It's Your Serve, Part 2
The Heart of a Servant
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
June 19, 2005


Main Passage: Matthew 20:20-28 (NLT)

Psychologist Milton Rokeach wrote a book about three men he had treated: Leon, Joseph, and Clyde. These three men were psychiatric patients at a hospital in Michigan, and each of them had a Messiah complex. Well, the made several attempts to treat them individually, but he wasn’t having much success so he decided on a new method of treatment. He decided to treat them by putting them all together all the time, and he did that for two years. Every day, every meal, even their work times—they were together. They even slept in adjacent beds. The doctor thought that perhaps their interaction would result in the diminishing of the delusions.

But the therapy didn’t really do much good. Except that it led to some interesting conversations. For example, one of them would claim that he was the Messiah, the Son of God. The doctor would asked him how he knew that, and the patient would reply, “God told me so.” At which point one of the other patients would respond, “I did not!” These three men were totally convinced that they were divine.

Thing is, they’re not alone. Many people today have a Messiah complex. Oh, they may not have been officially diagnosed that way, but they live and act as if they were their own God. In his book The Life You’ve Always Wanted, John Ortberg wrote…

“To maintain the illusion that you are the Messiah, you must shut out evidence to the contrary. If you want to be your own God, you have to settle for living in a tiny universe where there is room for only one person.”
~ John Ortberg

In other words, in order to function in the larger world, you have to become appropriately smaller. And that’s hard for us. Our pride doesn’t like the idea of becoming smaller. But this concept of becoming smaller is exactly what Jesus taught by word and by example. He taught us what it means to be a servant by becoming a servant Himself.

Last week we began a sermon series dealing with servanthood, and we looked specifically at the example that Jesus set for us as the Radical Servant. If you missed that message, you can read in on our website. Today, we’re going to continue discussing servanthood and we’ll look specifically at what makes a servant a servant. We’re going to talk about common characteristics or marks of true servants, and then we’ll talk about three steps you need to take to become a true servant yourself. Okay? Let’s get going…


Marks of a True Servant:

1. True Servants are self-forgetful.

True servants don’t spend all of their time thinking about what’s best for them and how they can achieve the highest level of comfort and how they can prosper in everything they do. Those aren’t their primary concerns. They set aside their own personal interests and look instead to the interests of others. Instead of elevating themselves and looking to be served, they elevate others and seek to serve them.

Philippians 2:3-4 (MSG)
Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.

There’s a word for this. It’s the word, “humility”, although I think we sometimes misunderstand that word. Because being humble does not mean being insecure or being inferior. And it does not indicate that you lack confidence. If anything, true humility signifies that you do have self-confidence… you’re so confident, in fact, that you don’t need others to serve you to prove your worth.

Last week we talked about Jesus, and we saw how He humbled Himself by giving up His rights as God in order to become a man, and how He humbled Himself even further by allowing Himself to suffer a criminal’s death on a cross. Did Jesus lack confidence? Did He lack worth? Was He insecure or inferior? I don’t think so.

So what, then, is humility? I like how Rick Warren defines it…

“This is true humility: not thinking less of ourselves but thinking of ourselves less.”
~ Rick Warren

So being selfless means that I think of myself less. The problem with this, though, is that it challenges human nature (at least, it challenges our fallen human nature). Most of us tend to be more selfish than selfless. I don’t think there’s any disputing that. So it takes effort, it takes time, and it takes the transforming work of God in our lives for us to become selfless and practice true humility.

But in the end, it’s all worth it. Jesus said…

Matthew 23:11-12 (NLT)
“The greatest among you must be a servant. But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Luke 17:33 (MSG)
“If you grasp and cling to life on your terms, you’ll lose it, but if you let that life go, you’ll get life on God’s terms.”

True servants are self-forgetful. They focus on serving others, not serving self. And in the end, God promises that they will be rewarded.

The second mark of a true servant is…


2. True Servants are stewards, not owners.

Steward. Now that’s an interesting word. But what does it mean? Well, here’s one definition:

Steward - One who manages another’s property, finances, or other affairs.

So for the fully devoted follower of God’s, this means that they understand that everything they have and everything they are and everything they hope to be comes from God and ultimately belongs to God. They are simply managers, or stewards, of it all. God has entrusted all your money, all your belongings, all your time, and all your abilities to you, and He is counting on you to use it all in ways that honour Him.

