When my oldest son, Tommy, was born it was obviously life changing. I think for most of us, the birth of a first child does that. There are so many new experiences, new emotions, new feelings that suddenly take you by storm. So much so, that quite honestly you yourself feel new.
For me, in that season, one of the coolest new experiences was bedtime. It was that end of the day, quiet moment when you had the opportunity to take inventory of your life and to look into the face of the newest gift that life had brought. Looking at that child in the stillness of that moment reminded me how much I loved my wife, Elise, how blessed I was with the family that I had grown up in and the legacy that I could pass on to my son. It caused me to reevaluate my life and who I was and how I could become a better man that my son would be proud to call dad. And after all that, when he had finally closed his eyes and slipped into sleep, to gently lay his little body in the crib was a satisfying experience. It was a special moment. But in that season, for me it didn’t end there. Every night when he was finally asleep and before I would go to bed I would lean into his crib, kiss him on the cheek and say, “Your Daddy loves you. Love God and serve His people.” For the first two years of my son’s life this is what he would hear every night as he would dream.
I know that is probably an unusual ritual but as I think back I know exactly why I did it. The day Tommy was born, and the doctor handed him to me so I could see my son for the first time, I was overcome with one image and one thought: “This boy is a blank slate and what you and Elise do and say will do more to define who he will become than anyone or anything else in his life.” From that moment to this I am deeply aware of my responsibility to all my children to help them become everything that God intends and desires them to be. To help them to be good men. To help them be Godly men. To that end I am convinced nothing will be as effective as if they learn to love God well and serve His people faithfully.
The first instruction, to love God, for Christians is probably self evident. We know the greatest commandment, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul,” but for some the second is less a conviction. The call to serve the church, God’s people, is a decision that is quite often dictated by schedule, by easy opportunity and personal feelings. This is unfortunate because it is my belief, born of experience, that there is very little that will serve to stoke your love for God and expand your faith the way serving His church will.
This is the reason we at Mercy Hill emphasize the importance of finding a place of ministry. When you engage in ministry it goes a long way towards developing in you spiritual principles that cannot be discovered in any other way.
Engaging in ministry develops community amongst the members of the church like no other activity can. You meet people in ways you otherwise never would. Each of you working toward very real tangible goals, and as such, sharing new experiences, facing new challenges and seeing new victories together. Not simply for personal benefit but for the cause of Christ. This community happens whether you are working in the kids areas, greeting or leading outreach ministries. Sharing a common desire for a Kingdom purpose and practically working that out together fosters a community that can not be replaced.
Engaging in ministry builds personal faith in a way that cannot be duplicated by living a Christian life that shuns ministry opportunities. When you see God use you to encourage someone who has come to church and has felt alone, you learn in your own life to more deeply value the community you have. When you see God use you to teach a young child a deep truth about the beauty of Christ and see his face light up with that knowledge your appreciation for God’s word grows exponentially. When you, in prayer, carry the burden of a brother or sister in Christ and see God’s miraculous answer come, your faith in God-possibilities soars!
Engaging in ministry reminds you daily that God is STILL working in your life. That he has a purpose for you that goes beyond your own life and he is not finished with you. The trials and tribulations of this life can be overwhelming but engaging in ministry puts it in perspective. I have seen the grace of God restore marriages, I have seen His love bind up hearts - hearts so broken that they would self-mutilate. I have seen Christ’s power break addictions and I have seen Him miraculously heal bodies. When you step into the ring of ministry and see the hand of God at work it makes it all worth it.
The greatest lessons of my Christian life I have learned through the lives of others as I engaged them in my call to ministry. If you desire to grow deeper in your faith, if you find yourself struggling to have faith, to be encouraged, to mature in Christ, then my advice is this: Love God and serve His people.