Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 4:11
Whoever speaks, let him speak, as it were, the utterances of God.
The context here is speaking in service to one another, specifically preaching and teaching, however, I believe offering encouragement, exhortation, and godly counsel would also fall under this instruction. That makes this a big deal. Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, instructs us that if we speak in service to one another, we are to speak the utterances of God. For most of us, we should probably be speaking a whole lot less, or are you comfortable speaking, as it were, the utterances of God?
In order to be confident we are speaking the utterances of God, we must quote the Bible. If you want to add something of value in a time of need or crisis or when some life decision must be made, you need to be speaking from the word of God. Personal opinions are not reliable in those cases. So often, opinions are based on how we happen to be feeling that day. Think about how much your opinions on various matters have changed over the last few months or years. Do you really want to place your trust in personal opinions of others? Do you want to guide your loved ones by your opinion? Point to the word of God! He doesn’t change. His counsel will stand. He has our best interests at heart.
So, when you speak, speak, as it were, the utterances of God by quoting the Bible. That sounds simple, right? Let me add a little layer of difficulty for you. Quote it in context.
The Bible instructs us to handle accurately the word of truth… 2 Timothy 2:15. You should have a certain amount of fear any time you quote the Bible. Not a debilitating fear, but a fear that motivates you to study to the best of your ability, trusting always that the Holy Spirit will help you understand, before you speak.
The Bible is a big book. You can find support for all kinds of wacky stuff in here, if you take passages out of context. Imagine that your buddy comes to you for marriage advice and you say, “Why don’t we take a look at 1 Timothy? You know, that was Paul’s letter to his young protégé.” So you’re flipping through and he’s getting impatient so you plant your finger on verse 18 of chapter 5 “For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing.’ Your friend’s looking confused but you want to make this work so you ask, “Does your wife talk a lot, like, while she’s threshing and stuff? Because, you can’t be muzzling that.”
The results may on occasion be humorous, but I fear that what often results is very serious. How has 1 Corinthians 6:12 (All things are lawful for me) been mishandled? How many have gained false assurances of salvation by “confessing with [their] mouth Jesus as Lord” without ever truly believing in their hearts? As if to suggest there exists in a loophole in Scripture by which men and women can obtain “fire insurance” without regeneration. That’s a big problem. When we use scripture out of context, we leave out important elements. In fact, we often miss the entire point!
So, in order to speak the utterances of God, we should be quoting the Bible, and we need to study so that we can quote it in context. We may not always be able to offer a precise quote with chapter and verse, but as we become saturated in the Word, we will gain more and more confidence that the Holy Spirit will guide us by the truth we are learning.
Whoever serves, let him do so as by the strength which God supplies;
What does it mean to serve by the strength which God supplies? First, it means I am not to serve by my own strength. Why? Because my own strength is quite insufficient. It only takes two verses to confirm that truth for me.
Philippians 2:3 commands me: do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.
That means when I serve, whether as an usher or a greeter or janitor or a pastor, I am to have no thought of myself or what I get out of it (apart from Christ), and I am to continuously position myself below you. I’m not to seek thanks or praise or any acknowledgement. I’m to seek out the most thankless job and strive to do that.
My strength is insufficient for that.
Psalm 100:2 instructs me to Serve the Lord with gladness; [and to] Come before Him with joyful singing. God takes this very seriously. In Deuteronomy 28:47-48, we find out what happened to the Israelites when they failed to do this:
Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joy and a glad heart, for the abundance of all things; therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the Lord will send against you, in hunger, in thirst, in nakedness, and in the lack of all things; and He will put an iron yoke on your neck until He has destroyed you.
God doesn’t want my begrudging service. He’s not impressed when you resolve within yourself that you’re just going to push through because the church needs you. God demands joyful service, 100% of the time.
My strength is insufficient for that.
As we read through all the commands given in the Bible, we can get the feeling that we are quite insufficient for all of it. It almost seems like someone set it up like that, hmm? Someone, being God, did exactly that. He gives us a set of guidelines to live and serve by that are impossible for us to do on our own. Why? Because He knew we’d try to do it on our own – without Him. He intended that we would rely on Him, completely, and He promised to provide all the strength that we need. He is the all-sufficient One. We often need to be reminded of that, and He lovingly obliges.
