Serve the Lord with Guilt

By Cindy Koch

I wonder. I worry. I have a million choices and decisions, but what if I make the wrong one? Am I really serving God? Maybe I am serving myself. Is my failure an indication that my faith isn’t strong enough? Am I in danger of losing the grace, mercy, and love of Christ?

My car radio search paused on the local Christian station yesterday. An enthusiastic voice behind the dashboard shouted out answers to these questions before I even knew what was happening. Mindlessly, I drove from freeway to freeway in the heart of California traffic, listening to this passionate plea to serve the Lord.

“If you believe in Jesus, you must put him above everything. He is Lord of all. But if you are struggling in your walk, fighting to know what the will of the Lord is for your life, you must work on this. Oh, it’s not that hard, and you will be blessed. Here is how to serve the Lord…”

I wonder. I worry. Do I put Jesus above everything? Do I act like He is Lord of all? I do struggle. I am constantly disappointed in my own walk. So, what do I do? OK, It’s not that hard. Just do these things, and I will be blessed by serving the Lord.

“Jesus was tempted, but he did not give in. Do this. Jesus healed the sick and fed the poor. Do this. Jesus calmed a storm by the power of His word. Do this. Jesus forgave the undeserving. Do this. Follow His example. Walk in His path. Do this, and you can serve the Lord.”

I wonder. I worry. I know that Christians all over the world are burdened to serve the Lord. I myself feel the yoke of service tighten around my neck to direct me to be a better servant: a loving mother, a patient mentor, a humble conqueror. I should beat myself up if my eyes are unfocused and my hands unworthy. I am too often reduced to disgust and shame. But the radio told me just to serve the Lord.

But what if I can’t? Do I dare to ask? What if I give in to temptation? What if I don’t heal or feed? What if I can’t forgive? What if I don’t harness the power of God’s Word? “Serve the Lord, or else…” Or else what? “Serve the Lord, or else you don’t really believe.” “Do this, or else you will not receive his blessings.” “Serve the Lord, or else you will be judged by God.” “Do this, or else you will die an eternal death.” “Serve the Lord with guilt.”

And the radio kept piling it on: more to do, more to say, more to fail, more to regret. The gentle, condemning voice reminded me to rededicate and repurpose. But as much as I pray, as hard as I try, I drove on still trapped in the guilt of not serving the Lord.

Yet, outside the city, Jesus hung dead on a wooden cross of shame, displayed for generations of sinners to see. Slaughtered for sins he never did, covering up the transgressions, the failure, the guilt of all mankind. Out there, Jesus hid my disobedience. Jesus bled out my neglected promises. Jesus silenced the radio’s demands to serve the Lord.

So, it is completely backward to coach me how to serve the Lord. Give me Christ: how He perfectly served the Lord, for my sake. Deliver Christ, who made me a new creation. Jesus overcame temptation, and I am free from the devil. Jesus healed the sick and fed the poor, and this is me. Jesus forgave the outcasts, and I am forgiven. Jesus calmed the sting of death when He rose from the dead, because I will rise too.

I don’t wonder. I’m not worried. I serve the Lord and struggle as a terrible sinner who can’t follow the Law of God. I serve the Lord even though my heart still desires evil. I serve the Lord at the same time that my faith isn’t strong enough. Because it is the faithful action and work of Christ that serves the Lord.

Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!

Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!

For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.

Psalm 100:2-5