Well, in spite of the storms accompanying hurricane Irene that passed through New York, the U.S. Open Tennis Tournament opened today on schedule. As a tennis fan, player, coach and instructor, I know how important the serve is to an effective game. It seems that if you are serving well, it gives you confidence and the rest of your game goes well too, but if you are struggling with your serve, it often negatively affects how you are playing. When you are playing a tennis match, it is important to be able to “hold serve,” meaning to win the games that you serve. I can’t help but see the parallel in our every-day lives, and especially in our Christian walk. If we are not “serving well,” it affects the other areas of our life as well. The Apostle Paul identified himself as a “servant (literally, ‘bondslave’) of Jesus Christ. He opened his letter to the Romans with, “Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God” (Ro. 1:1 cf Phil. 1:1; Gal. 1:10). Paul had been, and all believers have been, ransomed out of the slave market of sin by Christ’s blood, and have been set free from the guilt, power, and penalty of that sin. Our willing response should be to permanently place ourselves into enslavement to our Redeemer, making us simultaneously both bondslaves and freedmen of the King of kings. As Christians, we are told often in Scripture that we should be servants, yet we don’t always know what true servanthood is. When one understands what servanthood involves, it is a wonderful thing, especially as viewed in the Person of Jesus Christ, who left us the example of servanthood during His earthly ministry. From the passages of Scripture dealing with servanthood, we can make several observations.
1) Servants Aren’t Nobodies!
a) Phil. 2:5-8 states, “Have this attitude in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking on the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” And in John 10:30, Jesus said, “I and My Father are one.” That’s not a very modest statement, is it? Some have the concept that a servant is someone who says, “I’m a nobody, I’m nothing, I’m humble, I have no wishes, I have no goals, I have nothing to contribute. Just tell me what to do.” But we see Jesus, who took upon Himself the form of a servant. Yet He sure wasn’t a nobody!” Servants aren’t nobodies. Every person has value and is loved by God and is equipped to serve in some capacity through natural talents or spiritual gifts (if a believer).
b) In contrast we often run into people who say, “I’m talented, I’m educated, I’m competent, I’m rich, I have power. Therefore, I must be served.” They think that because of who they are, or what they do, everyone is to be their servant, as they “lord it over them.”
2) Good Leaders Are Good Servants.
a) I remember some of the words Jesus spoke to James and John when they said they would like to apply for two position in the kingdom–one on Jesus’ right hand and the other on His left (Mk. 10:35-45). Jesus told them it wasn’t within His power (at the time) to grant them their request, and then called the disciples together and took the occasion to give them some instructions, saying, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them. But, it is not so among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Just think about the example when Jesus “rose from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself about. Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples feet…” (Jn. 13:4,5).
b) The motto of the British Military Academy is “Serve to Lead.” Guess where that principle came from?! If you are the president of a company and have 800 working for you, your are responsible for 800 people. It is really you who are working for them. It is your job to serve them to make them successful in what each does.
c) One of our favorite TV programs last season was “Undercover Boss” where the CEO of a large company went undercover and actually worked for his employees. Through serving those under them, they gained a great respect for what their employees did for the company. It was a humbling, growing experience for the CEO’s. I think all CEO’s should be required to do this too. Think again of the passage in Phil. 2:5-8 describing how the Creator of the universe came down to this little blue dot called earth, and was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of a virgin, taking on the form of the very beings He had created, in order to die for their sins. Wow!
3) Servanthood Is An Act Of the Will.
a) Jesus said, “I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me” (Jn. 5:30). As He prayed in the Garden before His arrest, He said: “Father, If Thou art willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Thine be done” (Lk. 22:42). Remember, Jesus had told His disciples before His death, “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep….No one has taken it from Me, because I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again” (Jn. 10:11-18).
b) I can’t imagine any greater misery than a person doing something with his hands that his head doesn’t want to do, especially when he is pretending that his head and his hands are in tune. True servanthood is an act of the will–a matter of the heart, not just the hands. A servant willingly and voluntarily and consciously submits himself/herself to something simply as an act of the will and gives himself gladly to it. Servanthood implies that a person, by an act of the will, yields himself. There isn’t any greater joy than to give yourself as a servant–even unto death.
4) Servants Serve Regardless.
a) Think of Jesus, who “came unto His own, and His own didn’t receive Him” (Jn. 1:11). Yet He didn’t say, “God, I don’t like it down here. This didn’t turn out the way I thought it would. I’m out ‘a here!” Rather, He continued His mission because He was a servant. “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Ro. 5:8).
b) Servanthood isn’t dependent upon being appreciated–at least not down here on earth. Jesus wasn’t guided by the response to His ministry. He was serving His Father.
c) To be a true servant is to be a servant unto the Lord, because one does his work as unto the Lord. “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus…do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men; knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve” (Col. 3:17,23,24).
d) Serving is: “giving when you feel like keeping, being faithful when your flesh wants to run away, keeping your word even when it is not convenient, maintaining integrity when ‘no one would ever know,’ living truth before people even when you can’t see results, comforting the hurting when your own hurt can’t be spoken. Feeding others when your own soul is hungry, praying for others when you desperately need others to pray for you, forgiving those who will not forgive you and refusing to be bitter.” (from Eagle Summit Ministry of Spokane, WA) If you are going to walk worthy of your calling as a member of the Royal Family of God, you must “hold serve.” If you are not satisfied with your “lot in life,” build a service station on it! A Fellow Servant, Pastor Dave