Serving to complete our joy in grace

Serving to complete our joy in grace
Queenstown Chinese Methodist Church's combined choir

Have you encountered “charity muggers”, the people paid to conduct face-to-face solicitation on behalf of the charities who hire them? Some genuinely believe in the cause that they’re paid to promote, while others approach it with the same level of enthusiasm as a rebellious teenager forced to do something against his will. The former invest their hearts into what they believe will make a genuine difference; the latter work out of obligation to fulfil contractual terms.

This is analogous to Christians and Christian charity. Some view the outward activities of the church—outreach, social concerns, and evangelism in particular—as terms in the “Christian contract” they hope no one will call on when the time comes. This is certainly not the way to live as a Christian. But God can work to melt hardened hearts and mould them into reservoirs of love. What was once burdensome could eventually turn into a burden for the less fortunate and the lost.

I was reminded of this spiritual phenomenon as I listened to Andrew and Susanna Pan’s “Seek, Love, Serve the Lord”, which won first prize in the MCS130 songwriting competition. Why should the Christian live in service to others? How is the heart for Christian service sustained?

Verse 1 unequivocally answers these questions: the Christian is called to follow in the footsteps of our Lord Jesus, the ultimate example of service and obedience to God. Bearing the cross to redeem an undeserving mankind is the greatest act of service. Any Christian who has attempted to understand the depth of God’s love will see that all acts of service are a response to that love. Indeed, “we serve not to show we deserve, but to make our calling election sure”.

But surely all human charity has its limits. Can we truly serve with such conviction all the time? The chorus helps articulate how this is possible: It is God who prepares all the good we need fulfil, it is God who works in us to choose to do his will. Thus is the beauty of our redemption story in Christ: God has ordained all our acts of service under his sovereignty, and he will provide the means of grace to fulfil them. As Paul writes in Galatians 2:20 (NIV), “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

If this sounds like Christian service turns people into mindless automatons, consider the personal prayer in Verse 2 and the exhortation in the Bridge: “Close to [h]im we have to stay to feel [h]is heart and share [h]is way”. We need to continually and consciously pray for the love and joy of the Lord to fill us. God created us with the ability to make personal choices. If we give ourselves to Christian service, if we truly desire to walk in Jesus’ footsteps, God promises that he will make a way. If we don’t, God will not force his hand on our lives. We could live a life without service, but it will be a life lived without experiencing the miracles that could be encountered through serving those Jesus clearly loved: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40)

Indeed, as the song succinctly puts it, may “we serve [because] we love the one who first loved us”, and, “we serve to complete our joy in grace”.

Seek, Love, Serve The Lord

© Andrew & Susanna Pan (2015)

Verse 1:
We look to the finished work of Christ our King
He walked in obedience to the end
For the joy before Him, He dared the cross
And showed us the life we need to tend.

No more can we add to His redeeming work
We serve not to show that we deserve
But to make our calling election sure
The joy of our inner faith preserve!

Seek the Lord! He prepares all the good we need fulfil.
Love the Lord! He who works in us to choose and do His will
Serve the Lord till He says to us: “Well done, good faithful one!”
Praise the Lord! For He sanctifies when in Him we serve as One!

Verse 2:
We pray for the love and joy of God to fill
Our lives till it overflows to serve
Mend broken lives and wounded faiths
In hope standing in the gap for love.

We serve ’cause we love the one who first loved us,
We serve to complete our joy in grace,
By His Spirit’s strength we serve to give
The honour and glory He deserves!

Close to Him we have to stay
To feel His heart and share His way!

Justin Chan is a Programme Executive at Methodist School of Music, Worship & Church Music Department. As a reformed rock musician, he believes hymns and heavy metal can co-exist for the glory of God. / Photo courtesy of Queenstown Chinese Methodist Church