“I AM AMONG YOU AS HE THAT SERVETH,” said our Lord (Luke 22:27). “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45 NASB). The Father said of Him by the mouth of Isaiah, “Behold, my Servant” (Isaiah 42:1). In the world there is the constant striving for pre-eminence. The competition is for first place, self-elevation. The goal is to be the top one, the boss of all. Jesus modeled and taught a revolutionary new w...
“I AM AMONG YOU AS HE THAT SERVETH,” said our Lord (Luke 22:27). “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45 NASB). The Father said of Him by the mouth of Isaiah, “Behold, my Servant” (Isaiah 42:1).
In the world there is the constant striving for pre-eminence. The competition is for first place, self-elevation. The goal is to be the top one, the boss of all. Jesus modeled and taught a revolutionary new way. The disciples were disputing among themselves who should be the greatest. Jesus corrected them explaining, “If any one wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all” (Mark 9:35 NIV).
Becoming Great Through Serving
“Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant,” Jesus exhorted, “and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all” (Mark 10:43-44 NASB). Jesus taught that in the kingdom of God the only way up is down. The concept of serving is so radical that it is recorded in all four gospels (Matthew 20:25-28; Mark 9:33-35; 10:35-45; Luke 22:24-27; John 13:1-17). Every aspect of His life displayed servanthood. Although the subject is vital, it is difficult to grasp.
1. THE DISCIPLES STRUGGLED FOR GREATNESS. There was strife among the disciples over which of them would be considered the greatest (Luke 22:24). James and John, the sons of Zebedee, even requested that they could sit one on His right hand and one on His left hand in glory (Mark 10:35-37). Jesus was not surprised by their request. “Those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them,” He explained (Mark 10:42 NASB). But God’s kingdom is not like the kingdom of the world. Jesus is the Supreme One in God’s kingdom, yet He came not to be served, “but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45 NASB). He asked the probing question, “Who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves” (Luke 22:27 NIV). Jesus Himself is a servant. Should His followers seek pre-eminence? “The servant is not greater than his Lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him” (John 13:16).
2. JESUS MODELED SERVANTHOOD. At the last Passover Jesus took the lowly role of washing the disciples’ feet. Afterward He explained, “Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you” (John 13:13-15). Although Jesus was God, He purposely set aside His privileges as God when He left heaven to take on the form of a man. He was not concerned for His personal rights. He was burdened for a lost world. For the benefit of sinful man He humbled Himself to the point of death. He gave His all for others. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, God the Father has now “highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name” (Philippians 2:9 NASB). He chose the last place for Himself but will be elevated to first place for all eternity.
Serving God by Serving People
A high calling in the life of a Christian is to serve God by serving others. Paul proclaimed, “We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5). He commends the churches of Macedonia who “gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God” (2 Corinthians 8:5). It is easier to think of serving God, whom we have not seen, than to serve people we see every day. Nonetheless, we are admonished to minister “one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (1 Peter 4:10).
1. The Attitude Of A Servant. Servanthood begins in the heart. A servant is one who takes a low place for himself that he might concentrate on the needs of others. He is willing to do the dirty work, the humble tasks, the behind-the-scenes job. His actions are not motivated by “selfish ambition or vain deceit.” The servant is more concerned about the needs of others than self (Philip-pians 2:3-4 NIV). The motivation for his service is love (Galatians 5:13).
2. The Actions Of A Servant. We are called to serve spiritual leaders and fellow believers in the church (Romans 16:1). We are exhorted to do good to all men, especially those of the household of faith (Galatians 6:10). Practical ministry is necessary for those who are needy—either physically or spiritually (Proverbs 31:20). Servanthood may involve personal risk, as it did for Priscilla and Aquila (Romans 16:4) and Epaphroditus (Philippians 2:25-30). It may require investments of time or possessions. The Shunammite woman made a special room for the prophet Elisha (2 Kings 4). Epaphras was a faithful servant who encouraged others to grow in faith in Christ and love for all the saints (Colossians 1:7). Dorcas was one who abounded with “deeds of kindness and charity, which she continually did” (Acts 9:36 NASB). Among other things she sewed tunics and garments for widows. Servanthood also involves submission to God-appointed authority. Joseph was noted for his dependable service to his supervisors (Genesis 39). Doing a good job at work is one essential form of servanthood (Ephesians 6:5-8).
Serving in a Faithful Manner
Scripture abounds with examples of those who were faithful servants of God and His people. Faithfulness is one of the most desired qualities in a servant (Luke 16:1-12). It is a prerequisite to future opportunities (Matthew 25:24-30). Faithfulness involves trustworthy, dependable, loyal service to others.
1. Examples Of Faithful Servants. Joshua became a great leader in Israel, but first he was the servant of Moses (Exodus 24:13). Because he faithfully served Moses (Joshua 11:15), he was qualified to be the leader when Moses passed on (Joshua 1:5). Similarly, Elisha ministered to Elijah as a servant for six years. When Elijah was translated, God honored Elisha as heir to the prophetic office (2 Kings 2:9-11). Timothy was a servant to the Apostle Paul “like a child serving his father” (Philippians 2:22 NASB). When Paul’s life and ministry was complete, Timothy would continue the work he began.
