Does It Pay To Serve God

Bible Book: Malachi  3 : 13-18
Subject: Service; Dedication; Reward; Stewardship

I invite you to turn with me to Malachi, Chapter 3, and we are going to begin the reading with the 13th verse. I wanted you to know that there is another verse in the third chapter besides the 9th and 10th verses. Malachi, Chapter 3, verse 13, and reading on to the close of the chapter. Would you stand for the reading of God's Word?

"You have said harsh things against me," says the Lord. "Yet you ask, 'What have we said against you?' "You have said, 'It is futile to serve God. What did we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the Lord Almighty? But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly the evildoers prosper, and even those who challenge God escape.'" Those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored his name. "They will be mine," says the Lord Almighty, "in the day when I make up my treasured possessions. I will spare them, just as  in compassion a man spares his son who serves him. And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not."

Prayer: Our Father, this room is filled with those who serve you. We are not equal in our service, but we are alike in that we are servants, and there comes to all of us those times when we need encouragement. I pray that in these moments, from your Word that you would give encouragement to these, your servants, to enter into their service with full heart, a grateful spirit, a victorious attitude, and thereby to bring glory to thy honorable and worthy name. In the name of thy Son and our Lord we pray. Amen.

It is so easy to become a skeptic. We live in the midst of a world that is basically hostile toward God and almost always skeptical about serving God; and here you are, a remnant, a minority, living in the midst of this kind of world, seeking to maintain a positive and right attitude toward God. One of the first signs of skepticism is in what one begins to say about God. The things that come out, not while you are in church, but that come out in your idle talk, in your moments of relaxation, in those  moments when just out of the mind and heart words seem to flow. And some of the worst victims of this kind of skepticism are those who have been active servants of God who, along the way, to use a modern expression, "burn out". Deacons, Sunday school teachers, pastors, ministers of education, missionaries, who, in the midst of their service, become skeptics and begin to call into question everything they held to be true in days past.

It was so during the days of the Prophet Malachi. God had been listening and God had heard His people saying (it is well to remember this prophecy by Malachi was not addressed to the Brewer's Association; it was addressed to the synagogue and the people of God) God says, "You say harsh things about me," in the thirteenth verse. When God makes that kind of accusation, the reply comes, "But what have we said?" And God can be specific. He said, in verse fourteen, "You have said it is futile to serve God. All that we have done for God has come to naught. It has not brought any satisfying reward. It has not brought any kind of satisfying return. The service to God is futile. What did we gain by carrying out His requirements? We sought to live by His precepts and His statutes and His ordinances."

(See, God has just said to them back in verse nine and ten that if you will keep this ordinance about tithing, He will open the windows of heaven and pour out blessings that you will not have room enough to contain them.) And they said,"But we have been keeping your ordinances and living by your requirements and your rules and it has brought us nothing in return and we have gone about like mourners.

We have cut ourselves off from those opportunities for a little personal indulgence along the way, and what has it brought us? The service to God has come to naught." And they said, "Not only that, but the values about us are all mixed up. The arrogant, the proud, the wicked, are the ones who are blessed. But those who serve God, seem that they have difficulties, and it is those who are evil doers that prosper, and even those who challenge God go unjudged."

I wonder if your idle words were evaluated, would they express a weariness not in well doing, but with well doing. And could there be someone here who has come to the place in their life that they are on the verge of becoming a spiritual skeptic, a burn out, a has been, because in their deepest heart they have reached the conclusion that their service to God as a deacon, their service to God as a Sunday school teacher, their service to God as a pastor or minister of education or W.M.U. worker, really, really does not pay? So I put the question up front and I ask you, "Does it pay to serve God?

Does it pay to serve God? Does it pay to serve God?

I. It Pays To Serve God If You Had Rather Be Known In Heaven Than On Earth

I want us to look at what Malachi said. Against the background of this question, he comes in verse sixteen and the verses that follow to answer this question, and he does it, I think, in three statements that I will share with you.

He raises the question, "Does it pay to serve God?" And Malachi says, "Yes, yes, it pays to serve God if you had rather be known in heaven than on earth." One of the things Malachi, the last of those Old Testament writing prophets noticed in that ancient day, before our Lord ever came was the people whose names were heard most often, whose names were seen most prominently, and whose reputation was most widely spread, were those who lived without regard for God and who were very, very much committed to getting all of the pleasures and all of the riches and all of the finery they could out of this life. And he had noticed that some of those who lived most righteously and most godly and most selflessly and gave themselves best in ministry to God and to their fellow man lived their lives unnoticed, unheralded, unrewarded, unrecognized, and no regard was ever given to their service to God. So he comes to say, in verse sixteen, "Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other." Now, he does not say what they were talking about, but these who have an inner reverence for God are conversing with each other. Evidently, they are talking about God; they are talking in a way that honors God. It may be that they were talking together to God in prayer.

