By Pastor Glenn Pease
When soldiers for the 6th Massachusetts Militia were attacked, and many were wounded at the start of the Civil War, they were brought to Washington, D. C. Clara Barton had been a teacher in Massachusetts, and she recognized some of the wounded soldiers as her former students. She went to the hospital to help, and she discovered that no one was prepared for this emergency, and the supplies were short. Other trains began to arrive with the wounded, and Clara appealed to her friends for supplies. Barrels of food and bandages were being sent to her.
Many of the wounded died because it took so long for them to get treatment. She kept moving closer and closer to the scene where they were wounded until she ended up right on the battlefield. She became known as the Angel of the Battlefield. She escaped death through all four years of the Civil War, even though wounded men she was treating were shot as she was aiding them. She was like a angel being guarded by an angel.
After the war Lincoln asked her to take on the enormous task of locating the 80 thousand missing men, and report to the families if they were found dead. This was another four years of work. In 1869 she went to Europe for her own health. While there the Franco-Prussian War broke out, and she volunteered her services. She was again nursing the wounded. She saw the efficiency of the Red Cross at work. She came back to America and for 5 years labored to get legislation through Congress for the United States to join The International Red Cross. She succeeded, and in 1882 the U. S. branch was established. At age 77 she was on the battlefield again in the Spanish-American War. She died at age 91 in the year of 1912.
Her lifetime of service to others all began with service within her own home. When she was 11 years old her brother had an accident and was ill for two years. She became his nurse and developed such a love of meeting the needs of the suffering that it became her passion for the rest of her life. She gave her life to serving others, and was very conscious of the presence of Christ. She quoted Jesus: "In as much as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." Then she added, "I never in my life performed a days work at the field that was not grounded in that little sentence." She was asked how she could endure all the horror of the battlefield, and she replied, "You must never think of anything except the need and how to meet it. Then God gives the strength, and the thing that seemed impossible is done."
Her life illustrates one of the hardest lessons in life for us to learn, and that is that greatness is not measured by what you get, but by what you give. We have the same problem as the disciples had because we think greatness and successful living has to do with the position, power, and prestige we get in life, rather than the service that we give in life. It is such a hard lesson to learn because all of the media constantly bombard us with the opposite message that life does consist in the abundance of your possessions, and that the key to greatness is power, position and prestige. It is hard for our minds not to conform to this message when the Christian world tends to promote the same value system.
There is little in our culture that causes anyone to aspire to be a servant. That is a thing of the past. Servant-hood seems so archaic and obsolete. Sid Frank in The Presidents tells of how two of the presidents of the United States were indentured servants as boys. The two were Millard Fillmore and Andrew Johnson. They were under contract for 5 to 7 years, and for all practical purposes were owned by their masters. Andrew Johnson was indentured to a tailor and he hated it and ran away. A reward of ten dollars for his capture was advertised in the Raleigh, North Carolina Gazette, but he was never captured. Fillmore purchased his freedom for 30 dollars after he served a couple of years. This kind of servant hood links it with it with slavery and this is repulsive to freedom loving Americans.
It is hard for modern American Christians to get their minds open to the mind of Christ on this issue because it goes against the grain of our culture. The New Testament, however, is loaded with teachings about being servants. To make matters worse the primary word for servant in the New Testament is the word doulos, and it means slave. In Matt. 20:6-7 Jesus said to His disciples who were indignant at James and John trying to get places at His right and left hand in His kingdom, "Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave." In the parable of the talents the master says, "Well done thou good and faithful servant." He uses the word doulos, which is slave.
The study of this word is time consuming, for it is used so many times. But let me point out that Paul called himself, and his companions, slaves of Christ, and he considered all Christians slaves of Christ. James, Peter, and Jude likewise proudly wore the same title. It would take hours just to read all the verses that exalt the role of servant in the Bible. When we come to the text in Luke 22 we see Jesus is using a different word than doulos. Here He uses the word diakoneo, from which we get the word deacon. Jesus came into this world to be a deacon, which is one who serves. The word means one who waits on and ministers to others. Jesus did not come to be waited on, but to wait on others, and to be their servant.
There is no escape from this reality that Jesus both taught and lived. True greatness can be found only in service. Therefore, whenever people are aware of the presence of Christ there will be a desire to minister to the needs of others. If we open our homes to Christ, it means we will have no problem with the issue of submission to one another. Submitting simply means ceasing to play the role of master and taking on the role of servant. Since this is the highest role we can play, it means the husband never stands taller than when he serves the members of his family by meeting their needs. The wife's calling to submit to her husband is not then a call to a place of second class lowliness, but rather, it is a call to the most Christ-like role of the servant.
