Do We Serve The Lord in Vain?

Bible Book: Genesis  15
Subject: Service For The Lord; Purpose In Life; Trust; Faith

Do We Serve The Lord In Vain?

Dr. J. Mike MInnix, Editor, www.pastorlife.com
Introduction

The Psalmist stated in Psalm 73 that at one time he had reached a point in life to question whether it was worth it to serve the Lord, or least he pointed out that many were doubting the worthiness of doing so. I expect every person, regardless of his or her place in this world, goes through a time of doubting whether the work and effort being given has real and lasting value. This process is troubling and somewhat dangerous for a Christian.

Take a look at Malachi 3:14 and you can see the same sentiment the Psalmist had experienced, and you can look at the history of God's people following the Book of Malachi to see the repercussions that follow a doubting response to the value of serving God. Malachi 3:14 reads: "You have said, 'It is futile to serve God. What did we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the LORD Almighty?'" The consequence of that attitude in the days of Malachi led to 400 years of silence from heaven. No prophet was heard in Israel over a period of four centuries - think of how long that was. America is just a little over 200 years old, yet we have an amazing history. Imagine that the nation of Israel had no prophet from God for 400 years. Why did this happen? It happened because they refused to serve God with the assurance that He is in control. They wondered if their efforts, sacrifice and labor were in vain, while God desired that they trust Him, regardless of how things appeared to be going wrong in the world around them.

Let's use Abraham as an example of a man who was willing to serve the Lord through faith and we see how he was blessed in the process. Abraham is called the father of the faith, but he wasn't perfect. He made his own mistakes and at times allowed doubts to overwhelm his decisions, but he always overcame those periods with renewed faith in God's will, purpose and power. We don't need to romanticize biblical figures like Abraham. They were people, sinners, flesh and blood persons, just like us. All of us will have to battle fear, doubt, loneliness, and even selfishness in our journey of faith; however, it is the outcome of these experiences that matters most. Do we end up seeking forgiveness for failures, replacing fear with peace, and overcoming doubt with burning faith in the goodness and purpose of God in our lives? Abraham did, and that made the difference.

I want us to take a moment tonight to realize that it pays to serve Lord and that our labor for the Lord is never in vain. Looking at life through an unspiritual lens can cause a child of God to consider the unholy idea that serving God is a waste of time. Turn with me to Genesis 15 and look at Abraham's experience. Note from verse 1 in Genesis 15 that Abraham was truly blessed. Let’s look at three important issues of the blessings through serving the Lord.

I. The Element of the Blessings

Those who serve the Lord are blessed, but just how are they blessed? You cannot judge the blessings of the Lord by a worldly standard, because doing so will create doubts and fears in your heart and mind. Note with me some of the blessings guaranteed to those who give time, energy and possessions in the service of God

A. The Peace of the Lord

Eighty-six times God has told us in His Word not to be afraid. That is one of the blessings given to those who work for the Lord. Life is filled with fears of all kinds, but a child and servant of the Lord has the promise that he will never be alone. This brings peace to us even in the most difficult circumstances.

The early disciples experienced this peace, seen clearly in the aftermath of their being arrested for preaching God’s Word and sharing the gospel witness for Christ. Their boldness led to a prayer meeting recounted in Acts 4:31, in which we observe that the place where they met was shaken. That prayer meeting is followed by even greater boldness on the part of the early church to speak and spread God's Word.

Yes, one of the blessings the servants of God receive is wonderful, glorious, personal peace from the Lord. In Philippians 4, Paul called it a peace that goes beyond understanding and he even stated it in a more personal way when he reminded us that faith and faithfulness grants us the presence of the God of peace.

The song writer penned these words:

"Roll on, ye changing seasons,
Or turbulent seas of sin;
I’ve found a blessed shelter,
And glorious peace within." (Daniel Otis Teasley)

Yes, we can have a peace within as we trust the Lord to grant it no matter the situations we face. It pays to serve the Lord!

