FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL
ON SERVANT LEADERSHIP
SERVING THE LORD
August 13, 2011
Today’s reading: Joshua 24:14-29
Joshua, the successor of Moses, had led God’s people into the promised land and subdued it. Now he was on the verge of death, and he gave the people his final exhortation.
It is striking that in today’s passage, the phrase “serve the Lord” is said seven times. Joshua’s whole discourse is basically about serving the Lord. He starts by averring, “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” (Jos 24:15b). When the people said that they too would serve the Lord, Joshua challenged them, saying it was hard and they might not be able to do so (Jos 24:19). The people insisted that they would serve the Lord.
Joshua had already made clear what God expected of His people. And as the leader, he had shown the way by strongly stating his own posture of serving the Lord. Now he wanted to impress the point on the people. Now he wanted to be sure that the people were truly decided on what they had to do. So in response to Joshua’s inputs, the people said they would serve the Lord three times (Jos 24:18,21,24). We are reminded of Jesus asking Peter three times whether he loved him.
We too are a servant people. We are called to serve the Lord. Why should we serve the Lord?
First, because of what He has already done for us. The Israelites acknowledged the mighty works of God in their midst, from their deliverance from Egypt, through their sojourn in the desert, to their settling in the promised land (Jos 24:17-18). God has served us, beyond what we deserve, and we should serve Him if only out of gratitude.
Second, for our ongoing well-being. In life we will serve someone or something. We may just serve ourselves, or we may serve different causes, or we may serve strange gods, or we may serve God. Since no one can serve two masters, and God “is a jealous God” (Jos 24:19c), when we choose to serve someone or something other than God, we will certainly get into trouble. God is a jealous God because He cares for us and has the best plan for us. He does not want us to go astray. If we choose to serve others instead of God, we will experience evil and destruction (Jos 24:20).
Third, serving God brings us into a deeper relationship with Him. Serving God is a very important tool to growing in the Spirit. Since we are God’s people, since we are called to holiness because our God “is a holy God” (Jos 24:19b), we need to turn our hearts to Him. Serving Him and focusing on Him allows us to “put away the strange gods that are among you and turn your hearts to the Lord” (Jos 24:23).
How are we called to serve God?
First, we are to serve in the fear of the Lord (Jos 24:14a). We are to be in awe of Him. We are to realize who He is, the awesome Almighty, and who we are, the creatures who owe Him worship. He is the Master and we are His slaves. We acknowledge Him as Lord. Knowing what our proper relationship is will naturally lead us to right service.
Second, we serve God completely (Jos 24:14b). We do not give less than our all. We are not lukewarm, perhaps serving out of obligation but without passion and joy. God is everything to us, and we express this by serving Him with our whole strength.
Third, we serve God sincerely (Jos 24:14c). We are not functional, doing “just a service.” Our service ought to be an expression of what we know we are called to be, and how important we know service to God is. God has made Himself dependent upon His people to bring His salvation to the ends of the earth. We sincerely desire to accomplish God’s will.
Fourth, we cast out other gods (Jos 24:14d). We have no other priorities than God’s work. We have no other agenda than His will. We have no attachments but Him. We give ourselves totally to His plan for our lives. We deny ourselves and embrace His cross.
The Israelites responded positively to Joshua. “Far be it from us to forsake the Lord for the service of other gods.” (Jos 24:16). When Joshua said that by their words they were their own witnesses that they had chosen to serve the Lord (Jos 24:22a), they strongly affirmed it. “We are, indeed!” (Jos 24:22b).
Unfortunately, we know that eventually the Israelites served other gods and turned away from the God of their covenant. The large memorial stone Joshua set up as witness would eventually fulfill its purpose. “It shall be a witness against you, should you wish to deny your God.” (Jos 24:27b).
How about us? God brought us out of our slavery to sin and Satan, God did great things for us, God intends to use us to be His servant through whom He will show His glory (Is 49:3).
We have willingly entered into a covenant with God. We have promised to serve God by living as His follower, by dedicating ourselves to the task of building a strong family for Christ, by committing to be an active member of our community, and by being a witness to the world of God’s love (check out your covenant card). Then we close our covenant commitment by invoking the Lord Jesus and our blessed Mother Mary to help us faithfully live out our covenant. That is serious stuff!
Are we faithfully living out our covenant? Or is our covenant card going to be the memorial stone that will witness against us?
I pray that we will always be able to say: “We will serve the Lord, our God, and obey his voice.” (Jos 24:24).
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