Someone recently made a comment to me that I made them rethink service to God in a positive and encouraging way. I’ve been thinking about why that might be. I think it goes back to a quote that was popular at The Citadel: “Duty, then, is the sublimest word in the English language.” The full quote is a bit better, “Duty, then, is the sublimest word in the English language. You should do your duty in all things. You can never do more, you should never wish to do less.” The quote was given by General Robert E. Lee, a general in the Confederate States Army during the US Civil War. What most folks don’t realize about General Lee was that with regards to the Civil War he was torn as to what to do. He was an officer in the US Army and was offered command of the Union forces by President Lincoln. But his beloved state, Virginia, was going to secede. Duty called him in both directions. Ultimately he chose Virginia. We’ve got it easier than Lee did. When faced with service to God, the choice isn’t so hard.
Then David the king went in and sat before the LORD, and he said, “Who am I, O Lord GOD, and what is my house, that You have brought me this far? And yet this was insignificant in Your eyes, O Lord GOD, for You have spoken also of the house of Your servant concerning the distant future And this is the custom of man, O Lord GOD. Again what more can David say to You? For You know Your servant, O Lord GOD! For the sake of Your word, and according to Your own heart, You have done all this greatness to let Your servant know. For this reason You are great, O Lord GOD; for there is none like You, and there is no God besides You, according to all that we have heard with our ears. And what one nation on the earth is like Your people Israel, whom God went to redeem for Himself as a people and to make a name for Himself, and to do a great thing for You and awesome things for Your land, before Your people whom You have redeemed for Yourself from Egypt, from nations and their gods? For You have established for Yourself Your people Israel as Your own people forever, and You, O LORD, have become their God. – 2 Samuel 7:18-24, NASB
David offers this prayer back to God after God revealed through the prophet Nathan that God was going to establish David’s kingdom forever. Basically, God was revealing to David that from his line the Messiah would come. David had realized that every success in his life had been due to God. The fact that he was the king was solely due to God. Actually, the fact that he was still alive was only because of God’s providence in his life. David realized all of this and was infinitely thankful for all God had done. And not only was David thankful for himself, but he was thankful for all God had done for Israel as a whole.
Which brings me back to duty. It is our duty to serve God. I maintain the same attitude towards duty as Gen Lee did. It is indeed the most sublimest word in the English language – especially when applied to service to God. And it wasn’t just General Lee. General MacArthur gave a famous speech to West Point cadets where he uttered the immortal phrase, “Duty, honor, country.” Duty was first. Duty isn’t a burden. Duty is a privilege. Duty represents a choice to do what is required simply because it needs doing. It’s not about personal gain. It’s not about showing off. It’s about getting the command and executing, simply because that’s the right thing to do. To receive the command in the first place means you’ve been chosen. It means you were given the privilege of carrying out the command, especially when such a command comes from God.
No command from God is unimportant. No opportunity is small. Every time he hands us a set of orders (to use a military phrase), we are being given a chance to participate in increasing His kingdom. And we are being asked to do this by the One who saved us from our sins. He redeemed us when no one else, ourselves included, could. Every success in our life is due to God. Every time we are preserved, it is because of Him. David understood this. And that’s why He was always read to serve His Lord. This same God asks us to come along in His work and participate. That is the greatest of honors He could bestow upon us. We are being entrusted with His work. It is our duty to serve Him. And that duty is an honor above any earthly one we could receive. He has brought us, His insignificant creation, so far. How can we not see service to Him as our duty – an honorable privilege – above all others?