2. Examples Of Unfaithful Servants. Others in Scripture are noted for unfaithful service. Saul was unfaithful in completing delegated tasks (1 Samuel 15:1-3,20-21). Because he was unwilling to go ail the way, God took the kingdom from him (1 Samuel 15:26). Absalom looked faithful but was not. He was unwilling to serve his father, the king. He wanted the allegiance and affection of the people for himself (2 Samuel 15:1-6). Demas, Paul’s helper, started out well but did not last out. The affairs of this world were more important to him than serving (2 Timothy 4:10). What is hindering you from being faithful in God’s service? One encouraging example gives us hope. It is possible to change. John Mark traveled as a servant to Paul and Barnabas, but deserted them at Pamphylia (Acts 15:38). Later he was given a second chance and was championed by Barnabas who was willing to take him along in the Lord’s service (Acts 15:39). Although Mark was unfaithful at first, he later proved faithful.
The benefits of servanthood are numerous. For faithful service we might receive greater responsibility in the way Joshua did (Joshua 4:14) or see spiritual fruit the way Aquila and Priscilla did (Acts 18:26-28; 1 Corinthians 3:6). But most important of all, the lessons we learn in servanthood will be eternally significant. Our performance as servants will be evaluated by the Lord Jesus Himself at what is called the Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10). Not our sins, which He paid for, but our lives and service will be reviewed there when rewards are given for faithfulness unto Him. He expects all His servants to be profitable. Even before the eternal throne of God and of the Lamb, we read “His servants shall serve Him” (Revelation 22:3). Servanthood is an eternal occupation, dignified and blessed by our Lord. It will not lose its reward at His hands.
How has God called you to serve? Whom are you serving? Will you be like Saul, a halfway man; or like Demas, a quitter; or like Absalom, a self-seeker? Or will you be like Joshua, a plodder; or like Elisha, a second-mile man; or like Timothy, the proven servant? Jesus promised a great blessing to all who loyally serve Him. “If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am there shall My servant also be; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him” (John 12:26 NASB).
1. Contrast the world’s concept of greatness with the Lord’s teaching on servanthood (Luke 22:24-27; Mark 10:45).
What promise is given to one who serves the Lord (John 12:26)?
2. Study Philippians 2:3-11 and answer the following questions:
What place does self-elevation have in the Christian life?
Whose interests should we be primarily concerned about?
Who is our example?
What is the end result of Christ’s voluntary servanthood?
What additional aspects of servanthood do you see in this passage?
3. How would you practically apply John 13:4-17 to your own life? From this passage what is the best way to teach servanthood?
4. Read Colossians 3:22-25 and answer the following questions:
How should we serve our “employers”?
Who are we really serving at work?
What will be the result of a poor job performance?
5. What great stumbling block hinders most Christians from being real servants in the church (Philippians 2:19-23)?
6. In what ways did Timothy and Epaphroditus serve the Apostle Paul (Philippians 2:19-30)?
7. What are some practical ways in which you might serve the leadership of your church? What would be the first step?
8. In the following verses identify the sphere of service (ministry, job, family, etc.) and the attitude displayed by (or required of) the servant:
Verse Sphere of Service Attitude
2 Corinthians 4:5__________________________________________________________
2 Corinthians 12:15 _______________________________________
Philippians 2:3-4 _______________________________________
Colossians 3:22-25 _______________________________________
1 Peter 4:10 __________________________________
9. Read Appendix B, “Not to Be Ministered Unto,” and record any additional insights regarding attitudes and servanthood.
10. As a practical exercise, please complete the sheet entitled “Opportunities for Ministry.” If you are already involved, indicate the areas of involvement. If you are undecided as to how you might serve, so indicate. Everyone should turn in the “Opportunities for Ministry” sheet with this homework.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR MINISTRY
There is a continual need for those who desire to serve. If you feel that the Lord has burdened you with a desire to serve in any of the following areas, check as indicated:
______Evangelism in the community.
______Follow-up of new believers.
______Correcting correspondence courses and answering student’s questions.
______Kitchen: helping with dinners, lunches, etc., for various fellowship activities.
______Hospitality: opening your home for others to come to after Sunday morning or evening meetings.
______Women’s Ministry: Day Time Bible Class_______Craft Class_______Available to help sick, etc._______
______Children’s Ministry: Nursery_______Pre-School_______Elementary_______
Jr. High_______High School_______
______Music Ministry: Choir_______ Organ_______ Piano_______ Experience in these areas __________________________________
_____Missionary Activities: Prayer Group_______ Write Letters______
_____Outside Work: Gardening, Watering, Clean-up, etc. Hours per week______
_____Inside Work: Janitorial Clean-up. Hours per week_______
_____Secretarial Work and Clerical Help. Experience in these areas______
_____Counseling (Practical) in areas of jobs, money matters, etc.
___Home Bible Study or Fellowship Groups. Hosting_______Leadership______
_____Visitation (Evangelistic or Pastoral)._______
What is the best time during the day/week for you to serve in any of these areas? List day and hours: Day________ Hours________
CITY/ZIP CODE ________________
*Some opportunities listed may not be available in your church. Also, your leader may advise you of additional opportunities not listed.