Sunday, May 15, 2011

Service Before Self


There are many examples of servants in the Bible. From Joseph to Jesus, from Saul to Paul, God teaches so many things about how to and how not to be a servant. Why is this important to the believer? Because Jesus showed and taught us that if we are going to be great in the kingdom of God, we are going to have to be the least in everything else. Out of all these great examples, I want to focus on three main characters today; Jonah, Mary and David.

If you have your Bibles, open to the book of Jonah. Jonah is a very interesting book with a lot of things to learn from him and his dealings with God, self, and man. He was believed to be, by some Jewish scholars, the son of the widow of Zarephath. You may remember the story of Elijah telling Ahab that there would be a drought in the land and then going to a brook and being fed by birds. After the brook had dried up, he was commanded by God to go to this widow and stay with her. He goes and gets her to get him a drink and make him a meal first, even though she does not have enough to eat for her and her son. She agrees and God causes there to be a continual supply of food for them. While staying there, the son gets sick and dies. The widow complains to Elijah and Elijah takes the boy and asks God to put the boy’s soul back in him and then lays on him three times and the boy comes back to life. The Jewish scholars maintain that this boy is Jonah. Neat how things work out?

Have you found the book of Jonah? So Jonah lived in and around the time that Rome was becoming Rome, and when Homer was writing Iliad. The book opens with Jonah receiving a word from God to go to Nineveh and tell them that God is going to destroy them if they do not repent. Nineveh being northeast of Jonah and Tar shish being west, he goes west, knowing that God’s mercy may follow him if he obeys God. The story continues on that Jonah gets on the boat heading to Tar shish and goes to sleep. God, displeased by Jonah’s rebellion, causes a storm to form and the sailors to fear for their lives. They tried everything from throwing their cargo over board to praying to their Gods. They find Jonah asleep and wake him and get him to pray. They roll dice to see whose fault it is and the dice turn to Jonah. Jonah tells them he serves the God who created the land and the sea and tells them to throw him overboard and the storm will cease. The sailors refuse and try in vain to row to shore. With every option exhausted they concede and toss him over and the storm stops. Jonah is swallowed by a big fish and lives in the fish’s belly for 3 days and nights until he repents and praises God. The fish spits him up and he goes to Nineveh, preaches a great revival, and the whole city repents. Jonah, upset by this, goes out of the city, and sits down to wait and see if God will destroy it. God caused a plant to grow for shade over Jonah’s head, however a worm comes and eats the plant. Jonah became angry and just wanted to die. God comes to Jonah and tries to reason with him saying that Jonah cares more about a plant than the 120k people.

Jonah was a servant. Not a very good servant, but still a servant.

Skip forward in your Bibles to Luke the 1st chapter. Let’s read from verse 26 to 38

Luke 1:26-38 NKJV

26 Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”[a]

29 But when she saw him,[b] she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. 30 Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33 And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”

34 Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”

35 And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing will be impossible.”

38 Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

This is an example of a great servant who after hearing the command, accepts and follows it without contempt.

The last example is David. For the sake of time, I will tell you the story of David and Goliath. David, a boy, is a Sheperd in his father’s fields. He serves his father tending sheep, learning to worship God and trust Him at every turn. One day Jesse, David’s dad, tells him to go to the battle line where his brothers are and bring food and supplies to them as Israel and the Philistines are at war. David delightfully obeys and makes his way to the camp. As he arrives he sees everyone hiding in the camp. When he asks why, he is told that a giant named Goliath is on the battlefield cursing God and challenging someone to oppose him in battle. David vows to take is head off and is rebuked. He goes to the king and gets permission to fight, gathers some stones for his sling and goes to the field ready for battle. Goliath taunts him and David challenges Goliath and they run toward each other. David lofts the stone in the head of Goliath sending him to the ground where the little David draws Goliath’s mighty sword and cuts Goliath’s head clean off. This so scared the Philistines that they run away and are slaughtered and plundered.

David was a great example of a servant who said yes to God without God giving any command.

Three types of servants

1. Listens to what God wants and says no

We see this in Jonah. Jonah, a fatherless child, might have never appreciated the anointing in his life. This could be the reason for the selfishness in not wanting Nineveh to be saved. He had the wrong motives. I think I relate to him more than the other two. How easy it to think that life is all about us? If we are going to be true servants, we are going to have to check our motives. God’s anointing in your life is not a burden or a curse to bear, but an opportunity for others to experience the life saving power of Christ, our blessed hope of glory. God will use us in spite of ourselves. He used Jonah to show mercy to 120k people against Jonah’s will.

2. Listens to what God wants and says yes

Mary exemplifies the heart and shows us how to be a submitted servant to causes greater than our own. She is a testament to one’s ability to obey the will of God as the cost of her own creditability and comfort. By saying yes she said yes to the possibility of losing her future husband and family. She risked being kicked out of her home to live the life of an outcast. But she understood something…

Serving God can cost us in the moment; not serving God can cost others their eternity.

