it for a Christian: “Put the welfare of the mission, the Church and others before your own. Selfless service is larger than just one person. In serving God, you are doing your duty loyally without thought of recognition or gain. The basic building block of selfless service is the commitment to go a little further, endure a little longer, and look a little closer to see how one can improve as a soldier of God.”
As usual, there are certain aspects of this definition that stand out to me. Each of my points will take a portion of that definition and I will attempt to dive in more detail about it with biblical facts to back it up. I hope you find this topic as interesting as I do and I hope you take it to heart.
“Put the welfare of the Mission, the Church, and others before your own…”
First, lets make a clarification: service and selfless service are completely different. Putting the Mission, the Church, and others before your own self is a big ordeal. In high school, I was in JROTC and it was an Air Force unit. One of the Air Force core values I learned through that organization was service before self. This is exactly what I mean by selfless service. Secondly, lets define welfare. It is “the good fortune, health, happiness, prosperity, etc., of a person, group, or organization,” or “well-being.” Now that we made those distinctions, we can move on to the subtopics and what it means to be a selfless server of God.
- The Mission
A mission is an important assignment. My MOS ( AKA job in the Army) has a major role in missions. As infantrymen, our mission statement is to close with, engage, and destroy the enemy. Within Basic Training, we had a week long FTX (Field Training Exercise that essentially tested all the skills we learned in training) and we constantly had ‘missions’ that we went on. Honestly, it was mostly fun. However, these ‘missions’ were important assignments that we needed to complete. Sometimes it was clearing a path or destroying a bunker. Whatever it was, it was something we were ordered to do.
As Christians, we have just as important, if not more, missions that God calls us to do. I mentioned when I talked about the value duty (click here to read) that we have certain obligations that Christ calls us to do. One can be found in Matthew 28:18-20 (ESV) as it reads, “And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the ages.’”
God calls Christians to do something. He commands to go make, baptize, and teach disciples.Psalm 91:15 (ESV) puts it like this, “When He calls to me, I will answer Him; I will be with Him in trouble; I will rescue Him and honor Him.” Whatever your own personal Mission is that God calls you to do, we must accept it without any selfishness.
2. The Church
As I mentioned earlier, my church emphasizes the importance of serving the Lord, which I love so much. When we were a portable church, I would volunteer setting up and tearing down. When we found a permanent building, I switched to the parking team. For our youth group (and occasionally Sunday mornings), I would work on media. Eventually I started playing in the worship band (youth group every week; once in a while Sunday mornings). I thoroughly enjoy serving at my church. A friend calls it having a servant’s heart (though for some that ‘compliment’ is really a signal to start stacking chairs, as Tim Hawkins makes light of in this video).
I’ve been with my current church for several years now, and prior to it I wasn’t very involved in serving. I say this because all I know is my church, and its options. I strongly believe that there are plenty of positions to serve in, as I can testify to many acts of service (not including examples I didn’t mention). Paul puts this in an excellent way in 1 Corinthians 12:27-28 (ESV) he says, “Now, you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” We are all apart of the Church, and everyone has their own job in the church.
Where are you called to in serving through the church? Some of you already know the answer. Some of you don’t. I urge you to try to find a way to serve your church. It may not be a permanent position; I started in one place and moved around a lot, and I am still moving around a lot. Wherever God places you in the Church, I urge you to serve with the best of your abilities and to do so selflessly.
Not only should you place the welfare of the mission and Church above your own self, but you should place others before your own self. The past two blogs, I mentioned loving ourselves a LOT. Now, in order to display selfless service, we need to put the welfare of others before our own selves. We need to place their good fortune, health, happiness, and prosperity before our lives. Being a Christian who strives to live a Christ-centered life is not an easy thing.
Paul writes in Galatians 6:10 (ESV), “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Paul instructs us to do good to everyone whether it be the people of the world, our enemies, or our brothers and sisters. To be selfless servants, we must put the welfare of the mission, Church, and others before our own.