One of the most meaningful ways to pray is to enter in with others and to make God the center of the conversation as you converse together with God. But he said, "Those that fear the Lord talked with each other." Nothing unusual about that, but then he adds, "and the Lord listened and heard." Now the world about us, when they see a group of God's servants talking together about God reverently and gratefully, or talking to God in communion and prayer, they smile condescendingly and knowingly and as they look upon them in our secular, materialistic world, it is sort of with a look of pity.

But Malachi sees the other side. "Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other and the Lord listened in and the Lord heard." And, furthermore, when the Lord heard, a scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored His name. God keeps a book of remembrance.

You remember that experience back in the book of Exodus. Mordechai, the Jew, had been faithful to warn the king about a plot against his life. It had been written in the king's chronicles, but had gone unrewarded and unnoticed. Then on the night before Haman's plot is to unfold to take the life of Mordicai, on that fateful night, providentially, the king cannot sleep, and he called for a servant to bring the book of remembrance and to read it before him. You will recall that as he read in the book of remembrance about Mordechai’s honorable actions toward the king, the king asked, "What has been done to reward Mordicai for this action." And it was told him that nothing had been done, and that led to the honoring of Mordicai and to the downfall of Mordechai’s enemy, Haman.

Well, God keeps a book of remembrance like that, and even though a child of God may go unnoticed on earth as he talks about God, as he speaks reverently about God, as his life and his words and his deeds and his ways honor God, the world may not take notice and may not feel compelled to give any honor. But God has a recording angel writing down in His book of remembrance each of these   words and each of these deeds and each of these expressions of His kindness. I wonder if the angel who was keeping the scroll on a man like Saul of Tarsus, Paul the Apostle, did not get writer's cramp, because he did so many things that caught the attention of the sovereign God. God must have gotten the attention of the angel and said, "Write that down. Did you hear what Paul said about me? Write that down. I want to remember that." And He would see Paul as he was ministering out there in jail at Philippi and he said to the angel, "Write that down, I want to remember that Paul sang my praises while his back was bleeding and his hands were tied in a Roman prison." And it was all written down.

Now that is a symbolic way of talking about the omniscience of God, that our God knows His own and our God never forgets the service of His own. If you feel like you are unheralded and unnoticed and unrewarded and unrecognized, just remember, your day of recognition has not come yet. It is not here yet. And the only way it pays to serve God is that you had rather be known in heaven than on earth.

A number of years ago I went to Texas Stadium in Dallas to watch the Cowboys play. They did not play that night. They were supposed to play the Green Bay Packers, but something happened and they decided not to play that night. Oh, they went through the motions, but they lost. I could not help, as I sat there watching those big, muscular giants of men run out on the field as their names were announced, and every fan, all 60,000 plus of us, could call the first name of every one of those men. We knew their numbers, knew where they went to college, knew how many years they had been playing we knew all about them. They are the heroes of our kind of world. As I sat up there and watched that, I could not help remembering some of the finest and godliest and most faithful servants of our God I have ever known have not been known out of a very small sphere of influence. But God knows. Do not ever forget. God listens and keeps a book of remembrance.

II. It Pays To Serve God If You Had Rather Be A Treasure Than Have A Treasure

Here is what the prophet said: "They will be mine," says the Lord Almighty, "in the day when I make up my treasured possessions." Those realists of that day had taken note. Wealth does not always go with righteousness.

When I moved some years ago, I encountered a very sharp contrast in illustration of this. The largest house in town is lived in and owned by man who was reported to be the leader of the Dixie Mafia, a southwestern crime syndicate. I had not been in town but a few days when I passed his house and noticed it. I asked somebody who lived there and they told me who he was. A few days later I met Bill Field. Bill had just moved to our community. He had been forced to resign a little church down across the state line in New Mexico. He was in his mid-sixties. He had cancer and the doctor had told him he could not live long, so he had to retire. When I met Bill and Mrs. Field, Bill had served all through our country; served as an Home Missions missionary in Arizona, pastor of small village and country churches, for his entire ministry.

When I met Bill I said, "Where are you living?" He said, "Well, I am really ashamed to tell you, Preacher." He said, "When I became ill, it became rather obvious that I could not continue the ministry, so we began to look around to see what we could do. We did not have a home. We served and lived in parsonages all of our life." He said, "The only thing we could do was buy a condemned house" and he mentioned the street, over in one of the older, run-down sections of the town, and he said, "My wife and I have been working on it. We have been able now to get it where it will pass inspection and we have moved in." I was with Bill the day he died. He died with a smile on his face and a song in his heart and I preached his funeral. But look at the contrast, here was a man who had given his life to unrighteousness. He lived in the largest house in town. And here was a man who had given his life to righteousness, to the service of God, and the preaching of the gospel, and he has     to move into a house that had been condemned having to do the best he could to make it livable.    He leaves his widow almost nothing.