She said yes and we have all benefitted from her act of a true servant.

3. Says YES!!! And then listens to what God wants

David had learned in the fields of a desert to act first and think later. This is what we see in him as he faced Goliath. An unyielding faith that he was on a mission from God to be David, king of Israel and had already said yes to God. This was just a part of the process of becoming a king. A Servant King

1. Motives – Why (do we want to be servants)

1 Peter 5:5: “All of you clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’”

True servants are more concerned for people than for position.

D.L. Moody once said, “We may easily be too big for God to use, but never too small.”

Jesus said that those who seek to be first will be last and the last will be first. Some ill inspired people take this to mean that if they become a servant then they will get to be first. These people fail to realize that they still want to be first in their heart. God can see that and resist their prideful aspirations. Almost eight years ago, I was a puddle on the floor, literally! I had just given my life back to Christ and was still dealing with a lot of life issues that I had created from a life without God in control. I remember one night around three in the morning crying out to God asking Him to completely change me as I had been full of pride for years and couldn’t seem to break it. Something happened and I realized that I could do nothing to solve my problems. I could do nothing to change myself and I was a sinner in need of a savior. The presence of god came into my room and changed my heart. I went to the chapel that next morning and ask the Chaplin for a set of keys to the place. I told him that the best I could give god was to sweep the floors and if he would allow me to I would do it. From then until now, God has never let me carry a broom, but instead only placed the burning desire to be a janitor and a full understanding of my worth in regards to Christ’s sacrifice. One day, I am going to get that chance to have the position of sweeper as it is my end goal. I can’t teach this, I can only tell this to people and hope that they will go to God and find this heart-change.

There is a difference between your ambition and God’s mission.

Philippians 2:3-7

3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.

Jonah wanted to see Nineveh destroyed and tried to the best of his abilities to avoid giving them a chance to repent and for God to show mercy. David on the other hand, found himself towards the end of his life de-throned for awhile out of a pure heart before God. He said to Joab, who wanted to go and kill David’s son who usurped David, that if God wanted David to be king, God would give him back the throne. But if not, who was David, as the throne was Gods. David wasn’t concerned with the position. Years ago, as I was walking one day, I began to complain to God about the previous two weeks of my life. I had made a commitment to witness to everyone God prompted me to, without fear. I told Him I had followed through on my part and I was frustrated that He had only sent to me people who were saved. I went on to say that I was willing to witness and He needed to send the lost to me. He replied and stopped me in my tracks with this: “Some I’ve called to catch, and some I’ve called to clean. Be quiet and clean.” I fell down halfway in the road and a ditch, crying with the realization that I had helped each person get back on track with God. We can’t be so ambitious that we lose sight of God’s plan and where we fit in it.

2. Ministry – What (kind of servants are we)

God has called us all into the ministry of a servant in some capacity. For some it’s simply being a husband or wife, son or daughter. For others it’s a pastor, teacher, doctor, lawyer, CEO. Yes lawyers are supposed to public servants. Without regard to what you do, as Christians, we are servants to God and man. God has called us to be servants to our fellow man in a way pleasing to Him. Jonah cared more for a plant than for 120k people. Husbands, future and present, get a job as a servant to your family and as unto God. God has called you to provide. Wives, future and present, make a peaceful home as a servant your family and as unto God. God has called you to make and care for a home. Husbands and wives help each other with this as servants unto God. Men, you might need to do the dishes and help out inside the home. Women, you may need to be willing to pitch in and help with the finances of the house as a servant to God. It’s important to understand the role God has given us and to joyfully embrace it like Mary said and did.

True servants see ministry as a chance to serve, not a prison sentence.

3. Measure – How (we are to judge ourselves as servant)

This is our plum line. It is Jesus Christ, the standard by which we should judge and measure ourselves daily. Jesus loved us without condition and we can be secure in His saving Grace. We do not need to be insecure with a lack of position. Jesus, knowing who he was, washed the feet of his disciples and told them to do the same to others. This is a power example by which we can measure our own hearts and see if we are servants. Our identity is in Christ, not in anything else. This will allow us to become servants to all men and God.

Matthew 20:28 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many." NLT

This is how you can start becoming a servant. By first looking to see if you are a servant and if you are, what type? God uses all types for His will and purpose. Don’t be a Jonah, be a Mary or David. Next, look at your motives. Why do you want to be a servant? Is it because of a position or is because the heart of Christ dwells in you for others? To what ministry have you been called to serve? There are Doctors called to be pastors and pastors that are called to be doctors. Are you serving God and others in the capacity that God wants for your life? Finally, how do you measure up? If it doesn’t measure up to Christ than you still have work to do to achieve this goal as we all do. I’m going to pray for you that God will show this week what he has for you to do, and that you will have the will to do it. Would you stand…