Serving God in the Here and Now
So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God (v. 24).- 1 Corinthians 7:17–24
Jesus, it is no surprise, was quite wise to include a petition for His Father’s will to be done when He gave us a model for prayer in the Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:10). Redeemed though we may be, we must still deal with the remaining presence of sin, which continues to influence our thoughts, affections, and desires. Consequently, we tend to exalt our own wills and downplay or deny the importance of doing what God says we must do. By praying for God’s will to be done “on earth as it is in heaven,” we are reminded of our need to submit our own wills to the will of the Lord and do only what is righteous in His sight.
Doing the Lord’s will involves obeying Him no matter where we are in life. This is the point that the Apostle Paul makes in 1 Corinthians 7:17–24, which is one of the proof texts cited in question and answer 124 of the Heidelberg Catechism. In this passage, Paul reminds us that the most important thing in life is keeping “the commandments of God”—His moral law—not changing our position or social status (v. 19). We are often more focused on improving ourselves or our current situation than we are on serving the Lord faithfully in the here and now, but Paul tells us that it should be the other way around.
This is not to say, of course, that it is inherently sinful for us to try and change our present condition. As we see in verse 21, Paul tells bondservants, those in lowly and subservient positions, not to worry about the fact that they are bondservants or to think that such a status makes them unfit to serve the Lord. Nevertheless, in the same verse, he also tells bondservants to take advantage of any opportunity they may have to gain freedom. What it boils down to for bondservants—and the rest of us—is this: Do not be so concerned with changing your lot in life that you forget the high calling to do the Lord’s will wherever you find yourself in the present.
All of us have different vocations. But all of us have the same calling to do the Lord’s will in whatever vocation our Creator has given to us. We pray for the Lord’s will to be done so that we might be concerned to think on this will and to practice it even in difficult circumstances. No matter where we find ourselves, the Lord demands one thing—faithfulness to Him and His law of liberty (James 1:12).
If our primary concern in life is to change our present situation, then we will have little room to serve God wherever we are. It is not inherently wrong to seek a change in circumstances, and, indeed, a change may be what we are called to seek. But we are never to do so at the expense of serving God faithfully. Let us pray daily that the Lord’s will would be done and that we would seek this will so that we would be reckoned as His good and faithful servants.
Passages for Further Study
1 Peter 4:10–11