“And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord”” (Joshua 24:15, ESV).
How often have you heard the words of Joshua 24:15 in an evangelistic sermon? “Choose this day whom you will serve… But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Certainly, it’s a fabulous text to call people to put their trust in the Lord. It is a worthy passage for such exhortations. But I think sometimes we miss something in this passage that connects not just to a moment of salvation but the continuing work of God in our lives.
For we often take this passage as an application of where we place our faith, which is good, but there is more here. Faith never functions in solitude. Faith demands expression.
A faith that is solely an adherence to creeds, tenets or statements of faith is not a biblical faith. Faith should work itself out in service.
This is the call to which Joshua is calling the people. Let us not miss the simplicity of this text that would teach us that faith in YHWH will produce service to YHWH. In fact, in this chapter the Hebrew word “serve” is used 17 times, the final time as a noun, pointing out that Joshua was a servant.
You Are a Servant
In reality, everyone is a servant. Joshua 24:15 poses a question, “Choose whom you will serve.” He doesn’t say, “Choose if you will serve.” Joshua assumes that we are already serving someone. It looks like Bob Dylan got something right in his song, “Gotta Serve Somebody.” If we can get our head around the fact THAT we are servants, then we can consider WHAT/WHO we serve.
You Serve in the Direction of Your Heart
The idea that you are already serving someone may strike you as odd. Maybe that is because your choices are already in line with your heart. You are doing what your heart wants. Joshua 24:14 says that our service should be sincere and faithful. Sincere means genuine or with integrity. In other words, our heart is in our service. That doesn’t mean that service is easy. Think of the Apostle Paul when he said, “For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.” (Colossians 1:29, ESV). Serving along the grain of our new heart is not effortless, it can be toil. However, the key to that service is where our heart finds its joys. Our hearts will serve where we find our love. If my love is positioned on my comfort, my heart will toil to serve me to be comfortable (serving the god of comfort). If my love is positioned on recognition, then my heart will toil to serve others to be recognized (serving the god of the praise of men). But if my love is centered on God, then my heart will toil in loving service to God and others out of gratitude for who He is and what He has done.
Your Service has Other People in View
We are called to serve God in every area of our lives, but one of the greatest ways we can serve Him is serving other people. This is one way we love God and neighbor. God has called us to serve Him in the church. Let us not miss the profoundly overlooked aspect of “Choose this day whom you will serve.” That is the word “serve.” Service is practical and tangible.
Since faith and service belong together, why is 90% of the service in most churches done by 10% of the people? I have yet to speak to a pastor who says, “Every area of ministry is sufficiently covered.” Joshua’s call to serve the Lord is a call to active faith. Certainly, Joshua is not suggesting that serving only happens amongst the congregation. However, let us not excuse this arena of service from our lives.
You Are the Recipient of Service
We will never understand the value of serving God unless we see Him as having served us. Joshua 24:16-17 tells us the reason they served God, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods, for it is the Lord our God who brought us and our fathers up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery…” They serve because God served them with deliverance. The very next verse (v.18) tells us they serve the Lord because He drove out the people from the land. God had served the Old Testament Church, and they responded with sincere service to God.
We see the final note of this passage in Joshua 24:29, “After these things Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died, being 110 years old.” Joshua was a servant. Of course, we know that another Joshua (Jesus in Greek) was a Servant to us. He served unto exhaustion that He slept in a boat in a storm! Jesus served by washing the disciples’ feet. And of course, He served you by taking the burden of your sin upon His shoulders being nailed to a cross. Our God and King has served us well!
How Should We Proceed?
Here are four things to consider:
1. Consider how greatly God has served you. He delivered you from the slavery of your sin at great cost to himself on the cross.
2. Count the cost of service. Service takes time and energy. You may have to change your schedule to find adequate time to serve.
3. Contact your church leaders about serving. Prayerfully ask where the needs are in your church.
4. Commit yourself to serving. The greatest needs in your church may not be where you particularly feel gifted, but that’s ok.
God doesn’t gift us so we can have an excuse not to serve in other areas.