Serving God is not optional. People come up with all manner of excuses: too old, too young, too busy, too tired, too sick—and the list goes on. Yet every reason is rendered void by the facts of Scripture, which says that believers are “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Eph. 2:10).
Someday we will stand before God, and He will require an accounting of how we used the talents and spiritual gifts we were given. What can we say to Him that will justify ignoring the opportunities He gave us to use those gifts? No excuse will hold up. Complete surrender to God’s will is the key to pleasing Him.
The Lord gives us talents and abilities for a purpose, and He will equip us for greater service to His kingdom. When we serve Him wholeheartedly, we can look forward to hearing, “Well done, good and faithful servant! Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matt. 25:21).
Personal ambition and servant-hood aren’t always compatible. In fact, they are often at odds with each other. A servant’s goal is to please his or her master in whatever way is required, but personal ambition strives for self-advancement. Jesus’ words from today’s passage must have sounded foreign to the disciples’ ears since, according to the thinking of their culture, greatness was acquired by striving for it, not by serving.
Like them, we live in a world where many people are seeking to make a name for themselves. They set goals, make plans, and do whatever is necessary to achieve what they’ve set out to do. But as Christians, we’re to live by a different standard: exalt Christ, obey His commands, and serve Him faithfully by doing His will, not our own.
We’re not called to gain fame and fortune by leaving our footprints in concrete for all to admire. Our task is to humbly follow in Jesus’ footsteps. Whether our lives have a large or small impact is up to God, not us. The greatest acts of service are not usually flashy displays; more often they’re commonplace gestures like being kind to strangers, ministering to fellow believers, and praying for others.
Jesus humbled Himself, surrendered His rights, and obeyed God even to the point of death on the cross (Phil. 2:5-8). Being His servant begins with the same attitude. It requires helping others when it’s not convenient, doing tasks that are not glamorous, and obeying the Lord even if it’s costly. We aren’t on earth to build our own kingdom but to faithfully serve God as He builds His.
And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God.— James 2:23
Let’s say that being called a believer in God, or a follower of God, or a servant of God is not enough for you. Let’s say that you want to be called, like Abraham, a “friend of God.” What would it take to acquire that appellation? How could you become a friend of God? According to James, Abraham was known as the friend of God for two basic reasons. He not only believed in God and the promises God made to him, but he also acted in accordance with his faith. He had works that flowed from his faith (James 2:22).
Abraham believed God when God told him that he would have an heir from his own body and that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the heavens (Genesis 15:4-6). At that point in time Abraham’s prospects for having a child seemed dim. Nevertheless, he believed God’s promise. “He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform” (Romans 4:20-21). And as our verse for today makes clear, Abraham’s faith in God made him righteous before God. Abraham was justified by faith.
The reason why Abraham was justified by faith, however, was because his faith was more than mere lip-service to God. It was a living faith. It was the kind of faith that leads to works. This was revealed when God tested his faith later on by asking him to sacrifice his son on an altar (Genesis 22:1-19). Abraham raised the knife to slay his son, but God stayed his hand, and Abraham’s faith in God’s promise of an heir and many descendants was completed. He became known as the friend of God (see II Chronicles 20:7 and Isaiah 41:8).
Jesus said this with respect to friendship with him, “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you” (John 15:14). We can see, then, that friendship with Jesus, as well as with God, comes about when we believe in them and follow their commands. After all, what kind of friend to God and to Jesus would we be if we never did what they said?