B. The Protection of the Lord

God told Abraham, "I am your shield."

The protection of the Lord is something Christians are familiar with in real life circumstances. Every true child of God can say that he or she has felt and experienced God’s protection in various situations. Sometimes Christians are called upon to give the ultimate sacrifice in the service of the Lord, as many Christians have done in the lands where ISIS sought to set up a Caliphate. Even then, God grants peace and ultimately uses the faith of brave believers to expand the kingdom to others.

In his Apologeticus, chapter 50, Tertullian wrote, "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church."  Indeed, the Church is built on the blood of One man - Jesus Christ! All the blood shed by those who died for their faith since then has just raised the Church higher and higher upon that great foundation laid by our Lord.

In the end we know that death cannot separate us from the presence of the Lord (Romans 8:28ff). If I live, Christ is with me and if I die, I am with Christ. The child of God cannot lose.

Whether in death or life, I have the promise of God's peace. Jesus said, "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." (John 14:27)

Third note the blessing of ...

C. The Person of the Lord

God told Abraham, "I am your reward."

Abraham's reward was in the person of God and not just in the things that God gave him. Our reward is not in things but rather it is a person – The Lord Himself! One day I will see Him; I will be there when we cast crowns before Him. I will be there to sing, “Worthy Is The Lamb,” around the throne as described in Revelation 5. Dear Christian, do not be discouraged. It is never vain to serve Jesus.

We used to sing a song in our churches years ago. The song read, “We’ll understand it better by and by.” Indeed, we will.

But know let's consider ...

II. The Requirements of the Blessing

The blessings granted are not simply because we are saved, but rather are known in their fullness when we express abiding faith in our Lord. Sure, there are wonderful benefits that are ours from the moment we place believing faith in the Savior, but to enjoy to the maximum the blessings of God, the believer must act in faith, devotion and service.

We see this in Abraham's experience. Look how ...

A. Abraham Took a Stand for the Lord

Back in Genesis 14, we see that Abraham went up against five kings from Sodom and the surrounding area. He was not afraid to serve the Lord and did not hesitate to place everything on the line for Him. He did not serve the Lord in vain.

Faith requires that we stand up for our Lord, even when doing so may place us in the path of resistance or danger. A Christian must not be a person looking for a fight, but on the other hand we must not cower in the face of a godless world.

Paul was never arrogant when facing challengers to the gospel, but he was never frightened. Whether it was Agrippa or a sinking ship, he always stood stalwart in faith and shared Jesus with those around him

Note also that ....

B. Abraham Had a Sympathy in the Lord

Abraham heard that Lot was taken as a prisoner of war, so he went down to rescue him. Now Lot had been living in a sinful city and it would have been natural for Abraham to say, "Let him remain a captive, after all he brought this on himself by living in such a place."

But Abraham had a compassion, a measure of mercy and an attitude of sympathy like unto that of the Lord. If we expect God to bless us, we need to reveal a mercy and sympathy for others like that which Christ has shown to us. Why did Abraham act as he did toward Lot? Perhaps Abraham remembered that he had gone to Egypt himself and that he had lied and gotten into trouble because of it. It may be that Abraham remembered that the Lord had shown mercy toward him that occasion, and for that reason Abraham was willing to show sympathy for another. The Bible says that we must forgive others as we have been forgiven. In showing such grace, Abraham was placing himself in the path of God's blessings. If we desire to know God's fullest blessings, we must serve Him with love, compassion and mercy.

Also, we see that ...

C. Abraham Revealed that he was a Stewardship toward the Lord

Faith is not real if it is not willing to invest in the place where the faith claims to be placed. If I have faith in God, then I must invest in God and His work. Abraham gave tithes to the Lord and refused to take the things the world offered to give him. Abraham had vowed a vow to the Lord and he would not go back on his sacred promise.

