Serving God is in your Christian DNA. For this you were created. The question is not whether you will serve or not, the question is who you will serve: God or self.
Malachi 3:13-18: “Your words have been hard against me, says the Lord. But you say, ‘How have we spoken against you?’ You have said, ‘It is vain to serve God. What is the profit of our keeping his charge or of walking as in mourning before the Lord of hosts? And now we call the arrogant blessed. Evildoers not only prosper but they put God to the test and they escape.’”
Then those who feared the Lord spoke with one another. The Lord paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the Lord and esteemed his name. “They shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him. (ESV)
Have you ever had a standoff with a 2-year-old? If you haven’t, let me describe one for you. The other day I was sitting at our dining table working on my computer, and I noticed the kitchen light on. I asked one of my 2-year-olds to turn it off. I even said please.
She looked right at me, looked at the switch that she was standing right next to, and then said “No!” I felt disrespected. Very gently I told her that we are a family, and we help each other as a family. But this little girl stood her ground and said again, “No!”
She had a huge pride issue, and she only gave in when I threatened her that if she did not help me, then Mommy and Daddy would not help when she would ask us to do something. Did I want a confrontation with my little girl over that?
No, but If I want my children to serve God and serve each other sacrificially, I have to teach them the principle of serving, this is part of discipling your children. I most certainly, do not want their pride to hinder them from serving God and serving each other.
If our pride hinders us from serving each other, then it will hinder us from serving God too. We should serve each other sacrificially out of love and not out of fear.
In Malachi’s time, people were not sacrificially serving each other or God, not out of love nor out of fear. In Malachi 3:13-18, God said they would not be spared on the day of judgment no matter what hindered them from serving God.
We were created to serve our Creator, but when creation experienced corruption, serving was tainted by sin. Therefore, our nature rebels against serving. However, in Christ our new nature counters our sinful nature that hinders us from serving God and each other.
From this passage, we will learn three truths: that our sacrificial service to God is hindered when we lack faith in God, when we lack fear of God, and when we lack focus on God.
Lack of Faith
Our sacrificial service to God is hindered when we lack faith in God. In verses 13-15, we see two sets of conversations between two sets of people. Both think they believe in God and serve God but only one is approved by God.
Let’s designate them as Group A and Group B. Group A neither believed in God’s promises, His love, or His justice. In verse 14, they say it is vain to serve God. All of this was just the symptoms of what actually hindered them from serving God sacrificially, and that was their lack of faith in God. Their mindset that they will believe when they see God’s blessing was antithetical to their faith.
2 Corinthians 5:7 says, “Walk by faith and not by sight.” When we walk by sight and not faith, the lack of faith produces a perception of something to be true when it is not. As a result, we become selfish, self-serving, and self-righteous, a pattern we see of Group A here.
Group A became selfish: Verse 13 says, “Your words have been hard against me, says the Lord. [God is speaking] But you say, ‘How have we spoken against you?’” The Hebrew word here for “hard” can be translated as arrogant or harsh. Their conversation showed how arrogant they were and even when God confronted them, it did not humble them. They were not concerned about how it made God feel, rather that they were willing to maintain their innocence no matter what. Some of us do that too. When the word of God confronts us rather than humbling ourselves, we argue back.
Group A became self-serving: Verse 14 says, “You have said, ‘It is vain to serve God. What is the profit of our keeping his charge or of walking as in mourning before the Lord of hosts?” The problem with Group A was not that they were not serving. In Malachi 1:10, we saw the problem was God was not pleased with their service and now they are not pleased with God because He is not pleased with their service and called their sacrifices worthless and their offerings useless. So here they are calling serving God worthless and useless. Why? Because they were serving for profit but when there was none, they found no reason to confess, repent, and try to please God.
The phrase here “walking as in mourning before the Lord” refers to mourning over sin, which is an Old Testament expression for confession and repentance. Repentance is the evidence that your confession is true. The Greek term for repentance, metanoia, actually means a change of mind that results in how people see themselves and the world. It is necessary for salvation and teaches us a new way of loving God and others. Group A exhibited none of that but rather exhibited a selfish and self-serving attitude toward God and others. They were in it only to gain what they thought they deserved.
Many in our time also want a magic genie God who grants our wishes or a robot God who does what we want Him to do. A self-serving attitude says to God and others “either my way or the highway.” It does not see what God wants and what people need.
Group A became self-righteousness: God heard the selfish, self-serving Group A saying in verse 15, “And now we call the arrogant blessed. Evildoers not only prosper but they put God to the test, and they escape.’” God called them arrogant, and they said well, the arrogant are the ones you bless, so since we are not blessed we cannot be arrogant. This is so twisted. Self-righteous people are often skilled in deflecting the admonition, correction, and conviction from the Lord by using good plausible arguments even from the Bible.
