Last week we began talking about what it means to follow Jesus and when we looked at what the first disciples left in order to follow Jesus we saw that at its core following Jesus means sacrifice. Peter, Andrew, James and John gave up their business and homes and they left behind family, friends and their community to follow Jesus. They also sacrificed comfort, security and the control of their future because they didn’t know where Jesus was going or what he would ask of them. So sacrifice was at the core of being a disciple and it still is, but today we are going to see that not only do we need to sacrifice but following Jesus also means being willing to serve.
Let’s go back and look at what Jesus said when he called his first disciples. Matthew 4:18-20. So Jesus wasn’t just calling them to leave something behind he was calling them to pick something up, to start a new vocation and fish for people. To become fishers of men and women really meant helping people come to know the love and grace of God. Instead of providing food for people’s bodies, with Jesus they were to now going to provide lasting food for people’s souls. With Jesus they were going to spread the message of how people could experience and live in the kingdom of God.
What this call to follow Jesus involved was the disciples putting aside what was good for them so they could think about what was good for others. They now had to think about helping other people and reaching out to those around them. They are being called to serve and every call to follow Jesus involves some kind of service. Jesus made this clear when the mother of James and John came to him and asked if her sons could be given positions of leadership and authority. Jesus responded by saying,Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many. (Matt. 20:26-28) So following Jesus means service. Jesus said,the greatest among you will be a servant and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. (Matt. 23:11-12)
Jesus not only taught about being a servant but he showed us what it was like to serve. Jesus never put his own needs first but was always thinking of others. Even when he was tired and wanted to get away from the crowds, Jesus served them by making sure they were fed and cared for. Jesus reached out to those who were lonely and welcomed them into his heart, he reached out to those who were sick and healed them and he called everyone around him to do the same. In the story of the Good Samaritan Jesus talked about the lengths we need to go to in order to serve others. The good neighbor, the man who served, was the one who not only stopped to help the stranger in need but in doing this was willing to risk his safety, set aside his schedule and pay for the injured man to stay at the inn and then he came back to make sure he was ok. Look at Luke 10:33-37. Go and do likewise. Jesus is calling not just the man who asked the question to go and do likewise; he is calling all of us to go and do likewise. He is calling all of us to go and serve.
So following Jesus means being a servant and there are all kinds of ways we can serve others and I could just start listing, but what I want to do instead is talk about how to develop the heart of a servant. The truth is there are many times we don’t serve because we just don’t want to do it, so how we can cultivate a desire and passion to serve. One of the most powerful calls to serve comes from Paul who wrote to the church in Phillip and encouraged them to follow Jesus by being servant Look at Philippians 2:1-11.
Paul says we should have the same attitude or the same mind as Christ when it comes to humility and service. Jesus had the heart of a servant and we need to have that same heart, but how do we get it? How do we develop that attitude of service? Let me share three practical steps that can help us develop a servant’s heart.
The first step is to begin to love service. In his book on humility, John Dickson says we are shaped by what we love so if we begin to see the beauty there is in service, if we begin to truly love the idea of serving people, then we will love service and become a servant. So to develop a servant’s heart we have to begin to love service and see the value and influence and inspiration that comes when we serve. We have to remind ourselves that while the culture around us tells us that real life and satisfaction only comes when we are on top and everyone is serving us, true power and life and significance comes when we see the value and dignity there is in serving others. The more we love service – the more we will want to serve and the more we will serve. This is what helped the disciples. They loved Jesus and every day they saw Jesus serve them and others and so over time they saw the beauty of Jesus caring for children and reaching out to those in need and they began to understand the value of serving and this shaped their hearts. It didn’t happen all at once – it took time, but it happened.
This leads us to the second step in developing a servants heart and that is to reflect on the lives of servants. Again, the disciples had the opportunity to do this every day and while it took a while, in time they began to see the real power and beauty of service and so became servants themselves. The lives of true servants are powerful and inspirational and maybe the best servant for us to reflect on is still Jesus. Take some time and read one of the gospels and reflect on how Jesus served others. Take notice of how he never thought of himself but was always seeing and thinking about the people around him and how Jesus always seemed to respond to their needs. Read the story of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet in John 13 and see the power, beauty and inspiration in that story. Reflect on the lives of servants like Mother Teresa or read about people today who are risking everything to courageously serve those in need in the inner city or in places of need around the world.