We have not completed our quest to understand how to serve by the strength which God supplies, but before moving on we will now consider the last part of this verse.
so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
God takes His glory very seriously. If that’s a new concept for you, I recommend Desiring God by John Piper, available at http://www.desiringGod.org. God is to be glorified in all that we do, 1 Corinthians 10:31. Your salvation is unto the praise of the glory of His grace, Ephesians 1:6, 12, 14.
So what is God’s glory? It’s not easy to define. Kind of like the word beauty. We all know what it means, but it’s hard to describe. I’ll try anyway – God’s glory is the display of His infinite value and worth. It encompasses the weight of who He is – His holiness and goodness and power and love. The heaven’s declare the glory of God – His infinite expansiveness. Creation declares the glory of God – His wisdom and creativity. Your life declares His glory – if you’ve been transformed from a hell-bound sinner into a heaven-bound saint (an heir of God) – you display His mercy and grace and love.
That’s God’s glory. We cannot add to God’s glory, but we can cause others to see it. That is what it means to give God the glory or, more precisely, to glorify God (remember, in all things God is to be glorified). To glorify God means to make known His infinite value and worth and goodness and mercy and grace and love.
Here’s a key point. If you love God, you will seek to glorify Him. We naturally glorify what we love. If you love your Harley Davidson, you’re going to want everyone you know why your Harley is so awesome. If you love your sports team, you’re going to recount all their championships so that the fans of any other team will know that your team is really the best. Parents? “Just take a look at this picture of my daughter. Isn’t she beautiful?” “Isn’t my boy just so cute?” I’ve got pictures of my kids on my coffee cup! Why? Well, it’s fun for me to see them, but when I hold it up for you to see, I’m saying, “My girls are amazing. They’re so beautiful. Here, just take a look.” What am I doing? I’m glorifying them. Notice, I’m not, I hope, trying to make them seem better than they are. I just want you to know how great they really are. I do that because I love them.
And get this – this is huge – I enjoy glorifying my girls. You enjoy glorifying your Harley or your hockey team or your kids. It’s fun, it’s pleasurable. So, if glorifying two little girls can bring me immense joy, what kind of joy do you think glorifying the infinitely good, amazing, loving God of the Universe will bring? It will bring me infinite joy! That truth can change your life.
When you love God, when you truly love Him, you will want to glorify Him and you will enjoy it. “When I was reading last night, something from scripture just really hit me. Let me share it with you, it was so amazing.” “I was out on the water this morning and it was so beautiful. I took this picture. God is so amazing!” Here’s what’s absolutely unique about God. We can never make Him look better than He is. Whatever we do to glorify Him, it will never be an exaggeration.
Now, we need to consider a few points regarding man’s devilish desire for his own “glory.” I called it devilish so I obviously think it’s bad. In one sense, it is very bad. In another, it’s very sad.
If we serve one another and attempt to take the credit for any good results of that service, we’re actually attempting to steal what belongs to God. We read in 1 Peter 4:11 that to God “belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever,” and because God takes His glory so seriously, to attempt to steal that glory for ourselves is a bad, bad thing.
The pursuit of our own glory can also be a sad, sad thing. All self-glory (all adoration or praise or success or fame or respect or prestige or power or popularity or facebook friends, twitter followers and instagram likes) is temporary. Everyone dies and it’s over. Some people make statements like “Pain is temporary, glory is forever,” and then they do something stupid, but that glory, your own glory, is not forever. Do you really think that in the presence of God Almighty you are going to be recounting your accomplishments? You want to be that guy around the dinner table up in heaven saying something like “Well, those 500 billion galaxies are impressive, but I managed to amass a small fortune myself – 4500 square feet, 6-series, lifted truck, and everywhere I went, people called me sir.” If you open your mouth in heaven to say anything about yourself, it will only be to say “it was all by Your grace, Lord. It was all by Your grace.”
