“As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). What does that mean?
It means to do what he says in a way that makes him look supremely valuable in himself.
It means to submit to him in a way that makes him look thrilling.
There are ways to submit to God that only make him look threatening, not thrilling. There are ways to do what he says that only call attention to the fact that he is an authority, not a treasure.
That kind of service is not the service God commands.
What’s the difference?
The difference is that God has told us not to serve him as though he needed anything.
“Nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything” (Acts 17:25).
“The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
God is most glorified in us when all our serving is a moment-by-moment receiving from God’s supply.
Both these texts put all the emphasis on God’s giving to us when we serve.
So the kind of service that makes God look valuable and thrilling is the kind that serves God by constantly receiving from God. The key text to describe this is 1 Peter 4:11 —
“Whoever serves, [let it be] as one who serves by the strength that God supplies — in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.”
God is seen as glorious when all our serving is moment-by-moment receiving from God’s supply.
We receive this supply by faith. That is, we trust moment by moment that what we need, in serving him, he will supply (“life, breath, and everything”). This is the opposite of being anxious. Such serving is happy. And it makes God look no less authoritative, but infinitely more desirable. This is the glory he means to have. The giver gets the glory.
Therefore, “serve the Lord with gladness” (Psalm 100:2).