The reason wives and mothers are more honored and exalted by holidays, and in poetry, is because their role as servants meets so many vital needs of the family members that everybody knows they are the greatest factor in family harmony, health and happiness. It is service that makes them the greatest in the kingdom of the home just as it is service that makes any of us great in other realms of life. Jesus took the little lads lunch, and that service that his mother rendered to her one little boy was used to feed 5,000. Her family service was multiplied to minister to a multitude of families. Jesus does this for all of us. Whatever service we render to another member of the family enhances their potential to be of service to others.
This means that the Christian home is a service center. It is a place where we are served, and a place where we learn the art of serving. Someone said, "No matter how small your lot in life there is always room on it for a service station." Each of us can be great in the kingdom of God by means of service. We want to look at two aspects of service in this text.
I. THE SUPREMACY OF SERVICE.
Jesus said the servant is the greatest, and the whole of the Bible and history support this. Moses was a great many things. He was a leader, a law giver, a miracle worker, a man of prayer and faith, and a man of courage and compassion. There are so many things one might remember him for, or put on his epitaph to sum up his life. But in Joshua where God comes to him to tell him he was the new leader of Israel he referred 4 times to the fact that Moses was his servant. That is the one characteristic that God selected to describe this great man. There is no greater compliment that God can give a man, for to be a servant is to be the greatest of all.
Many of the great men of the Bible are called servants of God, and so the only upper class in the Bible is the servant class. When you get into this class you are at the pinnacle of your career for God, for there is no place to go that is greater and higher. If your goal in life is to be in the upper class, then service is the only way to go. The final proof of this is that the Son of God Himself came into human life, not to be a king and ruler before whom masses would bow, but to be a servant of the masses. Our Savior is supremely a Servant. He not only taught this truth, He demonstrated it. Jesus is Lord of all men, not just by right of creation, but by right of redemption. He is the only being in the universe that has provided a vital service for every person who has ever lived. He provided the way of salvation so that all can be forgiven and have eternal life.
There is not way to be like Jesus without being a servant. In Acts 10:38 Peter sums up the life of Jesus by saying that He went about doing good. Jesus was the servant of every man, woman and child He met. That was the whole point of the parable of the Good Samaritan. Who is my neighbor? And the answer is, every person you confront in life who has a need you can meet. The Scribes and Pharisees passed by on the other side. They were, no doubt, better Bible expositors than the Good Samaritan. They, no doubt, had more gifts, and their worship was more consistent with Old Testament law. But Jesus exalted that Samaritan to the highest class because He was a servant. He was upper class, and these spiritual leaders were low class, for they refused to give service.
The servant and love are the two sides of the same coin. Love is the highest virtue, and the servant is simply one who expresses love. That is what service is. It is love in action. Love is something you do. David took a tumble and fell further than most of the Old Testament saints, but he came through in the end as a hero because he was a man after God's own heart. He had the heart of a servant. He loved people and ministered to people, and he has continued to do so all through history through his Psalms. His epitaph was, "David served his own generation by the will of God." He fell the lowest, but he also climbed the highest, for he made it to the servant class. It was not by being a king, but by being a servant.
The world says we measure greatness by how many people are under us serving us. The Bible measures greatness by how many people are lifted and blessed by our service of them. Only Jesus lifted everyone, and He is the Supreme Servant, but by being channels of His Spirit we too can be lifters and lovers of many. This is the whole point of the gifts and fruits of the Spirit. R. A. Torrey said, "There is not one single passage in the Bible, either in the Old Testament or the New Testament where the baptism with the Spirit is spoken of, where it is not connected with testimony or service." In other words, the goal of all spiritual experiences is not that we have an emotional high, but that we become more able and effective servants.
The difference between the sheep and the goats in the judgment is simply service. The sheep are those who met needs and ministered to people. The goats did not do so. They never became servants, and so they never became a part of that upper class welcomed into the eternal mansions prepared for that class. God honors only the servant class. In reality, that is true for the honors of men also. We see a soldier being honored with a medal for his bravery, but he is honored because his bravery was a service to us. He risked his life for us. We don't care about his bravery. He may have been scared silly, but he still did what was a service that benefited us. If bravery was worthy of honor in itself we would have to give medals to sky divers and bungi jumpers. But there bravery is of no service to others, and so we have no such medals. It is service that we honor.
