“Willing Service: More Than Enough”
Exodus 36:6-7, “And Moses gave commandment, and they caused it to be proclaimed throughout the camp, saying, Let neither man nor woman make any more work for the offering of the sanctuary. So the people were restrained from bringing. For the stuff they had was sufficient for all the work to make it, and too much.”
This morning, self-centeredness abounds. One of the universal failings of mankind is that we put self before all else, even though we can mightily convince ourselves that we have not. One of the things that a self-first mindset genders is an unwillingness to do anything that is not an absolute requirement. Even then, the performance is out of obligation rather than devotion. One of the hardest things for any devoted disciple of the cross to live up to is a willing heart of service that does the right thing guided by the right motivation. Since there are so many promised and realized blessings to be had in obedience, it is easy to slip into looking at the rewards of service rather than the true motivation of service, which is sole affection and devotion to the Almighty. As a minister, there can be times when our preaching meets with encouragement that can be used wrongfully. Whenever we are commended for our service, that can become an idol in our minds and hearts that clouds our service to God. Whenever we are looking at the results and rewards of the service as our end, we have lost our way in willing and faithful service to God. As I have heard it said throughout my days in the church, “Our purpose here should be to see how much we can put into it rather than how much we will get out of it.” God is faithful to bless us, but we devote our sight to how much we can do in it.
Much of the time during the journeys of the children of Israel in the Old Testament under Moses and later Joshua we point out all the ways in which Israel failed God. Time and time again, they murmured and complained even though God had been so good to them, and His presence dwelled with them perpetually. Much like the Apostle Peter these folks can become the handy “punching bag” for an illustration of what not to do. However, like Peter, there were times when they “got it right,” and this is one such time when they are to be commended for their service. Our study verses show a worthy example that is applicable to followers of Christ in our day, thousands of years removed from these people.
During this period, the children of Israel have come out of Egypt with a mighty hand. They have not yet received the Promised Land of blessing that God said Abraham’s seed would inherit. Moses has just received the law and the pattern of worship that the Lord has ordained should be followed. After returning with God’s law and pattern of worship, the congregation sets out to fashion everything as God had commanded. They had to construct the tabernacle, the furniture for the building, and all the alters and other constructs that would be needed. To do this, they had to give materials for the service, their time for the construction, and ultimately set their hearts to follow the order as God had established.
In our study verses, we see where this often stiff-necked and hard-hearted people actually performed admirably in their giving. They gave so much so willingly that Moses had to proclaim an end of giving for that season. The things given were sufficient and over and above. What a blessing for a people to give time, service, and supplies so that there was not room for everything! In a world where we constantly hear about deficits and other losses, they had a windfall of surplus for the Lord’s service here. People were that engaged and willing to go about doing the Lord’s work. One of the reasons that this success occurred is that they knew God Himself had ordained it. They saw His manifestation on the mount in fire, and they knew this God who had showed them so much said, “You will worship me this way.” Another reason they had this success is that though commanded to do so, they wanted to do it.
Willing service gets to one of the hallmark differences between God’s service and discipleship and every other form of group service. Oftentimes, religious activity is marked by either willing service or commanded service, but not both. When someone is commanded to do something, they may do it out of fear, duty, bribery, or some other form, but they perform it because it is required. When someone does something that is not commanded just because they want to, they really have liberty to do what they want, since there is no commandment for it. God’s service is the only one that joins the two together. He commands obedience, but He attaches willingness to it. (Isaiah 1:19-20) To simply do as commanded is not sufficient, but to want to do what is commanded yields sufficient for the work and more than enough.
Have you ever observed people do things in life that they enjoyed and things they had to do? Do they look the same while performing them? I remember Dad taking us to Disneyland when we were younger, and looking back, he might have preferred a root canal than to be at an amusement park for 2 whole days. It just was not his thing, but he knew that we enjoyed it and did it. However, he learned quickly that with wait times for rides, he could get a lot of Bible reading in. So, he started carrying a pocket Bible and reading it while we waited on roller coasters. The look on his face when we walked into the park or stepped on a ride was not nearly like the look on his face while standing there reading. He supremely enjoyed the reading, while he did the other to please his children.
God is not pleased when we help one another grudgingly. He is not pleased when we come to church with some sense of duty without the willing heart of love. He is pleased when we want to do what He has commanded. He is pleased when we help one another not to get something out of Him or others but just because we want to help our brethren in need. Oftentimes, I will hear people say, “I just don’t get anything out of that anymore.” Maybe the “that” is reading their Bible. Maybe it is going to church. Maybe it is their preacher. Whatever the object, a little investigation oftentimes yields the conclusion that long before their mouth declared their dissatisfaction with a thing, they lost the willing desire to engage. Maybe they kept at the activity for a season, but their heart was not in it.
Recently, I talked with a brother who had quit attending church, and when I asked him if there was something I could help him with, he said, “I had to quit cause I wasn’t being fed.” When I asked a few simple questions like “How were your prayers for the service?” “How about singing in service?” and things of that nature, he said, “Well I don’t really sing in church, and the preacher just seemed to be dry and saying the same things.” I encouraged him to go back and prepare his heart for the Lord’s service and fully engage while there. (I Chronicles 22:19) If we come to God’s service with the attitude to do as much as we can, there will be more than enough. Even if the task seems impossible, consider that God commands us to do the possible, and while performing it, He accomplishes the impossible. When He gave His disciples commands while feeding the multitude, He told them to do things they could. They made the men sit down in the grass, and then they distributed what He gave to the people. But, the impossible happened, because Christ was involved! Does the task seem insurmountable? Does everything seem to be going wrong in life? Do what He has commanded, and the impossible will be performed!
In recent years, I have heard far too much depressing talk from God’s people and sadly, too much doom and gloom from some of His ministers. Friends, take courage! God is still here, and when we willingly follow Him, we will have more than enough to do what we have been commanded by Him. The success of our performance in His service does not hinge on Him giving us all that we need or the ability to do it. Everything God commands us, He has already blessed us with the ability to perform, and all the supplies necessary have already been given by Him to use. The success of our engagement depends on how willing we are in our obedience and service. When these people gave gold and other things for the work, where did that come from? When they gave themselves and their time, where did that come from? Whether material supplies or our very lives, all that we are and all that we have belongs to Him. He has blessed us with it; therefore, He has supplied all that is necessary to serve Him acceptably in in Godly fear.
During this time of the calendar year, we normally focus on the coming year and make “resolutions” that oftentimes dissolve within the first month of a fresh year. Whether the resolution is losing weight, reading through the Bible, etc. we fall down on our commitment. The things dissolve when we lose the resolve to perform them. Spiritual drifting and waning comes when we lose our willingness in the performance of it. Then, we seem to be lacking and wonder, “What happened?” If there is any lack of supply or time, friends the fault lies with us. He has given us so much, we have sufficient for His service and more than enough. May we band together as these people did and be so willing and faithful that there is not time or room for it all. What grand days of service can be ours to enjoy when we say, “He said do it this way, so let’s get busy and do it.”