Ministry: How Real Servants Think

Called to Serve

By Pastor Rick Warren
Saddleback Church

 

To be a servant you must think like a servant.

My servant Caleb thinks differently and follows me completely. (Numbers 14:24, NCV)

Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. (Philippians 2:5, Msg)

Servanthood requires a mental shift, a change in your attitudes. God is always more interested in why we do something than in what we do. Attitudes count more than achievements. King Amaziah lost Gods favor because “He did what was right in the sight of the Lord, yet not with a true heart.” Real servants serve God with a mindset of five attitudes:

 

Real Servants are Self-Forgetful

They focus on others, not themselves. This is true humility: not thinking less of ourselves but thinking of ourselves less. Paul said, Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. This is what it means to “lose your life”- forgetting yourself in service to others. When we stop focusing on our needs, we become aware of the needs around us.

Jesus “emptied himself by taking on the form of a servant.” When was the last time you emptied yourself for someone elses benefit? You cant be a servant if youre full of yourself. Its only when we forget ourselves that we do the things that deserve to be remembered.

Unfortunately, a lot of our service is often self-serving. We serve to get others to like us, to be admired, or to achieve our own goals. That is manipulation, not ministry. All the time were really thinking about ourselves and how noble and wonderful we are. Some people try to use service as a bargaining tool with God: “I’ll do this for you God, if youll do something for me.” Real servants don’t try to use God for their purposes. They let God use them for His purposes.

The quality of self-forgetfulness, like faithfulness, is extremely rare. Out of all the people Paul knew, Timothy was the only example he could point to. Thinking like a servant is difficult because it challenges the basic problem of my life: I am, by nature, selfish. I think most about me. That’s why humility is a daily struggle, a lesson I must relearn over and over. The opportunity to be a servant confronts me dozens of times a day where I’m given the choice to decide between meeting my needs or the needs of others. Self-denial is the core of servanthood.

We can measure our servants heart by how we respond when others treat us like servants. How do you react when youre taken for granted, bossed around, or treated as an inferior? The Message paraphrase of Matthew 5:41 says, If someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life.

 

Real Servants Think Like Stewards, Not Owners

They remember God owns it all. In the Bible, a steward was a servant entrusted to manage an estate. Joseph was this kind of servant as a prisoner in Egypt. First, Potiphar entrusted Joseph with his home. Then the jailer entrusted Joseph with his jail. Eventually Pharaoh entrusted the entire nation to him. Servanthood and stewardship go together since God expects us to be trustworthy in both. The Bible says the one thing required of such servants is that they be faithful to their master. How are you handling the resources God has entrusted to you?

To become a real servant, you’re going to have to settle the issue of money in your life. Jesus said, “No servant can serve two masters… You cannot serve both God and Money.” He didn’t say, “You shouldn’t serve both,” but “You cannot.” It is impossible. Living for ministry and living for money are mutually exclusive goals. Which one will you choose? If you’re a servant of God you cant moonlight for yourself. All your time belongs to God. He insists on exclusive allegiance, not part-time faithfulness.

Money has the greatest potential to replace God in your life. More people are sidetracked from serving by materialism than anything else. They say, “After I achieve my financial goals, I’m going to serve God.” That is a foolish decision they will regret for eternity. When Jesus is your Master, money serves you, but if money is your master, you become its slave. Wealth is certainly not a sin, but failing to use it for Gods glory is. Real servants are more concerned about ministry than money.

The Bible is very clear: God uses money to test your faithfulness as a servant. That’s why Jesus talked more about money than He did about either heaven or hell. He said, If you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? How you manage your money affects how much God can bless your life.

I believe people usually fall into one of two categories: Kingdom Builders and Wealth Builders.

Both are gifted at making a business grow, making deals or sales, and making a profit.

Wealth Builders continue to amass wealth for themselves no matter how much they make.

Kingdom Builders change the rules of the game. They still try to make as much money as they can but they do it in order to give it away. They use the wealth to fund God’s church and its mission in the world.

