Service as an Act of Gratitude

I have always enjoyed serving. As a child and through my college years my motivation behind serving centered around whether or not it made me feel good. It was less about the one I served and more about me. I helped in the nursery because I loved babies, I did service projects because I enjoyed the people I served beside, I went on mission trips because I enjoyed seeing the world and wanted the world to meet Christ (or my version of Him).

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A shift in focus

It wasn’t until I had children that my focus began to shift. Children and marriage have a way of highlighting our most selfish parts. Service became less of a fun way to fill my time and make friends and more of an act of love, and occasionally guilt, for my family.

I volunteered in Scouts, church plays, Sunday schools, field trips, 501st events and fundraisers because of my husband and kids’ interest. See a need, fill a need became my mantra. The motivation sprang from a desire to bring happiness to my family.

Except in one area.

Giving because of what I received

St Jude Children’s Hospital. When they ask, or even slightly suggest, we jump. If they ask us to go speak to donors to share our daughter’s story we say yes 100% of the time, when they ask our family to do a radiothon or to do a photoshoot we never hesitate, when they ask us to participate in research studies the answer is always yes. Why? How could we say no?

It doesn’t come from a sense of obligation. At no time has the hospital said to us, “We did this for you, we expect loyalty and servitude.” Instead, what they did was give us the greatest gift of all, our daughter’s life and health. They never asked for anything, not a dime.

Instead, they presented us with opportunities to show our gratitude though they never required it of us. Our willingness to do whatever we can for St Jude comes from a deep seated root of gratefulness. We can never, no matter what we do for them, pay back the gift they gave us. We crave opportunities to serve them. How could we not?

Jesus chose us

Here’s the thing. Service springs forth from a grateful heart. Just as my family has an undying devotion to help St Jude in whatever way we are able because of the gracious gift of healing they gave our daughter … in that same manner we should be responding in gratitude to the saving grace of Christ who for no other reason than His love for us, nothing we did or can do, He chose to endure the cross and make us His own. He chose to call us His own, to create us, to love us, to die for us and give us new life.

Can you repay him for that? I can’t. In all my brokenness I will never be able to repay Him for what He has given me. But I can say thank you, I can love him because he first loved me, and I can show that love to him by “feeding his sheep.”

Steal away for prayer when you’ve lost your way

We are to give back to God in our service, to do each work for Him. But what happens when we lose heart? When grumbling replaces the joy of service? When our saltiness sours and our light dims? This place of serving springing forward from a heart of gratitude occasionally gets derailed.

When we have lost our ability as leaders to serve with a grateful heart as God would intend then it is time to remove ourselves before true damage is done (to ourselves as well as others).

Walking away to regain focus is not always possible. Perhaps you’ve lost the joy of serving your family, dishes and laundry piling up too high. Perhaps you’ve lost the passion in your career but finances dictate you remain. Whatever the reason, joy can be restored. If the laundry is too high and you find yourself grumbling, becoming angry at those you are called to serve and love, walk away from the chore and find a quiet place to pray and rest. The same with work.

It is not the task that is the problem, it is something deeper and much more important. When my heart is not right with God, when I’ve neglected the one most important relationship in my life, is when my light becomes hidden and others do not see the glory of God in me.

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What would happen if gratitude was the reason we chose to serve in a ministry? How might that change the way we serve? Service as an act of gratitude causes us to give of our time, energy and money in ways we might never have thought possible.

Hope N. Griffin

Hope N. Griffin

Hope, author of "Finding Joy: The Year Apart That Made Me A Better Wife," is a military spouse and the mother of three children. She has an MABS from Dallas Theological Seminary and is the Director of Family Ministries at First Presbyterian Church in El Paso, TX.
Hope N. Griffin

About Hope N. Griffin

Hope, author of "Finding Joy: The Year Apart That Made Me A Better Wife," is a military spouse and the mother of three children. She has an MABS from Dallas Theological Seminary and is the Director of Family Ministries at First Presbyterian Church in El Paso, TX.

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