My mom turned 80 this year and when I talk to her it seems that she is always busy. We invited them to come over today and they couldn’t come until later because they were serving coffee at their church. Their life is full with all kinds of activities.
It seems that this is true for almost everyone. We are all involved in many good things. The demands of the family are always upon us, whether it is a parent, a spouse or a child. The demands of a job are constant. Our working hours take up at least 35% of our waking hours. Then there are a lot of opportunities to get involved in the community. I was impressed with those who organized and ran the Rosenort Festival last weekend. They did a great job, but I know that it took a lot of hours to plan and run that event. When did they find the time? On top of that, we know that it is healthy for us to take care of ourselves. We need to make sure that we get enough sleep, that we eat well and that we get some exercise. Besides that we have life goals that we would like to accomplish – we would like to travel or to accomplish various projects. Besides all of that, which is all good stuff, the church comes calling and inviting us to become involved in service in the church. With all of that good involvement, when do we have time to be servants of Jesus?
Two weeks ago when I spoke about the beginning of the end I suggested that in light of the imminent return of Christ, Scripture calls us to be faithful to Jesus as His servants. At the time I suggested that being a servant of Jesus does not mean quitting all of our other jobs, but rather seeing all we do as a service to Jesus. Therefore, if we are servants of Jesus, the main question of our life must always be, “How can I be your servant today?”
I want to think about that question a little more with you this morning by asking, “Why should we make being a servant of Jesus the highest priority in our life?” Most of us are quite comfortable in the life we live. Even though it is very busy, we like the things we are involved in. Why should we put serving Jesus ahead of caring for ourselves, serving our family, working in the church and doing our jobs? Perhaps the best way to put this question is to ask, “What motivates us to serve Him?”
The Bible gives us many reasons and this morning I would like to share 8 of them with you.
I have seen many people care for their aging parents with great compassion. What motivates us to care so much for them? Surely one reason is that we recognize all that they have done for us when we were children and throughout our life. We know that they love us deeply and have cared for us and so we are glad to care for them. In a similar way, we are glad to serve God because of all the things that He has done for us.
In Joshua 24, Joshua was motivating the people of Israel to give themselves fully to the service of God. He inspired them with his own commitment and invited them to join him in that commitment. We read in verses 16–18, “Then the people answered, ‘Far be it from us to forsake the LORD to serve other gods! It was the LORD our God himself who brought us and our fathers up out of Egypt, from that land of slavery, and performed those great signs before our eyes. He protected us on our entire journey and among all the nations through which we traveled. And the LORD drove out before us all the nations, including the Amorites, who lived in the land. We too will serve the LORD, because he is our God.” Their willingness to serve God came from a recognition of all that He had done for them.
The writers of the New Testament do a similar thing. For example, in Romans 12:1, Paul says, “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” What is important to note here is the word, “therefore.” The reason Paul uses the word “therefore” is because in the previous eleven chapters he has explained all of God’s faithful acts of mercy towards those who believe.
Just think of all that God has done for you and it will not be hard to commit yourself to serving Him above all. Do it out of gratitude.
The Taj Mahal is a mausoleum located in Agra, India. It was built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal. The court chronicles of Shah Jahan's grief illustrate the love story traditionally held as an inspiration for Taj Mahal.(Wikipedia) It is probably one of the most extravagant acts of love which has ever been expressed.
When we know that we are loved by someone or when we love someone, doing stuff for them is easy because we are motivated from the inside to respond in service.
In a context that speaks of servanthood, Paul comments in 2 Corinthians 5:14, "For the love of Christ urges us on…” the phrase “love of Christ” is ambiguous. Does it mean the love Christ has for us or the love we have for Christ? It could be either. Perhaps it is ambiguous because it should be either. When we know that we are loved by Christ, we are motivated to serve Him. When we love Christ we are motivated to serve Him. It is the love Christ has for us and the love we have for Christ which urges us on to serve Him with great joy and commitment.
