“Serve the Lord with gladness” ~ Psalm 100:2a
After turning our attention away from ourselves and focusing completely on God, as the first verse of the hundredth Psalm challenges us to do, we are next instructed to “Serve the Lord with gladness”.
“What does service have to do with thanksgiving?”
Service has everything to do with thanksgiving. If we are not serving God, what do we have to thank Him for? To thank Him for His blessing without yielding to His will is to mock the God of the universe. It would be like a rude and disruptive child thanking the principal for all the school provides while he sets fire to it. Giving thanks to God is meaningless if we live in disobedience to Him. As Scripture tells us:
“The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord: but the prayer of the upright is His delight.” ~ Proverbs 15:8
Therefore, the second step to thanksgiving is service. We must learn to serve God before we can offer Him true praise, true thanksgiving. Here is how Jesus explained this principle:
“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” ~ Matthew 7:21
Only those who do God’s will, only those who serve His purposes, only those who walk in His will, are accepted into His Kingdom. And only those in the Kingdom of God can legitimately thank Him.
It is possible to claim God with our mouths, but deny Him with our actions.
It is possible to do things for God without ever doing God’s will.
To do God’s will, we must first be focused on Him exclusively and then we must be directed by His Word and not our feelings; we must be directed by His Word and not our concepts: we must serve Him.
God also requires that we serve Him “with gladness”. This is referring to the attitude we should have when serving God. To serve the Lord “with gladness” indicates that we want to serve Him, regardless of the consequences. To serve the Lord with “with gladness” is only possible if we are focused on Him and nothing/no-one else.
Conversely, to serve the Lord with “with-OUT gladness” means there is something else we would rather do, someone/something else we would rather serve. Indeed, we can ONLY serve the Lord with “with gladness”, it is impossible to serve the Lord any other way. Jesus made this clear when He said:
“No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” ~ Matthew 6:24
We serve God only if we love Him, and if we love Him we will serve Him “with gladness”.
And, this is not a small matter. The Hebrews (eventually) lost their sovereignty and defeated and captured by their enemies because they did not serve the Lord with “with gladness”:
“Because thou servedst not the Lord thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart… Therefore shalt thou serve thine enemies which the Lord shall send against thee, in hunger, and in thirst, and in nakedness, and in want of all things: and He shall put a yoke of iron upon thy neck, until He have destroyed thee.” ~ Deuteronomy 28:47-48
They were not happy to serve the Lord, and so they fell into idolatry (Jeremiah 1): They were not happy to serve the Lord, and so they served themselves. And, if we try to serve the Lord without gladness, so will we.
Before we can worship The LORD with true thanksgiving, we must make the second step: we must “Serve the Lord with gladness”.