“… In serving God, you are doing your duty loyally without thought of recognition or gain…”
I promised that my writings on the values loyal and duty were not coincidental, neither accidental, as these two values are actually are one with Army values. The definition of selfless service is the same as the Army’s, only with a Christian perspective. Selfless service is serving God without the thought of recognition or gain, thereby proving that the duty you carry out is done loyally.
The best passage of Scripture that helps explain this is found in Matthew 6:1-8, 16-18 (ESV) when it says, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you…when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret…when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret…when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
This accurately demonstrates how we are to approach selfless service. We shouldn’t try to practice acts of righteousness so that we can be praised. We should do them because God calls us to do them. Don’t boast about giving tithes and offerings, but do so in quit because it’s what God tells us to do. Don’t pray loudly to act like you’re more spiritual than others, but pray according to what would be pleasing to God. In everything, be a servant of God, and do so selflessly, being loyal to the duty that God has set before you.
“… The basic building block of selfless service is the commitment to go a little further, endure a little longer, and look a little closer to see how one can improve as a soldier of God.”
As I said in my post on loyalty (click here to read), being a Christian is a lifelong commitment. That same commitment, that helps us to endure and improve as soldiers of God, is the basic fundamental building block of selfless service.
1. To go a little further.
How far are we willing to go as Christians? Are we willing to go until it gets uncomfortable or hard? Or are we willing to go all the way? Jesus tells us a parable in Matthew 13:3-9 (ESV), “He told them many things in parables, saying: ‘A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds that fell produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.'”
Later on, Jesus explains this parable. The seeds that fell on the path were the people that didn’t understand the words of the Kingdom, and the enemy took them away. The seeds that fell on rocky grounds were people who heard the word and received it, but didn’t root their faith on any ground. For a time they endure, but eventually fails and dies. The seeds that fell into thorns are those who were suffocated by the riches and deceits of the world, and eventually dying. The only seeds that endured were the ones planted in good soil, that bore fruit in abundance. We should strive to be like the seeds fallen on good soil.
Being a Christian is hard. There was a scribe who told Jesus that he would follow Him, wherever He would go, and this only resulted with Jesus responding in Matthew 8:20 (ESV), “‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.'” Another man, who seemed to desire to follow Jesus, first asked if he would be permitted to first go bury his father. Once again Jesus responds in Matthew 8:22 (ESV), “‘Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.'” Ask yourself: how far will I willingly go?
2. Endure a little longer.
Its not a secret that Christians have to go through tribulation and pain. This can be found in Matthew 10:16-18, 21-22 (ESV), “‘Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged out before governors and kings for My sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles...brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for My name’s sake.'”
Instead of complaining or dreading about these tribulations, we should rejoice. Paul says in Romans 5:3-5 (ESV), “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Though tribulation and suffering will occur, we should rejoice. It is through these trials that we learn to endure. By enduring through those times, our character and experience grows in the hope that God has saved us.
3. Look closer to see how he or she can improve as a soldier of God
There is a phrase I have often heard during my time as a student leader in marching band and in JROTC: there is always room for improvement and you should always seek it. As Christians, we should always take a closer look as to how we can be a better. Are we consistently reading our Bibles? Do we pray? Do we give regularly? Do we surround ourselves with other Christians who truly seek to have a relationship with Christ? How do we serve selflessly? We examine ourselves knowing that Christ has paid the price of course, but it is by looking at Him that we should expect to change.
As usual, I want you to truly seek change for the better. There is one last verse from the Bible that I think wraps up this topic. In Colossians 3:24 it reads, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” May we all place the welfare of the mission, the Church, and all others before our own. May we all loyally do our duty, serving without a single thought of recognition or gain. May we all commit to go further, endure hardships, and strive to improve as Christians. May we all go forth from this day with the values of loyalty, duty, respect, and selfless service on our hearts.