As a tennis instructor and player, I realize how important it is to serve well if you are going to be successful. When you are serving well you play more confidently, but when you struggle serving, the rest of your game usually suffers as well. I can think of a number of professional players like Pete Sampras and Serena Williams who have been able to win consistently even when they are not playing their best tennis because they have such amazing serves.
The serve is probably the most difficult stroke in tennis to learn. It has so many aspects that need to come together—the ball toss, the racket preparation and motion and the timing. When I am teaching a beginner the basics of tennis, the serve is normally the skill that comes the hardest. Once you learn the basic elements of the serve it takes continual repetition until it becomes consistent. In a recent “Wisdom of the Week,” I referred to one of our high school players who, although working two jobs this summer, tried to serve at least 200 balls each day, with a goal of competing for the state championship next spring.
Not only is serving well a key to success in tennis, it is a key to success in life as well—especially for the Christian. Because of how God made us, we find our ultimate fulfillment and purpose in serving Him and others. When Jesus was asked what was the greatest of the commandments, He replied “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind…and you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt. 22:37-39). In essence Jesus summarized all ten commandments and they are fulfilled in loving God and loving others, and that is expressed by serving. Jesus set the example for us. He said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not so among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whosoever wishes to be the first among you shall 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” (Mt. 20:25-28).
The Apostle Paul, in his letters to the churches and church leaders, often referred to himself as “a bond-servant of Christ” (Ro. 1:1 cf Gal. 1:10; Phil. 1:1). He understood that he had been set free from bondage to sin and willingly submitted himself as a bond-slave to his new master, Jesus Christ (See Ex. 21:5,6 for the background of “bond-slave”). He totally committed himself to serving God as the missionary to the Gentiles, the special task to which God called him at his conversion (Acts 9:15). He gave his life in service to God by serving those to whom God called him. He was definitely loving God with all his heart, soul and mind, and loving his neighbors as himself. Paul followed the example set for Him by his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who “…did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking 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” (Phil. 2:5-8).
Jesus demonstrated His condescension to the role of a bond-servant at many times and in many ways, but one that stands out in particular is when He was meeting with His disciples for the final Passover meal before His arrest, trial and crucifixion. We read in John 13:3-5, “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, and to wipe them with the towel…” Jesus then said to His disciples, “If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you” (vv. 14,15). He wasn’t necessarily instituting an ordinance of foot washing, but was giving an example of servanthood which He expected of the disciples—and us.
Just as serving well is a key to successful tennis, so serving well is a key to successful Christian living. We need to heed Paul’s admonition to the believers at Philippi: “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Phil. 2:3,4).
Are you dissatisfied with your “lot in life.” Here’s a good suggestion: Build a “service station” on it!