We think we honor leaders, but this is not the case if they do not become servants. Leaders who do not serve seldom become great, or greatly loved. Frank Warren said, "If you wish to be a leader you will be frustrated, for very few people wish to be led. If you aim to be a servant, you will never be frustrated." His never is too strong, but his point is correct. The servant is always desired, for all people what service. Next consider-
II. THE SUCCESS OF SERVICE.
Learning to develop the servant's spirit is the key to overcoming the greatest problem in relationships, and that problem is selfishness. Selfishness operates on the world's value system. It says, "I have my position, my rights, and my power, and I expect to be served accordingly." This leads to a host of hurts and hostilities in relationships. The servant spirit reverses this and says, "Regardless of my position and rights I will seek to meet the needs of other in so far as I can." This leads to peace and positive relationships.
David Mains tells of an assistant he had in his church in Chicago. He came out of a well to do home where he had many servants. When he became a Christian he decided to go to a Bible school. When he got to the dorm he found the washroom dirty and reported it to the headmaster. He then returned to his room to wait until it was cleaned. Almost immediately he heard footsteps and looked out of his door, and to his shock it was the headmaster carrying a bucket and rags. He cleaned the room himself, and then came and reported the job was done. He learned that day a powerful lesson on servant-hood that changed his life. Here was the leader stooping to serve his need, and that was success.
Christian success is always servant's success. If you work for others, you must provide a service for them to be successful. The secular success of the Christian also revolves around service, for without service there can be no satisfaction. It is service that gives meaning to life and all that we do. Back in 1802 Beethoven made out a will, and in it he wrote of growing deaf and how that he was tempted to despair when others spoke of hearing beautiful music. He was restrained from taking his own life by his deep desire to bring out of himself his full potential for the service of others. Every suicide could be prevented if people could see their potential for service. That is what saved Beethoven and many others. Every person alive has meaningful service to give to others, especially within the family. But when they become blind to this they lose their sense of self-esteem and give up.
Successful living is in discovering what service you can provide for others. Church growth is built on the principle of finding a need and meeting it. In other words, church growth is a result of service, and so is personal growth. You find a need in your home and you meet it. You find a need in your community and meet it. You find a need in your church and you meet it. In every realm of life success and service are one. Someone wrote, "We must be God's arms to comfort and help, God's eyes so quick to see that need, God's ear, so ready to hear the overburdened heart, God's feet, so quick to run His errands, God's fingers to do His work.
The successful people in God's book, and all through history, are people who have the servant spirit. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. just two months before he died preached a sermon in which he said, "Every now and then I think about my own funeral. If any of you are around when I have to meet my day, I don't want a long funeral. And if you get somebody to deliver the eulogy, tell them not to talk to long...Tell them not to mention that I have a Nobel Peace Prize, that isn't important. Tell them not to mention that I have three or four hundred other awards, that's not important...I'd like somebody to mention that day that...Martin Luther King Jr. tried to give his life serving others. I'd like for somebody to say that day that Martin Luther King Jr. tried to love somebody...I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity."
King became famous, but there are millions of successful people in God's book who never did. They are people who see a need and meet it. They may not even be leaders in their local church, but they are people who make life easier for leaders because of the service they provide. They are mates and children who make home life easier and happier for everyone because they carry their own load, and then help with the load of others. Successful living is always lifting the load of others.
This is so obvious a reality that it is universally recognized. Here is a paraphrase of an ancient Chinese proverb, and in it you can see that the ancients knew that service was the key to successful living. It says, "If there is a love of helpfulness in one's heart, there will be acts of gracious serving in one's life. If there are acts of gracious serving in one's life, there will be harmony in the home and trust among friends. If there is harmony in the home and trust among friends, there will be order in the nation. If there is order in the nation, there will be peace in the world."
Your contribution to the peace of the world starts with the spirit of service. How do we get it? It is by being aware of the presence of Christ as we relate to people. What would Jesus do as He sees the need of the person before us? It may be our mate, our children, a friend, a neighbor, or a complete stranger. If we could only be conscious of the presence of Christ we would relate to all as a servant, and we would be concerned about how we could meet the needs of those around us. This can be a problem, even as it was for Jesus. He had so many needs to meet that He had to escape and find rest for Himself. He had needs also, and so the servant does not ignore his or her needs. A successful servant ministers to himself as well as others. Balance is a must.