Maybe more powerful than reading anything is to simply reflect on the lives of the people who have served us. Maybe that would be our mother or father. I have done a lot of funerals of parents whose children have talked about how their parents truly served them. Just last week I listened to the Holderman family talk about their mother Phyllis who in very simple and yet powerful ways served her family. She served them by simply being there and being a calm presence in the midst of their lives. I’m not sure Phyllis would have seen herself as a powerful example of a servant (maybe the mark of a true servant) but she was and we can learn a lot by reflecting on the lives of those who have served us. I know I learned a lot about serving by reflecting on my Mon’s life. She served me by not only driving me to music lessons and band competitions but by sitting in the car for hours waiting for those lessons and activities to end. She set aside what would have been good for her to serve me.
Maybe the servants we need to learn from are the people in our church or community. Sarah was a servant in Altoona by being willing to come to the church every week and help provide food for the children of the community when we first started our after-school program. Janice was a servant in Lewisburg by always being there for her parents when they were in need. She sacrificed much of her life and all of her vacations to make sure they were cared for. And I could mention several people here today who set an amazing example for all of us about what it means to serve. There are servants among us who give their time and energy and love and money to help care for friends, neighbors and strangers and they don’t do this for recognition or praise – it is just who they are. They joyfully give up vacations to go on mission trips, take their weekends and free time to serve those in the community and they inspire and encourage me. The quiet servants among us help shape my heart and motivate me to serve more. If we open our eyes, God will show us people who are true servants and as we reflect on their lives it will shape our hearts.
Now the third step is to just get out there and serve. Think of our servant’s heart like a muscle – no muscle gets stronger unless we work them so the only way to become more of a servant is to serve. It may feel strange the first few times we serve others, we may feel inadequate, uncomfortable and completely out of place- but the more we serve the more we will experience the joy of serving and the more we will want to serve and find the courage to do it. And it’s ok to start small. Don’t start your life of service by taking on world hunger or solving the problem of homelessness in NYC. Start by serving your family. Serve one person in your home or neighborhood this week. Reach out to someone you know who is in need or deliver some canned goods to the food bank. Simple acts of service will lead to more until eventually it becomes a part of our lives.
If you aren’t sure how or where you can serve, you can start right here. We can plug you into service on Sunday morning or through the week and we can use just about anything you have to offer. I would also invite you to circle Saturday April 26 right now because that is the day that we are inviting everyone in Faith Church to serve. Our goal is to set aside one day where we all come together to serve others and our mission is to serve our seniors. There are seniors in our community who often need help getting their homes and yards cleaned up after the winter and ready for the spring. It doesn’t matter what you can or can’t do – we can and will help you serve others if you will give us that day or any part of that day.
The truth is that we will never have a servant’s heart and become a servant until we step out and serve others and the great thing is that once we do start serving we will experience something powerful and profound because we will experience the presence of God. When we serve we not only have the same mind as Jesus but we have his heart and hands which means we begin to experience His presence and the power of his love. So serving may be hard and unpleasant at times – but it will bring joy because it brings Jesus.
One last comment on being a servant, at some point we have to forget about being a servant. We don’t stop serving but we don’t think about it anymore because it is just who we are. When Jesus began to wash the feet of his disciples what moved him was that he saw a need among his friends and so he just did something about it. While he used it as a teachable moment, what motivated Jesus to first take up a towel was seeing his friends in need. My hope and prayer is that by serving and loving to serve and reflecting on all those who do serve that we get to that same place where it just flows from our hearts each and every day.
Following Jesus ~ Service
1. Love Service
• Recognize the power and beauty in service.
2. Reflect on the lives of Servants
• Read one of the gospels and notice all the ways Jesus served others. Read John 13 and reflect on how Jesus served his disciples.
• Identify servants who have made a difference in our world throughout history.
• Identify 2 people who have served you. What lessons can you learn from them about being a servant?
• Identify 1 person in the community today who is a servant and reflect on how their life is making a difference.
• What one way can you serve someone this week at home, work, school or church.
• Set aside Saturday April 26 to join Faith Church in Serving our Seniors.
• Consider how you can make serving others at church or in the community a regular part of your week.