What does “serving God” mean? We are given the command in Deuteronomy 11:13, “I command you this day, to love the LORD your God, and to serve him with all your heart and all your soul.” Serving God can mean many different things to many different people. For my family and myself, we discovered serving God meant ‘going into the storm.’
Have you ever been on the open water during a storm? I have. I was once out on a lake when a violent storm blew into the area. Within moments the water filled with rolling three-foot waves. I was a standing on a boat in the middle of these waves. My friend’s boat was only ten feet away. I jumped into the water to swim over to his boat. I cannot remember why I did that. It was not smart. Twenty minutes later I had barely made it five feet. The wind and the waves kept pushing me back and forth. It was the first time in my adult life I distinctly remember thinking I was on the verge of departing from this mortal coil. I did make it to the other boat. It was a lesson in the arrogance of youth.
I was an arrogant young man. I did not really have anything against God. He was just fine with me. But I really did not live as though I had any great need for him. I was bound and determined to white-knuckle my way through life on the strength of my own great power and intellect. And yeah, when I say it out loud like that now… it does seem as ridiculous as it sounds. God puts men like me into storms to reveal how desperately men like me need him. Thank God for the storms.
God uses storms
God uses storms to shape us, to testify to others, to reveal his glory. In Acts 27, Paul is placed, as a prisoner, on a grain ship making a dangerous winter-run back to Rome. God was leading Paul into a storm. Before it was over Paul would be shipwrecked, snake bit and still a prisoner of Rome. But equally of note, and before this odyssey is over, a centurion of the mighty Roman army will have seen God’s power through Paul’s steadfast faith and obedience. He will cut away his only lifeboat and spare the lives of every prisoner on the ship. None of these were logical or easy choices. None of this happens if God does not lead Paul into this storm.
Serving God means obedience to God
As followers of Jesus, he calls us to obedience. We are called to live our lives as a testimony to God’s steadfast love, grace and mercy. Being obedient does not mean we should seek out storms. There is little need for that. If we are obedient to Christ’s call we will sometimes find ourselves being led into a storm. But we always have a choice to make: be obedient and sail out into the wind or ignore him and stay put in the safety of a warm harbor.
Leaving safe harbor
My wife and I sold our home and moved our three young children to New York City. We made a new home here in the Bronx so we could follow God’s call to take part in the Equip program. Through the Equip missionary training program, we have been able to share our testimony, share the gospel and tell others about the power and love of Christ. We chose obedience. We chose not to stay in our safe, warm and familiar harbor. And some days the winds are blowing here in the Bronx. But we know God uses storms. We know he is good. We know that he is with us in the storm. Or, to be precise, we are with him in the storm. We are serving God in the storm and we would not have it any other way.