The following is an excerpt from a sermon by Daniel Dennison. You can find the entire sermon here. Read what it means to have a servant's heart, and how service leads to greatness in God's sight.
Servanthood in Discipleship
By Daniel Dennison
Scripture: Matthew 25:31-25:46
. . . Try to imagine Jesus actually talking to you and telling you “I was hungry and you didn’t feed me.” “I was thirsty, but you didn’t give me a drink.” “I was lonely and you didn’t welcome me.” “I needed clothing and you declined to clothe me.” “I was sick and you didn’t comfort me.” . . .
Repeatedly, when Jesus was asked what pleased God or how to please God, His reply was the same:
So what does it mean to be a servant? Servanthood in its simplest form deals with people. At the heart of it is our willingness to go out of our way to meet a need in someone’s life and to accomplish something that needs to be done.
True servanthood, as is depicted in the Bible is more then just a desire to do what is right. It is dying to one’s own desires and attending to the needs of our God and others.
The best way to summarize a servant is as a person who doesn’t exercise his own will but rather submits it in order to please his master. For us, our master is Christ. So as disciples, we don’t exercise our own will but instead we give it over not only to God, but to others, so that we can please Christ. “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.”
It is very easy for us as to fall into the trap of calling our good works servanthood, which often times are simply done to make our selves feel better. If we are to be true servants of Christ and not of our selves, there are several biblical qualities of a servant that we should possess.
In all things, a servant is humble. Being humble in servanthood means not worrying about who gets the credit for something. Being a humble servant means doing something and not expecting anything in return. If you are serving to get praise or to get a reward, you aren’t practicing biblical servanthood. . . .
In all things, a servant is patient. This is a necessary virtue not only in our role as servants but in our role as disciples. The opposite of patience is being resentful with the circumstances that keep us from doing what we think ought to be done. One of the results of impatience is discouragement. As servants we must be patient when things don’t go our way so that we don’t become discouraged. . . .
In all things, a servant is gentle. 2nd Timothy 2:25 says “Those who oppose him he must gently instruct.” Paul gave instructions to Timothy to be gentle with those of the opposition whom he would be instructing in the things of God. Being rough, demanding, or confrontational does not serve others, it only serves to build a wall between you and those that you are serving. . . . God doesn’t call us to be doormats to be walked all over, but he does desire a gentle spirit from us in our service. If someone takes your coat are you going to fight him to get it back or are you going to give him your cloak as well? And if someone strikes you on the cheek are you going to strike him back or are you going to do as Jesus instructed and turn to him the other cheek also?
In all things, a servant is watchful. We must be alert to the needs of others and alert to the direction God is calling us. If we are not looking for opportunities to minister to others and to serve them, we will most likely not be in service to others. Jesus often spoke about watchfulness, one example comes in Luke 12:35-37, “Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like men waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes.” Are you being watchful and observant to the needs of those around you?
And the last quality of a servant is obedience and submission. I think this trait really defines what a servant is more than any of the others. We talked several weeks ago about the importance of submission to God, but in service we have to not only submit to God, but also submit to others. Now that is usually a big no no in our society. We are much more comfortable with words like “self-fulfillment” and “self-actualization” than we are with the thought of self-denial. Self-denial is a way of coming to understand that we don’t have to always have our own way and that our happiness is not dependant upon getting what we want. In reality, it is through self-denial that we will receive self-fulfillment.
Another myth is that self-denial is the same as self-contempt. Self-contempt claims that we have no worth, and even if we do have worth, we should reject it. Self-denial declares that we are of infinite worth and it shows us how to realize it.
I want to reiterate that self-denial and submission does not mean to give way to others and become a doormat, it means to hold others’ interests above our own interests. And that is the key to servanthood, putting the wants and needs of others ahead of ourselves. . . .
Service is not just a list of things that we do. It’s also not just going on mission projects. Service isn’t limited to helping your elderly neighbor or doing a service project once a month. Being involved in mission trips, doing random acts of kindness for those in need and doing monthly service projects are all great ways to be in service, but to practice the characteristic of servanthood we must make it a lifestyle. Richard Foster outlines several ways in which we can make service our lifestyle and not just a random act now and then. We must learn to put all of these into practice in order to make servanthood a lifestyle.
First, there is the act of hidden service. This means doing small acts of service behind the scenes without ever making your presence known. This could be as simple as leaving an anonymous encouraging note for someone, leaving an anonymous donation for someone in need, or mowing someone’s lawn without them ever knowing. Hidden, anonymous service can have a ripple effect on many people. It can send ripples of joy and celebration through an entire community of people.
There is the service of helpfulness. This means simple assistance in small matters that may sometimes seem meaningless. This is practical service, something that may not take a lot of time and may not seem like a big deal, but it requires taking the initiative to do something that needs to be done.
There is the service of common courtesy. Instead of the meaningless greeting of “how are you?” take a few moments to show genuine concern and interest in how a person is really doing. Take the time to get to know people better and to know what their needs are. Acknowledge others and take the time to affirm their worth.
There is the service of hospitality. Peter urges us to do so in 1st Peter 4:9 when he says, “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” Invite people into your homes to serve them and to get to know them better. Take the time to be hospitable to new people when they come to church. Take the time to be hospitable to strangers wherever you are.
There is also the service of listening. This is an easy service if we simply take the time to do so. You don’t have to have the correct answers to listen well, you simply have to have a compassionate heart and a listening ear.
There is the service of bearing the burdens of each other. There is the call in Galatians 6:2 to “Bear one another’s burdens and in doing so you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Love is most perfectly fulfilled when we bear the hurts and sufferings of each other and offer a shoulder or a hug to those who need it.
If you strive to make your life an act of service, then God will open doors for you like you have never experienced. God will give you numerous witnessing opportunities for non-believers and ministry opportunities for believers and non-believers alike. As you prepare to commit yourself to a life of service to others, and God, be prepared for an endless amount of ministry opportunities. As we continue in worship tonight offer this prayer up to God: “Lord Jesus, as it would please you bring me someone today whom I can serve.” Strive to start every day in this way, “Lord Jesus, as it would please you bring me someone today whom I can serve.”