At Saddleback Church, we have a group of CEOs and business owners who are trying to make as much as they can, so they can give as much as they can to further the kingdom of God. I encourage you to talk with your pastor and begin a Kingdom Builders group in your church.

 

Real Servants Think About Their Own Responsibilities, Not What Other Servants are Doing

They don’t compare, criticize, or compete with other servants or ministries. They’re too busy doing the work God has given them.

Competition between God’s servants is illogical for many reasons: we’re all on the same team, our goal is to make God look good, not ourselves, we’ve been given different assignments, and we’re all uniquely shaped. Paul said, We will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original.

There’s no place for petty jealousy between servants. When you’re busy serving, you don’t have time to be critical. Any time spent criticizing others is time that could have been spent ministering. When Martha complained to Jesus that Mary was not helping with the work, she lost her servant’s heart. Real servants don’t complain of unfairness, don’t have pity-parties, and don’t resent those not serving. They just trust God and keep serving.

It’s not our job to evaluate the Master’s other servants. The Bible says, Who are you to criticize someone else’s servant? The Lord will determine whether his servant has been successful. It’s also not our job to defend ourselves against criticism. Let your Master handle it. Follow the example of Moses who showed true humility in the face of opposition, as did Nehemiah, whose response to critics was simply, My work is too important to stop now and visit with you.

If you serve like Jesus, you can expect to be criticized. The world, and even much of the church, does not understand what God values. The disciples criticized one of the most beautiful acts of love shown to Jesus. Mary took the most valuable thing she owned, expensive perfume, and poured it over Jesus. Her lavish service was called “a waste” by the disciples, but Jesus called it “significant,” and that’s all that mattered. Your service for Christ is never wasted, regardless of what others say.

 

Real Servants Base Their Identity in Christ

They remember they are unconditionally loved and accepted by grace, so they don’t have to prove their worth when they are threatened by lowly jobs. Most of us are too insecure to be servants. Were afraid our weaknesses and insecurities will be uncovered so we hide them with layers of protective pride and pretensions.

One of the most profound examples of serving from a secure self-image is Jesus washing the feet of His disciples. Washing feet was the equivalent of being a shoeshine boy, a job devoid of status. But Jesus knew who He was, so it didnt threaten or bother Him to do it.

The Bible says Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under His power, and that He had come from God…so He got up from the meal, took off His outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around His waist…

If you’re going to be a servant you must settle your identity in Christ. Only secure people can serve. The more insecure you are, the more you’ll want people to serve you, and the more you’ll need their approval. On the other hand, when you base your worth and identity on your relationship to Christ, you are freed from the expectation of others. You are freed to serve.

Servants don’t need to cover their walls with plaques and awards to validate their work. They don’t insist on being addressed by titles and they don’t wrap themselves in robes of superiority. Servants find status symbols unnecessary and they never measure their worth by their achievements. Paul said, You may brag about yourself, but the only approval that counts is the Lord’s approval.

If anyone had the chance of a lifetime to flaunt his connections and “name-drop,” it was James, the half-brother of Jesus. He had the credentials of growing up with Jesus as his brother. Yet in introducing his letter, he simply referred to himself as “a servant of God and the Lord Jesus.” The closer you get to Jesus, the less you need to promote yourself.

 

Real Servants Think of Ministry as an Opportunity, Not an Obligation

They enjoy helping people, meeting needs, and doing ministry. They “serve the Lord with gladness.” Why do we serve with gladness? Because we love the Lord, were grateful for His grace, we know serving is the highest use of life, and God has promised a reward. Jesus promised, The Father will honor and reward anyone who serves Me. And Paul added, He will not forget how hard you have worked for Him and how you have shown your love to Him by caring for other Christians.

Imagine what could happen if just 10% of all Christians in the world got serious about their role of being a real servant. Imagine all the good that could be done. Are you willing to be one of those people?

Albert Schweitzer said, “The only really happy people are those have learned how to serve.”

 

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