A few summers back I took a group for a missions trip to Dearborn, Michigan. The host ministry had built a good relationship with the Muslim community there, so they asked us to not be aggressive in evangelization. One brother was not happy with that. In his opinion, we should have been aggressive because we had one shot to evangelize them. The leadership team shared with him that this could have jeopardized the relationship of the partners’ ministry that was seeing fruit. This brother lacked faith in the Spirit of God and the fact that God does not need confrontation to save people.
How does this apply to us? When we lack faith in God, we become selfish, self-serving, and self-righteous, and often we are clueless about it. By the way, this brother left our church because to him it was useless if we didn’t serve on his terms.
Lack of Fear
The second truth about hindrances in serving God is that our sacrificial service to God is hindered when we lack fear of God. Verse 16 says, “Then those who feared the Lord spoke with one another. The Lord paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the Lord and esteemed his name.”
Since Group A has been comparing and contrasting themselves with others, now God contrasted them with their fellow Israelites whom God considered righteous because they feared God. Fear of the Lord is the major theme of this book and the lack of fear of God hindered Group A from serving. Fear means honoring and respecting God. While Group A corrupted the minds and hearts of people, God’s remnant Group B was bringing revival in the community. God took notice of that and wrote their names in the Book of Remembrance that He will open on the day of judgment.
God’s memory is good; He does not need a book of remembrance. But here it was meant to show people that just as the kings of Persia, their earthly masters, kept records of those who had rendered service to the king to reward them, God will reward people according to the records of their service to the King of Kings. We see that in Esther 6:1–3. 2 Corinthians 5:10 gives the implication of this book for Christians, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.”
I was talking to a young man who desired to serve and share Christ in his workplace, but the hindrance was the law. Another man I was talking to said, if only he did not have to work, he would serve. As a way of application, let me encourage you, do not fear man, fear God and do your work as if you do it for the Lord.
If you cannot serve at Church and church-related outreaches, do not let that hinder you from serving God and others. You can serve wherever you are in your community and at work. When you do an excellent job at your work and do not cut corners and exhibit exemplary character, you are serving God.
People would want to know why. When you are good at what you do people are inspired. When you are a person of integrity and not bitter or gossipy or divisive at work people know who they should go to when they need to express their struggles and seek council.
Lack of Focus
The third and final truth about hindrances in serving is that our sacrificial service to God is hindered when we lack focus on God. Verses 17-18 say, “They shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.”
Notice how it comes down to our focus on God. If they served God, they would have been considered God’s treasured possessions and would have been spared, but they didn’t. God will execute just judgment on the day of the Lord. The reason I think why Group B was not loud is because they knew, in the end, God is sovereign. They had complete faith in Him, they feared Him, and therefore their complete focus was on Him.
As you may know Sarah, my wife, has been going to the fire academy for her work as a volunteer firefighter. As a result, Mondays before our small group meets life at the Javeds’ house is pretty hectic. A couple of weeks ago we needed help, so I asked the boys to help us by picking up the toys in the living room. One of them did all the work and as he was about to finish, I gave him a dollar and thanked him. The other saw that and said that he did not know that he was going to get a dollar. I told him he did not know either. You see when our focus is on us and what we may get out of serving, we often miss how God wants to bless us when we serve sacrificially.
The application for us is to put our focus on God. Only when we have a focus on Him and not the world do we truly serve God and each other sacrificially.
Serving God sacrificially means we do it to please God and not for what we may get in return. It also means we are willing to pay the price. That being said, you do not need to lose your job over your desire to serve God and share Christ with others. Your work may forbid you from evangelizing, but that can’t stop you from building relationships, so invite them for dinner and share your story.
Around Christmas, I was invited by some men in our neighborhood to hang out at TopGolf. They ordered beer, and I ordered coffee. I noticed other people who had come directly from their work, and now they were drinking beer. I thought to myself, no workplace will allow drinking while working, but they cannot forbid people from socializing after work. Similarly, no workplace can stop you from making friends and developing relationships and hanging out after work. When you do life together with your colleagues, you share your life, including what God has done in your life. This is serving God; you share Christ and make disciples.
Being Christian is to follow Christ, and if Christ came to serve and not to be served then we must do the same. If you are not serving you may want to prayerfully reevaluate your Christian walk with the Lord because our sacrificial service to God is hindered when we lack faith in God, when we lack fear of God, and when we lack focus on God. What do you lack?
Group A did not have faith in God that He could provide and protect them, so rather than fearing God they feared the lack of provision and protection. That became their focus, not God who could actually provide and protect. In Matthew 10:28, Jesus said, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” So have faith in God, fear Him alone, and focus on Him then nothing will hinder you from serving God.
Friends, serving God is in your Christian DNA. For this you were created. The question is not whether you will serve or not, the question is who you will serve: God or self. I implore you to serve God sacrificially by sharing the gospel and making disciples. Don’t worry about saving people because we serve, but God saves.