If you lose balance and begin to focus exclusively on your own needs then you become a major problem to yourself. Your self-centeredness robs you of the success of serving others, and this leads to depression and all sorts of emotional problems. Unhappy people are usually people who have gotten into the rut of selfishness. They are locked into serving their own needs only, and this is just not a satisfying way to live. James Magner wrote a book about the problems Christians can get into mentally. It is titled Mental Health In A Mad World. After describing how messed up we can get our minds and lives by self- centeredness he writes, "The moment a person takes his mind off himself and applies it to the needs and welfare of others, he becomes alert, active, interested in life, and concerned with positive functioning. With this outlook, the world becomes full of real people, not merely walking shadows. We begin to have an actual investment in some of them, so that what they do or fail to do becomes vitally important to us.
His studies confirm our point that successful living is found in service, and in meeting the needs of others. He warns, however, of the danger of sudden change from selfish living to servant living. Those around you may not buy it right off, but be suspicious motive behind your service. He told of a man who brought a box of candy to his wife and she asked, "What is this?" He said, "It is a gift for you my dear." She asked, "What is the occasion?" "You know," he responded, "It is our anniversary." "Yes," she said, "I remember, but this is the first time you have remembered, what kind of mischief have you been up to?" He was so offended by this that he lost his cool and threw the box of candy out the window. Magner said it was still laying there outside when he arrived for counseling. Peace was restored and the candy was retrieved, but the problem could have avoided by communication that he was striving to be more of a servant in their relationship.
Our service within the home is a far greater significance than we tend to realize. Jesus said, "As you have done it unto the least of one of these my brethren you have done is unto me." This means that service to members of our family is a major part of successful living. Do good unto all men, but especially to those of the household of faith. The Bible makes it clear that the common place everyday acts of service that make the home and the church function more efficiently may not make the news, or win you any honors, but the represent successful living to Jesus. This kind of service is serving Him.
Service in the family goes deeper than merely doing chores. It has to do with meeting deeper and inner needs. We all need someone to take the garbage out, but who helps us get rid of the emotional garbage that builds up within? Happy and healthy families allow for temporary insanity. Mom may ordinarily be the calm and collected type who never gets rattled, but one day she is so irritable that she screams about every little thing that does not go right, and she treats the rest of the family in a spirit of resentment and anger. This is not acceptable behavior over the long haul, but it may be necessary to endure it for a day because mom has unusual pressures and frustrations. If she is tolerated for this day, she will probably be back under control the next day. It is a form of service to be tolerant of this temporary insanity, and she will love you for not rejecting her when she is so rejecting of you.
Mates who do not fight back but become an outlet for anger in their mate can perform a service that will lead to deeper love and appreciation. It is not a slam at you that you are asked to get rid of the garbage in the kitchen, and so do not take it as a slam when you are asked to help get rid of the garbage in the heart and mind of your mate. Garbage is not pleasant, and there is no way to make it so. But getting ride of it is pleasant, and helping your mate get rid of it can lead to both of you enjoying the pleasantness of a garbage-free night together. The alternative is to throw garbage at each other and spend the night in the dumps. Someone said, "Love is found by those who can live with human nature as it is." This means we need to be tolerant of each other when we are temporarily on a sub-Christian level.
One of the reasons Gandhi became one of the most famous men of the 20th century is because he found his greatest pleasure in service. His brother-in-law became very ill and he spent day and night nursing him. He wrote in his autobiography, "My aptitude for nursing gradually developed into a passion, so much so that it often lead me to neglect my work, and on occasions I engaged not only my wife but the whole household in such service. Such service can have no meaning unless one takes pleasure in it. When it is done for show or for fear of public opinion, it stunts the man and crushes his spirit. Service which is rendered without joy helps neither the servant nor the served. But all other pleasures and possessions pale into nothingness before service which is rendered in a spirit of joy."
Service at home led him to service his nation and the world. He wrote, "I had made the religion of service my own, as I felt that God could be realized only through service." He wrote that in the context of describing the Christians who had the biggest impact on his life. They were people who were devoted in serving others. They were Christians who had reached the upper class, that is, the servant class. Life is complex, but some messages are simple to grasp, and this is one of them. If you want to be the best person you can be, and the most effective Christian you can be, and rise to the highest level you can attain, you have only one option, and that is to be a servant.
Every Christian is called to serve the Lord with gladness. Paul was so delighted that the Thessalonians turned from idols to serve the Living and True God. In Rom. 12:11 Paul says this is our perpetual calling: "Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord." When you stop serving you stop being a successful Christian, for success in Christ is in service. God has no other plan by which to love the world and his family on earth. His love does not sail about in the air, but it flows through those who are His servants. Service is not only the supreme means of doing the will of God, on earth as it is in heaven, it is the sole means. That is why there is no success without service. God wants us all to live on the highest level, and it is only by being servants that we can be in the upper class.