Serve God With a Willing Spirit
“I WILL most gladly spend and be completely spent for your souls,” wrote the apostle Paul. (2 Corinthians 12:15) What do these words tell you about the outlook and attitude that Jehovah’s servants should try to cultivate? According to one Bible scholar, when Paul wrote those words to Christians in Corinth, he was saying: “I am willing to spend my strength, and time, and life, and all that I have for your welfare, as a father cheerfully does for his children.” Paul was prepared to “be completely spent,” or to “be exhausted and worn out,” if that was what it would take to fulfill his Christian ministry.
Moreover, Paul did all of this “most gladly.” He was “perfectly willing” to do so, says The Jerusalem Bible. What about you? Are you willing to spend your time, energy, talents, and resources serving Jehovah God and the interests of others, even if doing so means being “exhausted and worn out” at times? And would you do this “most gladly”?
They Refuse to Serve at All
Most individuals do not just hesitate to serve God but flatly refuse to do so. Their spirit is one of ingratitude, selfish independence, even rebellion. Satan enticed Adam and Eve into such a way of thinking. He wrongly said that they would “be like God, knowing good and bad”—able to decide for themselves what is right and what is wrong. (Genesis 3:1-5) Those who have the same spirit today think that they should have complete freedom to do exactly what they desire without any obligation to God or interference from him. (Psalm 81:11, 12) They want to use all that they possess in the pursuit of their own personal interests.—Proverbs 18:1.
You probably do not share this extreme view. Likely you genuinely appreciate the gift of life you now enjoy and the even more wonderful prospect of living forever on a paradise earth. (Psalm 37:10, 11; Revelation 21:1-4) You may be deeply grateful to Jehovah for his goodness to you. But all of us need to be alert to the danger that Satan can distort our thinking in such a way that our service may actually become unacceptable to God. (2 Corinthians 11:3) How might this happen?
Willing Service Required
Jehovah wants willing, wholehearted service. He never forces us to do his will. It is Satan who will stop at nothing to pressure or entice people into doing his will. In connection with serving God, the Bible does speak of obligation, commandments, requirements, and so forth. (Ecclesiastes 12:13; Luke 1:6) Yet, our prime motive for serving God is that we love him.—Exodus 35:21; Deuteronomy 11:1.
Regardless of how much Paul spent himself in God’s service, he knew that this would mean nothing at all ‘if he did not have love.’ (1 Corinthians 13:1-3) When Bible writers refer to Christians as slaves of God, they are not referring to abject servitude based on coercion. (Romans 12:11; Colossians 3:24) What is meant is willing subjection based on deep, heartfelt love for God and his Son, Jesus Christ.—Matthew 22:37; 2 Corinthians 5:14; 1 John 4:10, 11.
Our service to God must also reflect a deep love for people. “We became gentle in the midst of you, as when a nursing mother cherishes her own children,” wrote Paul to the congregation in Thessalonica. (1 Thessalonians 2:7) In many lands today, mothers have a legal obligation to care for their children. But surely most mothers do not do this just to obey the law, do they? No. They do it because they cherish their children. Why, a nursing mother gladly makes huge sacrifices for her children! Because Paul had similar “tender affection” for those he ministered to, he was “well pleased” (“willing,” King James Version; “delighted,” New International Version) to use his very life in helping them. (1 Thessalonians 2:8) Love motivates us to copy Paul’s example.—Matthew 22:39.
What About Reluctant Service?
Of course, we must not let love of self outweigh love of God and people. Otherwise, there is a real danger that we may render only halfhearted, reluctant service. We could even begin to develop some resentment, feeling upset that we cannot live our life purely according to our own desires. This happened to some Israelites who lost their love for God but still rendered some service to him out of a sense of duty. What was the result? Serving God became “a weariness” to them.—Malachi 1:13.
Any offerings made to God should always be “sound,” without defect, the “best” available. (Leviticus 22:17-20; Exodus 23:19) Instead of giving Jehovah the best of their animals, however, people in Malachi’s day began to offer those they really did not want themselves. What was Jehovah’s reaction? He told the priests: “When you present a blind animal for sacrificing [you say]: ‘It is nothing bad.’ And when you present a lame animal or a sick one: ‘It is nothing bad.’ Bring it near, please, to your governor. Will he find pleasure in you, or will he receive you kindly? . . . And you have brought something torn away, and the lame one, and the sick one; yes, you have brought it as a gift. Can I take pleasure in it at your hand?”—Malachi 1:8, 13.
