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Spirit of Grace Ministries
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Servant of the Lord

servant

by Dennis Pollock

The call to follow Christ is a call to be a servant. Paul liked to begin his epistles by stating his name, his office, and his status:  "Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle…" (Romans 1:1). A servant is one whose life is defined by his service to another. He voluntarily (or by coercion as in the case of slavery) defers his own plans, dreams, ambitions, and interests to the one he serves. He lives not for his own pleasure but for the pleasure of his master. His identity is swallowed up by his life of service. He sees himself only in connection to his servanthood. Paul writes: "Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God" (1 Corinthians 4:1). Paul not only saw himself as a servant, he asked everyone else to consider him that way.

One of the major trademarks of the true servant is humility. It is impossible to be proud and have a servant's heart at the same time. As our Lord Jesus trained His disciples, he emphasized to them that this was to be central to those who would be His disciples:

But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave, just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28)

As is always the case, our world gets it exactly backward. We have become convinced that an aggressive, take-charge posture is the only path to success. "Nice guys finish last." "Only the strong survive." Show others that you are someone to be reckoned with." "Look out for number one." These are the world's mottos and by these proud men push their way through life. We are reminded of how Jesus refused to live by the traditions of His own day and culture. In His sermon on the mount He repeats these words: "It has been said… but I say unto you…" When it comes to things philosophical, moral, and spiritual, taking the popular position is usually taking the wrong position.

Serving Others

Many folks can stomach the idea of being servants to God. After all, He is in heaven and we can always justify whatever we are doing by simply declaring, "God impressed me to do this." But God not only calls us to be His servants, but also to serve people around us. Jesus was the prime example, plainly announcing that He came to this earth not to be served, but to serve. Paul writes, "For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more" (1 Corinthians 9:19). Shaping our lives to conform to God's good pleasure, and living in such a way as to bring blessing and encouragement to others, is the essence of Christian living. Servanthood is not merely an esoteric, meaningless Biblical concept; it is a constant reality for all who would take up the cross of Christ.

Servanthood is so difficult for us because it runs counter to our every natural instinct. We instinctively work toward our own interests, and woe to anybody who stands between us and what we want or need. Every waking minute our hearts are filled with passions and desires that scream to be satisfied. We look at where we are, we mark where we want to be, and we formulate a beeline from point A to point B. Anyone who stands to the side of that path and cheers us on is welcomed as a friend. But anyone who stands directly in the path and threatens to slow us down or even stop us is looked upon as a mortal enemy. And the idea of putting our own desires on hold, temporarily or permanently, while we work for someone else to help them attain their desires is seen as the worst possible situation.

And yet when we read the Scriptures we find that God loves to train His leaders in the school of servanthood. Joshua must serve for decades as Moses' assistant before he is ever allowed to take over the reins of Israel. Elisha must wash the hands of Elijah and Samuel must hang around the tabernacle serving elderly Eli and doing all sorts of mundane and humble tasks before God unleashes him as a prophet to the nation of Israel. In fact Jesus makes it perfectly clear that the unwillingness to make someone else's dreams come true will disqualify you for God's promotion into the realization of your own dreams: "And if you have not been faithful in what is another man's, who will give you what is your own?" (Luke 16:12).

Assigned Tasks

The servant does not choose his service, or his tools for service. No slave would ever go to his master and tell him, "I have prepared a list of the jobs I will do for you and on the back side of the sheet are a list of jobs I would never possibly do. I also have a sheet which tells you how long I am willing to wait before promotion to a higher level of service and greater pay. And this other list tells you what tools you must provide me for my tasks." No, the servant comes into his position in a place of complete submission. He depends upon his master for his sustenance, and submits to his master for whatever plans he may have for him. The same Paul who declared himself a servant of the Lord also announced that he was "called to be an apostle." He didn't say that he chose to be an apostle, applied to be an apostle, or even begged to be an apostle. He was called to be an apostle. No vote was taken, no man was consulted.

When the Scriptures speak of the various gifts of the Holy Spirit that are given to believers, they make it plain that these gifts are not given us as a result of our choosing, but as a result of God's sovereign grace: "But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills" (1 Corinthians 12:11).

Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley both became mega superstars in the world of popular music. In their latter days they both loved to sing a song which runs in complete contradiction of the servant attitude the Bible commends. The song was called I Did It My Way, and it celebrates the independent individual who makes his way through life living for himself and for his own pleasure. Some of the lyrics include:

I planned each charted course
Each careful step along the byway
Oh, and more, much more than this
I did it my way

Yes, there were times, I'm sure you know
When I bit off more than I could chew
But through it all when there was doubt

I ate it up and spit it out
I faced it all and I stood tall
And did it my way

The record shows I took the blows
And did it my way
The record shows I took the blows
And did it my way

The song reeks with arrogance. It is the very antithesis, the polar opposite of all that Jesus had to say about the way His followers are to live. "I planned each chartered course and each careful step" – what a joke! That's not even possible, let alone reasonable. The Bible says "the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps" (Jeremiah 10:23). Or as someone once put it, "If you want to hear God laugh, show him your plans for your life."

Submitted and Dependent

The servant lives not only in the place of submission, but also in the place of dependence. He can make requests of his master, but he cannot force his master's hand. Even in things the master has promised, the servant must patiently wait for the master's good pleasure for the promise to be fulfilled. The psalmist declares: "Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their masters, as the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the LORD our God, until He has mercy on us" (Psalm 123:2).

Lest all of this sound pretty dreary, we must point out that there are some incredible benefits and rewards associated with laying down our lives as servants of the Lord Jesus. First, whatever the Lord asks of us, He gives us not only the grace to do the work, but His joy to enjoy it. God is no Pharaoh, requiring His people to make bricks without providing them the necessary straw. Within the will of God is the total provision of God – financial, spiritual, and emotional.

When the prodigal son came to his senses as he was feeding the pigs and craving even their miserable food, we are told that he said to himself: "How many of my father's hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!" (Luke 15:17). Even the servants had not only their food provided, but "and to spare." They had more than they needed! So will our Heavenly Father do for you as you submit yourself unto the service of the Lord Jesus. You will have more than you need for all He asks of you. Paul writes, "And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, have an abundance for every good work" (2 Corinthians 9:8).

Rewards for Service

Secondly there are fantastic rewards we will receive in eternity. Jesus told the parable about the man who went on a journey and gave different amounts of money to his three servants to invest while he was gone. Upon his return he called the servants to him to see what kind of profit they had made with the money they were given. One of the servants had buried the money and refused to invest it, and he was rebuked sharply for being a wicked and lazy servant. But to the other two, who had doubled their money, he told them, "Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord" (Matthew 25:23).

Jesus does not call them good and talented servants or good and clever servants; He calls them "good and faithful servants." Regardless of the money entrusted to them, they made good use of what they had been given. And that is all the Lord asks of us. Consider two pastors, one pastoring a congregation of 10,000 people and the other pastoring a church of forty-five. They both love Jesus; they are both ministering to their people faithfully. Yet one has a huge church and is invited to speak on all the popular Christian television programs. The other has a tiny church and only gets invited to speak at the local senior citizen's home once a year on Thanksgiving. The pastor of the large church is a dynamic speaker who has his people laughing one minute and sobbing the next. The small church pastor doesn't speak too well but always makes sure his congregation is well fed with the Bread of life. The good news is that God is more interested in our faithfulness than in our results. Both of these men are good and faithful servants and they both will be invited to enter into the joy of their Lord, and in the words of Jesus, be made "ruler over many things."

As important as the concept of servanthood is, it is not the whole story. Although in our ministry to Jesus we are His servants, yet in our relationship with Him we rise far higher. Jesus told His disciples, "I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you." Our Master shares divine secrets with us, and calls us His friends.

This, then is the life Jesus calls us to when we hear His voice bidding us to come and follow Him. If this life interests you, put your name in place of Paul in that first verse of Romans and see how it fits: "Larry, a servant of Jesus Christ…" (or Bill, or Mike, or Susan, or Debbie). As you take on the role of a servant you will attain true greatness, and one day hear those blessed words, "Well done, good and faithful servant..."


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