18 And when they were come to him, he said unto them, Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons,
19 Serving the LORD with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews:
20 And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house,
21 Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Servant ‘Par Excellence’
Do you merely serve, or are you a servant? These verses more than any others, point out and demonstrate the absolute single-minded attitude and total unselfish nature that Paul the apostle possessed. He was truly a servant of God, ‘par excellence’ (better or more than all others of the same kind). Not that he was without sin or fault in his life but, that he was totally sold out for the cause of Christ. There was no wiggle room in his life. He was determined to fulfill the call of God on his life by, serving the Lord with gladness (Psa.100:2), and, serving the people of God with humility, faithfulness and integrity. Though Christ is our greatest example of servanthood, we can learn much and gain valuable insight from the life of Paul the apostle.
Remember that the servant of God has 4 enemies:
3. The System of this world
Each enemy presents its own set of problems, however the self-life intrudes and interferes with the flow of true servanthood. There are three main forms of the self-life. They are:
• self-will – which says, ‘I initiate, I decide, I am the king of my day.
• self-effort – says, ‘I will accomplish God’s work through my own efforts, and my own schemes.’ It naturally follows that what begins with me, must be done by me.
• self-glory – this is wanting to have people think we are ‘someone’ by doing things – good things, even great things for God, but really for our own glory and the praise of men.
Servanthood is the condition or state of being a servant to others, of ministry to others rather than the service of self. It means willingly giving of oneself to minister for and to others and to do whatever it takes to accomplish what is best for another. When speaking of servanthood, we are speaking of ministry; and I love Warren Wiersbe’s definition of it. He states that, ‘Ministry takes place when divine resources meet human needs through loving vessels to the glory of God.’
Selfishness vs. Servanthood
We live in a world filled with people with needs of every kind. They can be emotional, spiritual, mental, or even financial; and we can choose to respond to these needs in one of several ways. We can:
1. Choose to be blind to them and live our own lives. This would be opposite of how Jesus would have us live. Read Philippians 2:3-4:
Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.
2. Take advantage of people’s needs to benefit ourselves. Yes, unfortunately this happens all the time. Wolves in sheep’s clothing abound, and their aim is to fleece and take advantage of those in weakened conditions. These are the vulnerable and unsuspecting, and they are easy prey for those who would choose to exploit others difficulties for their own gain.
3. Know about the need and do nothing. In the story of the Good Samaritan (Lu.10:25-37), we see the priest and the Levite passing by on the other side after seeing a bruised and battered Jew on the road to Jericho.
All said and done, selfishness says, ‘What will I get?’ Service says, ‘But such as I have give I thee.’ (Acts 3:6)
Requirements of Servanthood (using the example of Zaccheus in Lu.19:1-10)
What does servanthood require? As servants we need to begin to prayerfully incorporate these things into our lives:
Our spiritual senses need to be sharp. Jesus stopped under the sycamore tree because He knew Zaccheus was up there. How many opportunities to serve have we missed because we were unaware of people with needs in the trees, and never bothered to look up?
When Jesus spotted him, He could have dismissed him, and made an appointment to see him later; in some cases this will do, but with Jesus, being available was such a priority that He stopped whatever agenda He may have had and attended to Zaccheus by inviting Himself to his house.
Jesus didn’t wait until Zaccheus fixed himself or his house up before He would deal with him. Aren’t you glad Jesus didn’t wait until you ‘got yourself together’ before He dealt with you? Jesus embraces us where we are and as you, filthy rags and all.
When we became saved, we become grafted into the vine. Jesus said, ‘Abide in me, and I in you. As a branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abusers in me and I in him, the same bringers forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. (John 14:4-5) Abiding in Him is the only way to receive the resources we need to serve others in the way they need to be served. We must, as the psalmist said, ‘follow hard’ after Him. (Psalm 63:8)
As the Lord’s servants, He calls us to abandon our own selfish desires. The ‘do you’ and ‘me, myself and I’ mindset must take a backseat. A verse from an old song we used to sing says:
So send I you, to leave your life’s ambition
To die to dear desire, self-will resign
To labor long, and love where men revile you
So send I you, to lose your life in mine
Did you read that? Leave your life’s ambition? To die to my own desire? Really? This is the life of a true servant. It’s no longer about my needs; it’s about fulfilling the needs of the God I serve.
The Servant and Religion
The servant of God must guard against religion. Religion is the most powerful narcotic there is. Through it we go about doing and going and being, all the while believing we are meriting some big pat on the back and a hearty ‘Well done’ from the Lord. We feel that the more we do, the more God approves. Too many times we go, and do and become, to make ourselves feel better. That is bondage. A familiar acrostic goes like this:
This is not religion. Religion thinks of self, first. You will find that the joy and satisfaction of servanthood will flow from you when you allow ministry to flow in this order. A popular song says:
Make me a servant, humble and meek
Lord let me lift up those who are weak
And may the prayer of my heart always be
Make me a servant, make me a servant
Make me a servant, today
The ‘Souled Out’ Servant
In closing, I would like to submit to you something that was written many years ago. The author is unknown, but is believed to be a young pastor in Zimbabwe who was martyred for his faith in Jesus Christ. It was found in his study. As I read it, I am struck by the fact that these words are not the ramblings of some wavering Christian, unable to pinpoint who they are in Christ, but a firm declaration of someone who was a totally ‘souled out’ servant of the Lord. It reads like this:
“I’m part of the fellowship of the unashamed. I have the Holy Spirit’s power. The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made — I’m a disciple of his. I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still. My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, my future is secure. I’m finished and done with low living, sight walking, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tamed visions, worldly talking, cheap giving, and dwarfed goals.”
“I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I don’t have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded, or rewarded. I now live by faith, lean in his presence, walk by patience, am uplifted by prayer, and I labor with power.”
“My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, my way rough, my companions few, my Guide reliable, my mission clear. I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, deluded, or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifices, hesitate in the presence of the enemy, pander at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.”
“I won’t give up, shut up, let up, until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up, preached up for the cause of Christ. I am a disciple of Jesus. I must go till he comes, give till I drop, preach till all know, and work till he stops me. And, when he comes for his own, he will have no problem recognizing me … my banner will be clear.”
So, after having read this, do you just serve, or are you a servant? Think about it.