Every Baptist deacon ought to have to serve on the Relief Committee of the Annuity Board for a year. You need to see how some of those faithful men and women of God have to live. You need to hear some of the most pitiful, heart-rending stories of those who serve God in giving themselves, and who come to the end of their ministry, penniless. Some are almost beggars. There seems to be something wrong about that. If you take that as an evaluation and you ask me, "Does it pay to serve God," I would have to say "No." But, if you take the word of the prophet, he says, "In the service of God you may not get a treasure, but God said, 'They will be mine when I make up my treasured possessions.'" The King James Bible says, "Where I gather my jewels." The image here is that God takes those who serve Him, though they may live in this world with little, when they come to the end of the way, and leave with empty hands and empty pockets as far as gold and silver and stocks and bonds are concerned, God says, "They are mine, they are my special prized, protected possession." Oh, you say "But now, Preacher, which is Old Testament text. God is talking about Jews in that text, the Old Testament Israel." I will agree that if you take that text in its context, you are apt to say God is talking about Old Testament righteous people, but, oh, I would not have brought it up if I did not think there was something about it in the New Testament.

Did you ever read that little letter that Paul wrote to Titus? In the second chapter, the fourteenth verse (I am reading from the New International Bible, and I am really sorry they did not leave the word in, even though many people have misunderstood it), Paul says, "God is come to redeem us from all wickedness, and to pick for Himself a people that are His very own" - the King James version uses a "peculiar" people. That has led to some very interesting interpretations through the years. A peculiar people - I am sure that is the reason they have translated it differently. The idea in it is what is here - to redeem for Himself a people who would be His very own treasure. And Peter picks the same note in the second chapter as he comes in the ninth verse to talk about a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people (King James says, a peculiar people) this text says a people belonging to God.

Does it pay to serve God? Yes. Yes, if you would rather be God's special treasure than to have this world's treasures. Let me add, it is possible to be God's treasure and get some of this world's treasures. That is possible. That does happen in the providence of God for some. Not for many of us who are involved in full-time Christian service, so called, but it does happen. If you get treasures, they are temporary, but if you become a treasure, that is permanent and eternal. Does it pay to serve God? Malachi says it does. He would rather be a treasure than have a treasure.

III. It Pays To Serve God If You Would Rather Be Spared Then Than Now

Listen to what he says, "I will spare them just as in compassion a man spares his son that serves him," and you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not. Some of those who live without regard to God live in health and strength and prosperity all of their days. They flaunted God, they ignored God, they blasphemed God, they cursed God, and God did nothing.

Yet, some of those who were the most committed and most faithful to God suffered heartache and hardship and difficulty and disappointment and trials all of their days. And if you take it just on the face of how much health and prosperity, how much pleasure you get in this life, it may not pay to serve God, because God does not spare his own now. He says, "Those I love, I chasten." And God has a way of leading some of his most righteous through deep dark valleys, because He loves them, and it is in the valley that the relationship with Him is made precious, and their likeness to Him is perfected. As the world looks on, they do not understand that. They say if God loves them, then why did He let them suffer? Have you ever thought that? I have. If I am one of God's favorites, why did He   allow this? Why did she have cancer? Why did my son have this difficulty? Why did this happen to my daughter? Why? I am trying to serve God with all of my heart. Why did not God spare me? He could have, couldn't he? God does not spare His own hardships, troubles, suffering now, and you cannot tell God's people now - by checking their medical records - in spite of what some folk say. You cannot tell God's folk by seeing how many tears are shed. Some of God's saints sprinkled the pathway all the way with tears, but God says, "Don't, close the book yet. That day I will spare them like a father whose son has obediently done his will. I will take them, I will protect them, I will spare them, I will honor them, and I will exalt them in that time."

Indeed there will be a distinction between those who serve God and those who do not. Now, dear children, we ought not to really fret too much when we see the wicked prospering. That is all they are going to get. That is it. This is not all of it for us, if we serve Him. Does it pay to serve God? Yes, yes, if the relationship with Him is the most vital thing in your life. Yes, if you believe the promises. I mean really believe them. Yes, if you can see the invisible. If all you can believe is what you can feel and hear and touch and see, you are not going to make it. You are going to quit somewhere along the way. It does not make sense, but if you can see that which no man sees except by the eyes of faith, you will endure it. You will go through the times of discouragement; you will come out on the other side of that valley triumphant. You will be a winner.


Does it pay to serve God? I have settled it in my heart, but I have to re-settle it every once in a while. I have passed through that mid-life crisis, which they say we have to pass through, and have come now with a fresh affirmation regardless of what hardship and difficulty or problems or privation, or poverty, or suffering may come my way, when I look at eternity and I look at Him, it pays to serve God.

There is some weary, weary soldier, some child of God who's become discouraged, who needs to come and in a public way say to the Lord, "Lord, I am sorry I ever asked. I am sorry I ever thought about it. I am sorry I ever considered another alternative, so here I am for the rest of the way." You need to come forward. This can be the turning around from that burn-out that has been settling, been developing in your life. When you get it right, that He is worthy, it pays to serve Him.

Father, we have heard the Word and now we respond to the Word, out of our sense and our knowledge of you. Help us to respond, honestly, brokenly, obediently, sincerely, without any guile or hypocrisy. In the name of Christ, I pray. Amen