Jesus told a story about a master who gave three of his servants various amounts of gold to invest for him. To one servant, he gave five bags of gold. To another, two bags of gold. And to the third servant, he gave one bag. And he told them that he was going away on a trip and would be back to see how they did with the investments.

The first two servants… the ones with five bags and two bags of gold… each took the gold, invested it, and doubled it. When the master found out, he praised them and rewarded them by trusting them with more important responsibilities.

The third servant, on the other hand, was afraid of losing the money he was given, so he took that one bag of gold and he buried it in the ground. But when the master found out what he had done, he reprimanded the servant and told him that he should have at least put the money in the bank so it would have gained interest. And then he took back what the servant had, fired him and had him thrown out of the house.

Listen to what else the master said…

Matthew 25:29 (NLT)
“To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who are unfaithful, even what little they have will be taken away.”

Everything you have and everything you are is given to you from God. Yes, I know you work hard and you earn your salary. But where do you get that ability to work? Plus, when you decided to accept Christ into your life and chose to follow Him, it was a total commitment. You didn’t tell God that you would follow Him when it was convenient and give to Him when you had some extra time and resources. You made a commitment to follow His will in all you do and to manage your resources as any good steward would do for his master at all times.

Matthew 6:24 (NLT)
“No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

Luke 16:11 (NLT)
“And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven?”

Rick Warren summed it up this way. He said…

“Money has the greatest potential to replace God in your life. More people are sidetracked from serving by materialism than anything else… Wealth is certainly not a sin, but failing to use it for God’s glory is.”
~ Rick Warren

So true servants are stewards, not owners. They recognize that everything they have is not really theirs… it’s God’s. They have merely been entrusted with it by God. True servants focus on ministry, not money.

The third mark of a servant is…


3. True Servants are faithful in their service.

In your notes, you can fill in the blank with the word “faithful”. And I also want you to underline the word “their”. True servants are faithful in their service. And they’re not so concerned about what acts of service others are doing. I mean, they don’t measure themselves against what others are doing. Their aim is simply to be a faithful servant, and it doesn’t depend on whether others are faithful or are not. They do their best, regardless. They don’t compare, criticize, or compete. As one person put it…

“Thoroughbreds run their own races. They don’t look at anyone else or what anyone else is doing. They run their own races.”
~ Anonymous

The apostle Paul wrote about our tendency to compare ourselves with others…

Romans 14:4 (CEV)
What right do you have to criticize someone else’s servants? Only their Lord can decide if they are doing right…

Galatians 5:26 (MSG)
That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original.

And that’s true. We are all originals. God made each of us special. We all have different gifts to offer and different ways in which we can serve. We all have something different to contribute, so there’s no point in criticizing others and comparing ourselves with them. We’ll get into that a bit more next week as we discuss spiritual gifts.

We tend to compare ourselves with each other today, and Jesus encountered people who did the same thing in His day…

Luke 10:38-40 (NLT)
As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a village where a woman named Martha welcomed them into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was worrying over the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”

Martha had been performing an act of service by making dinner. Anything wrong with that? No, ya gotta eat. So she was doing a good thing. But then she started to look at Mary who was visiting with Jesus and enjoying spending some time with Him. What happened in Martha at that moment? She became jealous and resentful, and she lost her servant’s heart.

A true servant is faithful in their service. They focus on their own responsibilities and not on what others are or are not doing. Fourthly…


4. True Servants do not need to prove their worth.

The fact is, most of us are too insecure to be real servants. We’re too busy trying to prove our worth to do an act of service. We’re looking to be validated. We seek praise. We want to be recognized. Only when we receive some form of praise or recognition do we feel like we’re actually worth anything.

But when your sense of self-worth is based on what others think of you, you find yourself on an endless pursuit to earn the respect and praise of others. And you buy into the lie that if you serve someone, you are lowering yourself and giving up some of that worth. So the result is that you refuse to be a servant.

But you need to understand that your true worth is not founded on what others think of you at all. Your true worth is based on what God thinks of you. And what does He think of you? He loves you. He loves you so much that He was willing to suffer and die a painful death for you, just so you could receive forgiveness and eternal life. Hey, He created you in the first place. The Bible says that you are His masterpiece… He knit you together in the womb.

Psalm 119:14, 17 (NLT)
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous--and how well I know it… How precious are your thoughts about me, O God! They are innumerable!