How might this happen to any of us? Our sacrifices might become “a weariness” to us if we lack a truly willing heart and spirit. (Exodus 35:5, 21, 22; Leviticus 1:3; Psalm 54:6; Hebrews 13:15, 16) For example, does Jehovah get the leftovers of our time?
Can anyone seriously think that it would have been acceptable to God if a well-meaning family member or a zealous Levite somehow forced an unwilling Israelite to select his best animal for sacrifice when he really did not want to offer it? (Isaiah 29:13; Matthew 15:7, 8) Jehovah rejected such sacrifices and eventually the people who offered them.—Hosea 4:6; Matthew 21:43.
Delight to Do God’s Will
To offer God service that he will accept, we must follow the example of Jesus Christ. “I seek, not my own will,” he said, “but the will of him that sent me.” (John 5:30) Jesus found great happiness in willingly serving God. Jesus fulfilled David’s prophetic words: “To do your will, O my God, I have delighted.”—Psalm 40:8.
Although Jesus delighted to do Jehovah’s will, this was not always easy. Consider what happened just before his arrest, trial, and execution. While in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus was “deeply grieved” and got “into an agony.” So intense was the emotional pressure that, as he prayed, “his sweat became as drops of blood falling to the ground.”—Matthew 26:38; Luke 22:44.
Why did Jesus experience such agony? Certainly not because of self-interest or any reluctance to do God’s will. He was prepared to die, even reacting strongly to Peter’s words: “Be kind to yourself, Lord; you will not have this destiny at all.” (Matthew 16:21-23) What concerned Jesus was how his death as a despised criminal would affect Jehovah and His holy name. Jesus was aware that his Father would be greatly pained to see his beloved Son treated in such a barbaric fashion.
Jesus also understood that he was approaching a pivotal time in the outworking of Jehovah’s purpose. Faithful adherence to God’s laws would demonstrate beyond doubt that Adam could have made the same choice. Jesus’ faithfulness would expose as entirely false Satan’s assertion that humans under test would not willingly and faithfully serve God. By means of Jesus, Jehovah would ultimately crush Satan and remove the effects of his rebellion.—Genesis 3:15.
What an enormous responsibility rested on Jesus’ shoulders! His Father’s name, universal peace, and the salvation of the human family all depended on Jesus’ faithfulness. Realizing this, he prayed: “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass away from me. Yet, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39) Even under the severest stress, Jesus never faltered in his willingness to submit to his Father’s will.
‘The Spirit Is Eager, but the Flesh Is Weak’
Inasmuch as Jesus suffered intense emotional stress as he served Jehovah, we can expect Satan to exert pressure on us as God’s servants. (John 15:20; 1 Peter 5:8) Moreover, we are imperfect. So even if we willingly serve God, it will not be easy for us to do so. Jesus saw how his apostles struggled to do all that he asked them to do. That is why he said: “The spirit, of course, is eager, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41) There was nothing inherently weak in his perfect human flesh. However, he had in mind the weakness of his disciples’ flesh, the imperfection that they had inherited from imperfect Adam. Jesus knew that because of inherited imperfection and resulting human limitations, they would have a struggle to do all they wanted to in Jehovah’s service.
So, then, we may feel like the apostle Paul, who was deeply distressed when imperfection inhibited his ability to serve God fully. “Ability to wish is present with me,” Paul wrote, “but ability to work out what is fine is not present.” (Romans 7:18) We too find that we cannot carry out completely all the good things we wish to do. (Romans 7:19) This is not because of any reluctance on our part. It is simply because the weakness of the flesh hampers even our best efforts.
Let us not despair. If we have heartfelt readiness to do all we can, God will surely accept our service. (2 Corinthians 8:12) May we ‘do our utmost’ to imitate Christ’s spirit of complete submission to God’s will. (2 Timothy 2:15; Philippians 2:5-7; 1 Peter 4:1, 2) Jehovah will reward and support such a willing spirit. He will give us “the power beyond what is normal” to compensate for our weaknesses. (2 Corinthians 4:7-10) With Jehovah’s help we, like Paul, will “most gladly spend and be completely spent” in His precious service.
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Paul willingly served God to the best of his ability
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Even under the severest stress, Jesus did his Father’s will