What Does It Mean To Be a Servant?

We are going through a series on spiritual disciplines. What does it mean to follow Jesus? We’ve looked at prayer, Scripture, sabbath, and fasting, and this week, we will look at service. We see the greatest example as the disciples were celebrating Passover in the Upper Room. Little did they know it would be their last meal with Jesus.

The Motive for Service

“It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end… so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him” (Jn. 13:1, 4-5). Jesus’ ultimate motive was love. Other motives include obedience (Deut. 13:4), gratitude (1 Sam. 12:24), or gladness (Ps. 100:2), but love fuels our actions like nothing else.

The Model of Service

“When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. ‘Do you understand what I have done for you?’ he asked them. ‘You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you” (Jn. 13:12-15). Jesus modeled service for us. Parents have to model it for their children. Pastors have to model it for the Church. There are different Greek words in the New Testament for servant. We will look at just three. “Diakonos” means deacon. The principle we learn is that service is focused on the needs of others (Mt. 20:26-28). “Hyperetes” means under-rower. The principle is that service magnifies Jesus, not self (Acts 26:16). Finally, “doulos” means bondservant. The principle from it is that service is a lifetime commitment.

The Ministry of Service

Jesus closes His time of service saying, “Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them” (Jn. 13:16-17). So many people think God just wants them to be happy. No. He wants us to be holy. We live a life that pleases Him by serving. In the parable of the talents in Matthew 25, we read that the master replied, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (v. 21). He did not say, “Well done good and faithful preacher, singer, husband, wife, or parent.” The ministry of serving may be as public as preaching or teaching, but more often it will be behind the scenes like working in the nursery or preschool. Serving may be as appreciated as a powerful testimony, but typically it’s as thankless as washing dishes in kitchen. I read of a missionary in Africa who was asked if he really liked what he was doing. His response was shocking. “Do I like this work?” he said. “No. My wife and I do not like dirt. We do not like crawling into vile huts through goat refuse. . . But is a man to do nothing for Christ he does not like? God pity him, if not. Liking or disliking has nothing to do with it. We have orders to ‘Go,’ and we go. Love constrains us.” When Christ’s love controls or constrains people, they “no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Cor. 5:15).

Joshua said to the Israelites, “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve… but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Josh. 24:15). Who are you serving? Jesus’ invitation to us is, “Follow me.” One of the ways we do that is by serving. Let’s live our lives in such a way to hear Him say, “Well done good and faithful servant.”

Works Consulted:

Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, Whitney

Sacred Rhythms, Barton

Practicing the Way, Comer

Celebration of Discipline, Foster

Reading the Bible Supernaturally, Piper

Serve Day Church of the Highlands

Luke Thabiti Anyabwile


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