What does that tell you about your worth? And if God places that much value in you and loves you that much, what does it really matter what others think? Sure, it feels good for others to think you are important. And they may or may not. But that should not be your goal in life. So don’t be so preoccupied with building yourself up so others will approve of you.

2 Corinthians 10:18 (CEV)
You may brag about yourself, but the only approval that counts is the Lord’s approval.

“Servanthood is not about how I add value to my life but about how I add value to yours.”
~ Gordon MacDonald

And if you want to talk about someone who had a legitimate position to name-drop and impress others, how about James, the half-brother of Jesus? I’m sure he could have cashed in on that relationship if he wanted to. But what did he do instead? Listen to how he referred to himself in the letter that bears his name… He started by identifying himself…

James 1:1 (CEV)
“From James, a servant of God and of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Even the half-brother of Jesus saw himself as a servant. So true servants do not need to prove their worth. Their worth is firmly established in their identity with God. So they focus on what God thinks of them, not what others think. And fifth…


5. True Servants see service as an opportunity, not an obligation.

A true servant doesn’t have to drag themselves around and force themselves to do acts of service. They do acts of service because they want to… they are motivated because of their love and the love of God working through them. So they see service as a joy and not as a duty. They understand the words of Psalm 100…

Psalm 100:2 (ESV)
Serve the LORD with gladness!

You know what? When I was in college, I recognized something about how I worked. In the classes that I didn’t like, I did the bare minimum, and sometimes not even that much. I had to force myself to complete assignments and get my work done. But in the courses that I enjoyed, there was no such problem. I would typically attack those assignments early on, do a good, thorough job with them, and maybe even do a little extra. Those classes were a breeze for me and I usually aced them.

Today, I can look around and see people treating their jobs in much the same way. Some people feel trapped in jobs they hate, but they have to pay the bills so they force themselves to do the work. Sometimes they cut corners and waste time, just because they can’t do their work with any sort of joy or gladness. So they’ll watch the clock and get out of there as soon as possible every day.

But for those who are fortunate enough to find a job that they enjoy, they throw themselves into their work. They will often skip their breaks because they lose track of time. They’ll take on extra assignments and revel in them. They don’t even mind coming in early every once in a while or staying late.

You know what? For someone with a true servant’s heart, that’s what it’s like for them. They enjoy serving others. They’re energized by it. They can truly serve with gladness. In fact, listen to what Nobel Peace Prize recipient Albert Schweitzer said…

“The only really happy people are those who have learned how to serve.”
~ Albert Schweitzer

So true servants see service as an opportunity, not an obligation. They focus on what they can do, not what they must do. They’re motivated by their love and God’s love flowing through them, by a desire to follow the example of Jesus, and by the promise that God will ultimately recognize their service and reward them for it.

John 12:26 (CEV)
“If you serve me, my Father will honor you.”

Hebrews 6:10 (NLT)
For God is not unfair. He will not forget how hard you have worked for him and how you have shown your love to him by caring for other Christians, as you still do.

Okay, so those are five common marks of a servant. I mentioned earlier that I was going to give you three steps that you need to take if you are going to become a true servant and develop the heart of a servant. These three things that I’m going to list for you are not three things that you go out and “do”. They’re not actions you need to take. I mean, obviously you need to get involved in acts of service. But these three things are more concerned with developing the heart of a servant. They deal with internal changes that have to take place within you. Here they are…


Becoming a True Servant:

A. Admit that being a servant is contrary to my selfish human nature.

We all tend to be selfish by nature, but if you’re in denial about that then nothing will ever change. Simply acknowledge that selfishness is a real problem that must be addressed.


B. Recognize that in spite of that selfish tendency, I am called to be a servant.

Don’t just dismiss the verses we looked at this morning. Understand that even though selfishness may be natural, it’s not God’s plan for you. Those selfish tendencies are a part of your sin nature, and God wants to rid you of that sin nature. So don’t try to make excuses for it and don’t ignore it. Recognize that God calls you to be a servant and be selfless instead of selfish.


C. Pray that God will create in me a servant’s heart… a genuine desire to serve others with love.

The Bible is quite clear that it is God who has the power to transform a life. He is the one who can cleanse a person from a selfish heart and replace it with a servant’s heart. Pray and ask Him to do that, and trust that He will. And continue to pray for that servant heart to be refreshed and to grow daily.




Copyright © 2005