I enjoy the MASH TV shows that came out in the late 70’s. The series is about army doctors in a mobile hospital during the Korean War. In one episode a large Marine is treated by one of the doctors and after he recovers he feels deeply indebted to the doctor and vows to help him as much as he can in return for saving his life. The story becomes humorous when this great big marine volunteers to be a body guard to the doctor and beats people up who annoy the doctor. The doctor tries to persuade the marine that the debt is paid, but the marine keeps trying to help the doctor. The concept of the gratitude of the indebted is one that is common in literature. When someone has done something special for us, then we are moved to express our gratitude to them. How much more should we be moved to serve God because of what Christ has done for us!
This is the motivation alluded to in Hebrews 9:14 which says, “How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” The text speaks about the power of the blood of Christ, which, unlike the sacrifice of animals, has actually cleansed us from acts that lead to death with the express purpose that we “may serve the living God.” When we realize the great thing that God has done for us we realize very quickly that we are deeply indebted to Him. We were actually dead in our sins but God has made us alive by the His gift in Christ. The only reason we live is because of Jesus. How can we not offer the rest of our lives to Him in grateful service? Let us not take this great gift of Christ for granted. Let us not dismiss it as less than it is. It required a great sacrifice. We have been given a great gift and we have every reason for eternal gratitude expressed in willing and joyful service.
Another motivation to serve God is because we belong to Him.
There were primarily two kinds of slaves in the days when slavery still existed. One was an indentured servant. This person had sold himself to someone who had means in order to pay debts. An indentured servant still may have had their own home to live in and worked only as long as was necessary to pay off the debt. The other type of slave was one who was completely owned by the master. This slave was completely dependent on the master. His lodging, clothing, food and all he was came completely under the control of the master. He could not conceive of a day when he would be set free. He belonged to the master for life.
The word that is used in the Bible to describe our relationship to God is that of a slave for life, not that of an indentured servant.
Revelation 5:9–10 is one of several passages in Scripture which convey the idea that we do not belong to ourselves any more. There we read, “And they sang a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. 10 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.”
Please notice from this text that Jesus paid with his blood to purchase people for God. The outcome of this purchase is that they should become “a kingdom of priests to serve our God.”
Other passages of Scripture also convey the fact that we do not belong to ourselves any more. I Corinthians 6:19, 20 calls for honoring God with our bodies, which is a part of our service and the reason given is, “You are not your own; you were bought at a price.”
The implications of such a duty are frequently expressed in Scripture. I find Luke 17:7-10 to be quite challenging. Sometimes we think that we are heroes for all the things we do for Christ. But if we are slaves of Christ because we belong to Him, our service is just what we ought to be doing. Although I will always thank people for what they have done, I have sometimes thought that Scripture does not really call for that. When we have served, we have done nothing extraordinary, we have just done what we ought to do. This is what we read in Luke 17:7-10, “Suppose one of you had a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Would he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? 8 Would he not rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? 9 Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? 10 So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’”
When we recognize the Lordship of Jesus and that we are his servants, we are moved to serve because that is simply what we ought to do.
Paul gives us an example of this kind of thinking in 1 Corinthians 9:16 when he says, “Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!”
In A Long Obedience, Eugene H. Peterson puts it this way, “The person of faith looks up to God, not at him or down on him. The servant assumes a certain posture, a stance. If he or she fails to take that posture, attentive responsiveness to the master’s commands will be hard.”
When we remember that we are loved by God and that He has redeemed us from sin and death then we recognize that we belong to Him and are His servants.
Realizing that we belong to God may feel oppressive, but in fact that is when we are free. By belonging to God we are actually free to serve Him. There is no such thing as complete freedom. We are always under the mastery of something or someone. Freedom is truly found only in being slaves of God. Eugene Peterson says, “The Christian realizes that every relationship that excludes God becomes oppressive. Recognizing and realizing that, we urgently want to live under the mastery of God.” Therefore, we are no longer slaves to sin or slaves to Satan, but belonging to God we have been set free to serve Him. Galatians 5:13 explains that freedom when it says, “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.”
