Choosing Servanthood

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My Musings – When we first accept Christ our fervor to serve Him is usually high. But strangely enough, we seldom equate service with being a servant – at least not at first. Rather, we tend to think of service in terms of leadership and accomplishment. We envision the great things we will do for Him. Being a great evangelist that leads multitudes to Christ, a great leader that fellow Christians look to for guidance and inspiration or perhaps a great teacher that unlocks deep spiritual truths for others who may not be as enlightened. But God wants us to focus less on what we will do and more on how we serve and on who we serve. For our service is not just for others, it is also for Him. And if we are willing to serve at the “lowliest” task (and sometimes that may figuratively involve washing someone else’s feet – or worse), that is great service in His eyes.

Ephesians 2:8-9 states that “it is by grace [we] have been saved through faith…not by works.” These are favorite verses on God’s grace that we all love to quote to emphasize the free gift of salvation that we could never have paid for our own no matter how great the effort. And that is quite true. But if works cannot save us, one might wonder why there is any need to become a servant and do good works. One need not look any further than the very next verse for the answer. Ephesians 2:10 (which few can quote as readily as the previous two verses) states that “we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works.” The sequence of these few verses is quite revealing. Grace through faith results in salvation, whereas works are a natural result of salvation (or at least they should be).

James takes this thought even further than Paul in James 2:17, “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” James is not saying, as some have erroneously concluded, that salvation is the result of grace plus works. Rather, he is saying that a genuine “grace through faith” conversion experience cannot help but result in a change in lifestyle demonstrated by good works. These works are the result of, or rather are “produced by faith” in Jesus These labors are not born out of obligation, but are “prompted by love” that we have for our Master, our fellow heirs and the lost. Finally, all of this is inspired by our “hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus is looking to develop servants that are both wise and faithful who can be put in charge of the various ministries that He is calling them to fulfill. It often takes both wisdom and faithfulness to see how the role we are being called to is fitting for us. Sometimes we may think the task is below us. At other times we may feel terribly inadequate. But if we are wise, we will usually come to see how perfect the pairing (us and the task) actually was, but only if we are faithful and see the service through to completion.

Often we cannot see how our role, be it big or small, fits into the bigger picture of service to Him and His Kingdom. But it does. In some ways it is like an automobile assembly line. It is hard to visualize the finished car when your task is to only attach one small component as the work in process rolls down the line past your work station. But at the end of the shift, as you leave the assembly plant, you catch a glimpse of a finished product as it rolls out the door. Then you can take pride in the fact that you had a part in making it happen.

Your part might have seemed small and insignificant at the time,
but it was nonetheless critical to the entire process.

If there is a breakdown at even one step along the line, the entire process is affected. Paul used the analogy of one body but many parts in his writings (there were not a lot of cars in his day). If one part of the body suffers the whole body suffers, and along with it the work of the Kingdom.

When we are on the line doing the same thing over and over, not seeing the results, it may be hard to remain faithful and to stay on task. But if we are wise, we will stay faithful. Being wise involves staying ready, being alert for opportunities sweating the small stuff and taking action. Being faithful involves seeing things through to completion, even if we think that the task is below us. The true measure of faithfulness is not how much we are able to give, but by how much it costs us to give. Our continued faithfulness is not dependent upon immediate or spectacular successes. Finally, being faithful is not dependent upon good conditions or circumstances.

The Wise Servant:

Stays Ready – Being ready means we are prepared. When it is time to serve, we are able to serve. The moment does not pass us by because we were not ready when it came. “Be dressed ready for service and keep your lights burning, like men waiting for their master to return.” (Luke 12:35, 36, NIV 1978).

Is Alert For Opportunities – We not just ready to serve, we anticipate serving by looking for and capitalizing on opportunities as they arise.  “As we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to who belong to the family of God.” (Galatians 6:10, NIV 1978).

Sweats The Small Stuff – We do not let small opportunities to serve slide while we are waiting for bigger opportunities. We are wise enough to know that taking care of the little things make us ready for bigger things. “Well done good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things.” (Matthew 25:23, NIV 1978).

Takes Action – Being ready for the opportunity, patiently waiting for the opportunity to present itself and being humble enough to not overlook the small tasks means nothing if we do not execute.  “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in humility that comes from wisdom.” (James 3:13, NIV 1978).

Is A Faithful Servant:

With What Is Entrusted – Our faithfulness needs to be commensurate with what we have been entrusted with. This is especially true if we have been given a lot to work with. “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” (Luke 12:48, NIV 1978).

Through To Completion – We must not be quitters. Any task worthwhile enough to begin is worthwhile enough to complete.  “I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the task the Lord Jesus has given me.” (Acts 20:24, NIV 1978).

Even If Task Is Below Us – We take on the tasks that we are called to even when they seem beneath our talents or our aspirations. We can learn a lot from the Master. “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.” (John 13:14, NIV 1978).

Measured By Its Cost – Our faithfulness is not measured so much by how much we give, as it is by what it costs us.  “Jesus saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “I tell you the truth,” He said, “this poor widow put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty.” (Luke 21:1-4, NIV 1978).

Not Result Dependent – We remain faithful in service even when the results are not apparent or are not what we expected or hoped for. This includes situations where our service is not welcomed or appreciated.  “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, ‘the God we serve is able to save us, and he will rescue us. But even if he does not, we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.‘” (Daniel 3;16-18, NIV 1978).

Despite Circumstances – We must remain faithful in our service whether the circumstances are favorable or unfavorable. More often than not, they may be unfavorable. We stay on track and do not abandon our efforts when the going becomes difficult.  “Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.” (Daniel 6:10, NIV 1978).

My Advice – We are all used to people making claims. Politicians make claims about what they will do if they are elected. Advertisers make claims about the benefits of the product they are pitching. Suiters make claims about how much they love the person they are wooing. None of these claims are worth anything unless they are backed up by action. A politician risks not being reelected if they do not follow through with their campaign promises. Inventory will cease to move off store shelves if the product does not live up to the advertiser’s claims. Lovers grow apart when promised affections are not delivered.

So it is with our faith. A faith that transforms is a faith that performs. Faith inaction becomes a faith in action. Doing the least for the Kingdom becomes doing for even the least in the Kingdom. So how are things with you? Is your faith alive or dead? Is your “work produced by faith?” Is your “labor prompted by love?” Is your “endurance inspired by hope?” Are you seeking to do the “good works, which God prepared in advance for [you] to do?

We must be prepared to serve so that when the opportunity comes you we able to seize the moment. We must be faithful with the small stuff and God will entrust us with bigger stuff. We should not give up on the things that God has entrusted (prepared in advance) to us, even though at times the work seems to be beneath us. We should see the task through to completion, even if we are not able to see the fruits of our labor. We must, in faith, leave that to God. We need to keep laboring on even if the conditions are less than optimal, or even downright hostile. We should be humble and do what we are called to do. Sometimes the most valuable tasks in our service to God are the ones that cost us the most. After all, our salvation carried a high price for God. Can we ever do too much to show our gratitude for that? To sum it all up, Nike probably got its inspiration from Jesus’ call for us to be servants – just do it!

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