1 Peter 4:1-11
Throughout history, water management has been an important issue. 1000s of years ago, people learned how to divert water from huge rivers, by digging canals, and then from these canals they would dig ditches into their fields, so their crops could receive the water they needed. The wonders of irrigation! The Romans perfected the aqueduct so they could supply their cities with the precious commodity of water. We take these things for granted today, because we just turn on the tap, or the hose, and living in rainy Scotland, having water is not usually a problem.
Just as water is so necessary for growing plants and for life, spiritually speaking Christians need regular supplies of the grace of God. What is the grace of God? Grace is God’s favour, through Christ, to people who deserve his disfavour. It is the help of God, the strength of God, which we all need day by day.
God’s grace flows into our lives in different ways. Last week, we look at the channel of prayer. We were encouraged to come in prayer before God’s throne of grace, to find grace and mercy in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16). Another obvious channel of grace is the Word of God; meditating upon it is like being a fruitful, well-watered tree near a river (Psalm 1:2-3).
But today, I want us to notice another way which God’s grace flows into our lives, and one which we perhaps don’t think about as much as we should; we ourselves, if we are Christians, ought to be channels of grace in our church, bringing grace into the lives of others. How does this happen? It happens as you use the spiritual gifts which God has given you, and you use them to serve other people.
‘Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.’ (1 Peter 4:10)
In the words of Wayne Grudem, when we use our spiritual gifts, God’s grace is dispensed to those for whom God intended it, and so great blessing will come to our church through the proper use of our spiritual gifts. This is quite a wonderful picture of what a healthy church should look like. It’s not 1 or 2 people doing all the work. It’s not the deacons and elders working away while others are spectators. No! It actually means every single person doing something which will irrigate, water, and bless others in the church, according to their opportunities. We must do what we can.
1. Every Christian is gifted to serve.
We need to underline this point. Because some people might use the excuse that they’ve nothing to contribute to church life. ‘I’ve not got any gifts.‘ And then sit back and watch others doing things. But the Bible doesn’t allow us to do that. Our text today – 1 Peter 4:10 – assumes that we all have a role to play. Who should be serving in our church? ‘Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others…’ (verse 10)
‘There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them.’ (1 Corinthians 12:4)
‘All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.’ (1 Corinthians 12:11)
In 1 Peter 4:10, we are all called stewards of God’s grace. What is a steward? He is someone who has been entrusted with resources by his master, and he must use those resources for his master. God has entrusted you with a spiritual gift(s), and he wants you to be active in serving others, so you will bring his grace into their lives, for his glory. Wow!
Challenge: If you haven’t thought about your own spiritual gift(s) then let me ask you to read through the Bible passages which list them: Romans 12:4-8; 1 Corinthians 12:6-11; 1 Corinthians 14, and really think hard about how you can be a channel of blessing to others in KFC. And if you are unsure what your gifts are, then get serving in different areas, and that will help you to find out!
2. What happens when we use our gifts by serving others?
We ourselves will carry God’s help and strength to others. For example, someone is struggling financially, and you use the gift of ‘giving’, and they are blessed by you. Or someone is isolated and lonely, and you decide to pop round once a week for a cup of tea, and you’ve no idea how transformative that action might be in their lives. Knowing that someone cares. Yes, we live busy lives and it’s easier said than done, but are we going to be servants or not? It’s costly. Just ask Jesus!
‘For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’ (Mark 10:45)
Something else happens when we use our gifts to serve others: God is magnified.
‘… so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.’ (verse 11)
So, as you serve others in need, the Giver of the gifts (God himself) is honoured more.
As Christians sacrificially use their gifts, investing them in the lives of others, it becomes obvious in the church that God’s power is at work – there’s a supernatural love and commitment amongst the people. God is at work in us and through us, and he gets all the credit.
3. Some questions to ponder about Christian service.
When we come to church, are we coming as consumers, as if we were going to a restaurant, or are we coming in a servant-hearted way, eager to help others? Do you see yourself as a servant? If our master was a servant-King then we ought to be servant-hearted too!
Are we serving God in our own strength? Being a servant of God involves hard graft; we need to depend on God in prayer.
‘If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides…’ (1 Peter 4:11)
‘To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.’ (Colossians 1:29)
If you just work away at voluntary work in the church in your own strength, it will be wearying. Or, there will be the danger that you’ll become proud: ‘Look at what I am doing.’ Yes, we need to work hard, all of us, but only as we depend on God’s help.
What’s the best motivation in order for us to become better servants of one another? Surely, it is to keep the cross before us, remembering how much Jesus has done for us. Now that I have washed your feet, says Jesus, go and wash one another’s feet. It is as we better understand and experience God’s love, that we are set free to be slaves of God, and servants of one another.