It is interesting to note that Abraham gave tithes to the Lord even before the Law had been delivered to Moses. Abraham was not giving because he saw it as a duty, rather he was acting in an attitude of sacrificial service. It you wish to know God's greatest blessings, you must commit to being a blessing and not just seeking to receive a blessing. It is not a matter of giving to get, but rather it is a matter of giving because you have already received. God does not ask us to give what we don't have, but only to give of that which we have received. A tenth of nothing is nothing, but a tenth of all that I have received is a tithe to the Lord - it belongs to Him.

Those who recognize that every good gift comes down from the Father in heaven (James 1:17), ought to give to God that which reveals faith and love (John 3:27).

Abraham turned down the King of Sodom but he met the King of Salem. The King of Salem was the symbolic King of Glory, even Jesus! He turned down Sodom's gold but he got to walk with the Sovereign God.

Remember, we are looking tonight at the value of serving God. Is it vain to serve Him? Never! It is never in vain to serve the Lord. Whether here in this life, or in the life to come, God will take care of His own .... but, He does call upon us to serve Him and stand for Him in this world. We will never experience the fullness of His blessings if we do not give Him the fullness of our lives.

Now, note one last thing with me...

III. The Encouragement in the Blessing

When we enjoy God's blessings, we are encouraged. Many believers are discouraged today because they treat the Lord like a tooth fairy. They expect God to be their errand boy! That is not who He is and He will not countenance being treated that way.

To understand this, let's see ...

A. The Problem

Abraham asked God in Genesis 15 how he could be truly and fully blessed when he had no heir. Abraham knew that he was not to be the progenitor of a great nation unless he had a son. Abraham had a problem that was over his head and too difficult for him to solve. He knew that the Lord had promised that he, Abraham, would become a great nation, but how could that possibly happen when Abraham had no heir? It was a real problem and seemed impossible to solve from a human perspective.

God had given ...

B. The Promise

God promised him an heir. Look at Genesis 15 and note that God gave Abraham a promise - a covenant - and He did so in a strange but meaningful way. Abraham brought animals as God directed and they were cut into two pieces. When Abraham fell asleep and God walked between them it had to be an eerie moment. Yet, in this way God spoke a promise to Abraham that contained the fact that Abraham would produce an heir and that he would indeed become a great nation. That process - that of the slain, divided animals - may seem strange to us, but it was covenant act between parties in those days. He was assuring Abraham of the promise by saying He (God) was prepared to give His own blood to fulfill the promise he had made to Abraham.

Now, note the ...

C. Provision

God kept His word with Abraham and gave him the son, Isaac. He ensured the covenant beforehand with blood. Now, let’s understand this in New Testament sense. Christ, God in the flesh, gave His blood at Calvary as a blood covenant to ensure the promise of forgiveness and eternal life to all who turn to Him in faith. It is a divine-blood covenant.

Abraham surely did not understand the New Testament significance of this covenant, but the Lord knew exactly what He was doing. His covenant with Abraham eclipsed all that Abraham could ever grasp. You see, the blessings we have in Christ are far beyond our wildest expectation. We can't see them all now, for eye has not seen or hear heard all that God has prepared for those who are in Christ! Just as Abraham did not understand all that God was doing, and all that would ensue from the covenant, you and I cannot possibly understand what God is doing through our lives. We must have faith in His promises and keep on keeping on till He calls us home. Being faithful in this way makes it possible for us to know His peace and power in our daily lives - yes, even in the daily problems and stresses we must face.

The point is this - our service to the Lord is never in vain.

Conclusion

Now, let's conclude with a few last thoughts. You will sometimes be prone to question the issues that arise in your life and wonder how any good can come from some of the circumstances you face. But, know this, God knows what He is doing and He will not allow your life and service for Him to be lived in vain. Every Christian can live with the assurance that God has given you a blood covenant – written in His own blood - promised in His own Son. God will not fail you! Let us not fail Him!

Let us always remember the passage from 1 Corinthians 15:48, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”