Or, do you think those in hell are deriving any joy based on their accomplishments during this lifetime. You can be certain they are cursing every single thing that distracted them from the truth and from God’s glory.
You might say, “What about Alexander the Great, or Napoleon, or Jimi Hendrix, or James Dean, or Kurt Cobain, or Heath Ledger, or Paul Walker or whoever else? We’re still talking about those guys, right? So, their glory is living on, right?” As historical or popular figures, they might come up in conversations or be written about in textbooks or biographies, but what do they care now?” Their bones in the graves or their ashes in the sea receive no joy from our mention of their names.
When Jesus was tempted by Satan as recorded in Matthew 4, Satan showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and their glory (verse 8). And Jesus turned it down! Of course He did! Among other things, Jesus knew that all the glory of all the kingdoms of the world would soon be dust. Nothing! It can never compare to God’s glory! You will get tempted to seek your own glory or the glory of the world – turn it down. Tell Satan to get out of here with that weak sauce! Tell him you’re not interested in that dust. It’s nothing. To expend all your time and energy on pursuing something that will be nothing is sad. Only what’s done in Jesus name will remain!
Only what’s done in Jesus name, by His strength, will remain. Now, I get to give you some pretty exciting news. If instead of pursuing your own temporary glory, you seek to glorify God, you will get to share in His glory for all of eternity. I’m serious!
We’re going to look at three verses, so that we can all be clear on this point.
Just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory. 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12 (emphasis added)
But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14 (emphasis added)
For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory. 2 Timothy 2:10 (emphasis added)
I hope you are sufficiently convinced to seek God’s glory, to desire to serve in a way that glorifies Him, to look forward to sharing in the joy of His glory forever.
So, we’re finally at that point where I need to give you some answer as to how exactly we should go about serving by the strength which God. It’s not a simple concept. How do you serve by someone else’s strength? I hope you gathered some implications along the way, but I will now give you two final thoughts.
First, know that God has already supplied the strength. If you are saved, if you have been regenerated, you have the Holy Spirit living within you, and He is the source of power.
Second, understand that serving by the strength which God supplies may be one of the hardest easiest things we can do. It’s easy, because all you really need to do is ask. It’s hard, because all you really need to do is ask. We want formulas or the secret recipe or five easy steps. We still want to believe that there’s something we can do – God helps those who help themselves, right? No, He doesn’t. God helps those who give their lives to Him and who trust Him and who ask for help. How do you serve by the strength which He supplies? Ask Him to help you. Ask Him to enable you to serve by the strength which He supplies. Jesus continually instructed His disciples to ask.
Ask, and it will be given to you…. Matthew 7:7a
For everyone who asks receives…. Matthew 7:8a
What man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him! Matthew 7:9-11
Did you notice the exclamation point? Just ask Him! It’s as simple as “Jesus, I want to serve others by Your strength in a way that glorifies You. I need your help to do that. Please help.” That’s it. And during the day, it’s “Please keep helping me, Jesus. Please keep on helping me. Thank you.”
Now, as you are asking Him, start doing something. You don’t just sit around doing nothing as you ask – start somewhere and work hard at whatever you do.
Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:10 – But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me. (emphasis added)
In Colossians 1:29, he wrote – For this purpose (the gospel) also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me. (emphasis added)
Are you starting to see that this is a bit of a mystery? God is often a bit mysterious. His ways are beyond our understanding. So, we go back to what we know, what is clear. The Bible teaches us to serve by the strength which God supplies. So, we acknowledge our need for Him, we ask for help, we start serving and we keep asking and keep glorifying Him. We work hard, trusting that God is enabling us to work hard. We do our best, trusting that God is causing us to do our best.
If you start to get frustrated and you fail to see any results, take a step back. Seek God’s guidance anew – you may be relying on your own strength. If you start to see results, be careful. Be sure to keep giving God all the glory. Keep acknowledging your need for Him. Keep focusing on the reward in heaven – enjoying God’s glory forever. Have fun with this.
Remember, God doesn’t need you. He is choosing to do great things through you. That’s awesome.