Step 7: The Disciple's Commitment to Servanthood

“I am among you as He that serveth,” said our Lord (Luke 22:27).  “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45 NASB).  The Father said of Him by the mouth of Isaiah, “Behold, my servant” (Isaiah 42:1).  He is the model servant.  The Gospel of Mark so presents Him.

In the world there is the constant striving for preeminence.  The competition is for first place, self-elevation.  The goal is to be the top one, the boss of all.  Jesus modeled and taught a revolutionary new way.  The disciples were disputing among themselves who should be the greatest.  Jesus corrected them explaining, “If any one wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all” (Mark 9:35 NIV).  He demonstrated this by washing the dirty feet of His own disciples (John 13:1-17).

Becoming Great Through Serving:

“Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant,” Jesus exhorted, “and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all” (Mark 10:43-44 NASB).  Jesus taught that in the kingdom of God, the only way up is down.  The concept of serving is so radical that it is recorded in all four gospels (Matthew 20:25-28; Mark 9:33-35, 10:35-45; Luke 22:24 27; John 13:1-17).  Every aspect of His life displayed servanthood.  Although the subject is vital, it is difficult to grasp.

The word servant ( diakonos) is one of two words often translated as “servant.”  The other word ( doulos) is rendered “ slave.”  That term may offend us because slavery is generally condemned.  This word refers, however, to people becoming slaves of other people.  Believers acknowledge that God is our Creator and owner, not some human, particularly by virtue of Christ’s redemptive work.  We are not our own but “bought with a price” (I Cor 6:20).  We are distinctly called “Christ’s slave” (I Cor 7:22).

Before we were “slaves to sin” (Rom. 6:6).  Now we are slaves to God.  To be a slave is to be in a condition of unconditional submission.  One who resists this idea and says “we will not have this man rule over us” (Luke 19:14) invites God’s judgment.  The believer should realize that he or she is not diminished by willingly submitting to the Lordship of Christ who loved him and gave Himself for him (Gal. 2:20).

The apostles were completely dedicated to the Lord (meaning “master”) and gladly assumed the position of slaves unto Christ.  The apostle Paul repeatedly used this word in referring to himself (Rom, 1:1, Gal 1:10; Titus 1:1).  He also included Timothy (Phil. 1:1) and Epaphras (Col. 4:12).  Peter also so designates himself (II Pet 1:1) and also James (Jam. 1:11).  Why should we wish to be anything different if we are truly His disciples?  Do we think we do not need to be like our master (Matt. 10:24-25)?

How do we carry out our duties as slaves?  We do whatever our Master commands without question.  Obedience, not half-hearted compliance, is an absolute necessity.  The Lord characteristically directs our attention to others in serving.  His own ministry here has been summed up in a single word, others.  Believers are to be more concerned about the needs of others than their own (Phil. 2:3-4), motivated by love (Rom. 12:10).  This often involves self-sacrifice, even personal risk, and certainly the investment of time and possessions.  

The function of Godly servants or slaves involves certain characteristics:

    1. Prompt response to requests or orders with a cheerful spirit.  “Immediately” is a key word in Mark’s Gospel.

    2. Hard work or diligence.  The lazy person (“sluggard” in scripture) is condemned (Prov. 10:26; 18:19; 24:30-34).

    3. Dependability is a must.  Jer. 48:10 says, “Cursed be the one who does the Lord’s work negligently.”

    4. Competence, skill, “doing all things well’ is important if we are to be a “worker that does not need to be ashamed” (II Tim. 2:15), doing all to the glory of God (I Cor. 10:31).

    5. Loyalty to Christ, His church, our close friends, or even employers is a real mark of a good servant (Eph. 6:5-8).

    6. Seeing and doings that need to be done, without being told specifically.

    7. Getting along with others demonstrates success in relationships.  This includes dealing with those who present difficulties in attitude or those easily offended.

The entire process of functioning in this way requires great humility.  The Lord Jesus said, “Take my yoke and learn of Me for I am meek and lowly” (Matt. 11:29).  What a challenge!  This will take deep commitment to Christ, with all that this consecration implies.  This will, at the most profound level, require a deep faith grounded in believing what the scripture commands and obeying.  Too many believers wrongly think that God is indebted to them (by creating them) and is committed to simply making them “happy.”

Scripture abounds with examples of those who were faithful servants of God and His people.  Faithfulness is one of the most desired qualities in a servant (Luke 16:1-12).  It is a prerequisite to future opportunities (Matthew 25:24-30).  Faithfulness involves trustworthy, dependable, loyal service to others.

    1. Examples of Faithful Servants. Joshua became a great leader in Israel, but first he was the servant of Moses (Exodus 24:13) because he faithfully served Moses (Joshua 1:1-5).  Similarly, Elisha ministered to Elijah as a servant for six years (I Kings 19:19-21).  When Elijah was translated, God honored Elisha as heir to the prophetic office (2 Kings 2:9-14).  Timothy was a servant to the Apostle Paul “like a child serving his father” (Philippians 2:22 NASB).  When Paul’s life and ministry were complete, Timothy would continue the work he began.

    2. Examples of Unfaithful Servants.  Others in Scripture are noted for unfaithful service.  Saul was unfaithful in completing delegated tasks (I Samuel 15:1 3, 20-21).  Because he was unwilling to go all the way, God took the kingdom from him (I Samuel 15:26).  Absalom looked faithful but was not.  He was unwilling to serve his father, the king.  He wanted the allegiance and affection of the people for himself (2 Samuel 15:1-6).  Demas, Paul’s helper, started out well but did not last.  The affairs of this world were more important to him than serving (2 Timothy 4:10).  What is hindering you from being faithful in God’s service?  One encouraging example gives us hope.  It is possible to change.  John Mark traveled as a servant to Paul and Barnabas, but deserted them at Pamphylia (Acts 15:38).  Later he was given a second chance and was championed by Barnabas who was willing to take him along in the Lord’s service (Acts 15:39).  Although Mark was unfaithful at first, he later proved faithful (II Tim. 4:11).

The benefits of servanthood are numerous.  For faithful service we might receive greater responsibility in the way Joshua did (Joshua 4:14), or see spiritual fruit the way Aquila and Priscilla did (Acts 18:26; I Cor. 3:6).  But most important of all, the lessons we learn in servanthood will be eternally significant.  Our performance as servants will be evaluated by the Lord Jesus Himself at what is called the Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10).  Not our sins, which He paid for, but our lives and service will be reviewed there when rewards are given for faithfulness unto Him.  He expects all His servants to be profitable.  Even before the eternal throne of God and of the Lamb, we read, “His servants shall serve Him” (Revelation 22:3).  Servanthood is an eternal occupation, dignified and blessed by our Lord.  It will not lose its reward at His hands.

How has God called you to serve?  Whom are you serving?  Jesus promised a great blessing to all who loyally serve Him.  “If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am there shall My servant also be; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him” (John 12:26 NASB).