In A Long Obedience, Eugene H. Peterson reflects on this freedom to serve when he says, ““For freedom is the freedom to live as persons in love for the sake of God and neighbor…” He concludes that “A servant Christian is the freest person on earth.”
I like to go cross-country skiing with Larry because when I do, I know that I will always have a good workout. Larry goes faster than I do and when I am with him, I try to keep up. His example motivates me to work harder. We are often motivated by the example of others and in a similar way, when we look at what Christ has done and how he has served we are motivated by His example.
When the disciples wanted greatness, Jesus encouraged them instead to be servants. He gave them, as motivation, his own example to follow when he said to them in Matthew 20:26–28, “…whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
That is the greatest example of servanthood, but Jesus also gave us another powerful illustration of servanthood when he washed the feet of his disciples. In John 13:12–17 we read that, while gathered with his disciples for a meal, Jesus did what was normally the task of a slave. Then we read, “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. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”
Henri J.M. Nouwen in the book Creative Ministry asks, “Does Jesus Christ really motivate my life?”
In A Long Obedience, Eugene H. Peterson reminds us that “God presents himself to us in the history of Jesus Christ as a servant.” Following His example we are invited to the “posture of servitude.” He explains further, “…if the attitude of servanthood is learned, by attending to God as Lord, then serving others will develop as a very natural way of life.”
Do you want to be like Jesus? Then serving Him and others is the best way that you can follow His example.
All of these factors work at the level our heart to convince us most deeply to be servants of Jesus. We are motivated by seeing who we are, knowing we are loved, recognizing what has been done for us and following the example of Jesus. But we can also be motivated simply by a call to obedience. The Word of God has many verses which call us to servanthood.
For example, Deuteronomy 10:12 says, “And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul…” and Psalm 2:11 says, “Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling.” And 1 Peter 4:10 commands, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.”
My niece is attending Darden Graduate School of Business in Charlottesville, Virginia where she is working towards a Master of Business Administration. During the summer she was able to get a placement in a business doing work that was related to her studies. She thoroughly enjoyed the job. She plans to spend her life in business leadership and having that kind of a job in summer was a great experience for her. She was glad to be doing something which will be what she hopes to do for a career.
Well I have an even better offer for you. You can begin to do now what you will be doing for all eternity. If serving God will be the occupation, preoccupation, joy and full time activity for the major portion of our existence, that is eternity, why wouldn’t we want to spend our life now doing what we will be doing forever? It isn’t that we will be forced to serve God forever. Rather, it will be what we are happy to do. It will be what we have joy to do. It will be the thing which when we have nothing else to do will be the first thing that we will want to do. And all because of the reasons we have already looked at, that we are loved, that we are redeemed, that we belong to God and that are free to serve Him. Revelation 22:3 reminds us, as it describes conditions in heaven when it says, “No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him.”
As you can see Scripture is loaded with a powerful call to servanthood. What does such a call require of us? I believe it requires a shift in our thinking.
It requires a shift in the way we approach each day. The first question we ask every day should not be, “what do I want to do today?” Rather, we should ask each morning, “Jesus, what do you want me to do today?” Before our eyes open and the morning light pours in, the thought on our minds should be, “Jesus, this is the day you have made. How can I bring honor and glory to you today? What is your agenda for me today?” We may also say to Him, “Here are the things I know which need my attention, what do you think? What are the things on your list which need my attention today?” If we can begin to think like that for all the reasons we have just thought about, we will live as servants of Jesus.
It also requires a shift in the way we respond to opportunities. In the next few weeks, we will be hearing from SS, AWANA and we will be presented with other opportunities. I would like to invite us to have an open heart. Our first thought should not be, “what do I have to do?” Rather, I would like to invite us to ask, “Jesus, what do you want me to do?” To be a servant of Jesus and to ask this question does not mean that we do everything we are asked. Rather it means that we are willing to serve Jesus in the way He calls us to serve Him. The question is not, “Will I serve” but “Where will I serve.”
What motivates you? Is it love? Is it obedience? Is it freedom? Is it gratitude? Whatever the motivation, there is no lack of reason to be a servant of Jesus. May we be those servants!