One of the best gifts my mother ever gave to me was a love for reading. She always had books around the house and I can still remember many of the titles. She read often herself and bought age-appropriate books for me as I grew.
One Sunday as we were sitting in church together I noticed that Mom was writing in the flyleaf of her Bible. Later when I opened her Bible and looked at those pages I discovered that they were filled with many quotes she had written there through the years. I began to read them and was struck by the power of a simple statement that was catchy and memorable.
One of those quotes stuck in my mind and I never forgot it, “We were saved to serve”. God didn’t just save me so that I would go to Heaven, but that I might be His servant and bless the lives of other people. I suppose a contemporary way to express this is that “it’s not about me”.
Every Christian has been called to serve – “…by love serve one another”. (Galatians 5:13) And we are not to merely offer begrudging, dutiful service, but to do so from a loving and willing spirit.
The key to being a willing servant is to see yourself as ultimately ministering to the Lord and not to people. Our selfish nature resists serving, yet, this is our calling – to be a servant of the Lord. This is seen in an event in the life of the Lord Jesus Christ the evening before He was crucified.
The complete story is given in John chapter 13. While waiting for a special meal He modeled humble, practical service to His disciples by washing their dirty feet before they had the meal. (This was a common courtesy done by a lowly house servant as the feet of guests were dirty from walking along dusty roads in sandals). Here is the lesson Jesus taught after He had washed their feet.
“So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.” (John 13:12-16)
Note the highlighted words in the above text. In our culture we do not have a need to wash one another’s feet, but there are plenty of other ways we can serve those around us. We are to serve one another, even in the most humble, unattractive ways. Jesus told us to follow His example in doing so. This means taking the initiative rather than waiting to be drafted for a task.
We cannot be Christlike if we fail to serve those around us. Concerning the purpose of Christ Jesus the Bible states, “Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28) Note the usage of the
terms “ministered…minister…give his life”. These words imply work, sacrifice, and meekness.
Jesus came as a humble servant. He didn’t do so to be recognized and honored, but to fulfill the will of His Father and rescue us from hell. It was costly for Him to be a servant and it will be for us, too. We, too, are called to be servants; this is our purpose – serving God by serving people. And the place this ought to be most evident is at ground zero, in our homes, to those closest and dearest to us.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes when I minister to my family it is a struggle! There are times when I feel put upon, aggravated, and peeved that no one else is caring for a task at hand which is so obvious that it seems everyone is ignoring it waiting for someone else to care for it. So, with a complaining and, sometimes, angry spirit I will take care of the task.
However, if I am to minister as my Savior did then it is not enough to just serve with my actions, I must also have an attitude of willingness. If my heart is not in ministering then it will be given in a dry, mechanical way. A negative attitude destroys any blessing to me personally and to the person to whom I am serving.
I believe the preeminent symbol of Christianity is the cross for obvious reasons. It was the place where our redemption was secured and the penalty for our sin was paid. We ought to love the cross of the Lord Jesus because of what was accomplished there and what it means to us.
In addition to the cross, there is another symbol that also represents what it best means to be a Christian – the servant’s towel. As Jesus willingly and humbly washed the dirty feet of His disciples (John 13:1-5) so we ought to be willing to do those things that are most humble. When we do this, we are being like Jesus.
For many years a Christian college presented not only diplomas to their graduates during commencement services, but also a small engraved towel to remind them that they have been trained to be godly servants. In future years as they saw it displayed it would speak to them of their responsibility to serve with a joyful, willing spirit.
This was more than a promotional stunt or a feel-good gesture. You see, I know the leader of that institution and it reflects his heart – he loves to serve quietly and anonymously in the background.
I wonder if my wife and children would say the same thing about me – that my life and heart reflect a willingness to serve quietly in the background doing things that are not my primary assignment?
I think I need to go buy me a small hand towel and have John 13 monogrammed on it. I’ll put it in a prominent place to remind me of my calling to serve those closest to me – my precious family. This is what God has called me to do.
“Make me a servant, humble and meek;
Lord, let me lift up, those who are weak.
And may the prayer of my heart always be,
Make me a servant, make me a servant,
Make me a servant, today.