Day 1: The Principle of Paradox
Taking the very nature of a servant…he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place” (Philippians 2:7-9).
A man is tallest when he kneels—so said G. K. Chesterton. And here is the paradox of what God is teaching us about servanthood.
Being a servant is a humble business. It is the sort of thing that is usually considered demeaning to one’s pride. And therein is the secret, isn’t it? Pride was Adam’s problem. It has been our problem right along. It is the core of the old nature.
Humility—it is a word that seems quite out of place in today’s world of superstars, top billing, power, and fame. Pride and a desire to be one step ahead of everyone else is part and parcel of living in our media-saturated western world.
But humility is basic to the servant. And in humility we rise to the highest expression of Christ’s nature. C.H. MacIntosh reminds us that in Christ’s sacrificial death there was nothing in it humanly but stench of death, dust, blood, perspiration, and the smell of the Romans’ horses. But in the midst of this terrible odor there went up to the Father’s nostrils the “sweet-smelling savor of obedience.”
INSIGHT: Christ’s power makes humility possible. Trust Him with your pride. Let Him make you tall as you kneel.
Day 2 • Reasonable Service
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1, KJV).
Why, we ask, is presenting our bodies to God a reasonable service? Let’s think of what our God has done for us.
Consider His grace—that despite our wanderings, as the Good Shepherd He continues to hold us.
Consider His mercy—that despite our ever-present sinful nature, a thousand times of turning away from Him, He continues to love us.
Consider His faithfulness—that though our hearts are fickle, often turning after other temporary and little gods, His faithfulness is sure.
Consider His love-love that would reach out to the most vile and wretched of men, that would love you and me in spite of what we are.
Consider His humiliation—the Lord of Glory who came to earth to be beaten, reviled, spit on, crucified, and denied by the very ones who claimed to love Him.
Consider His kingship—the Lord of Glory who spoke and worlds were created, who has promised to prepare a place for us. Us!
INSIGHT: Reasonable service? Yes, but far more than reasonable. It is a priceless privilege—this service in Jesus’ name.
Day 3 • Locked into the System
“Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold, but let God re-make you so that your whole attitude of mind is changed” (Romans 12:2, PH).
There’s nothing so out of step with the world’s ambitions than aspiring to be a servant! But that’s what God wants us to be—servants.
Everything around us suggests that we should work and work hard to get ahead. Who is it we’re to get ahead of? Or what? Some years ago a bestseller suggested that we win in this life by intimidating others. Can you imagine a book that sells a million copies by suggesting that we win by serving? Hardly! But think about it. What more direct, evident, and lovely way to set your own life in contrast to those around you than by being a servant?
In Romans 12 the Apostle Paul talks about serving other Christians. It’s a natural place to start, isn’t it? Serve those you love—those close to you. Genuinely serve them. Then, as Jesus did, serve the others around you, particularly those in need of your love and service.
Are you locked into the world system? Jesus calls us to something quite different-servanthood.
INSIGHT: When Jesus remakes your mind from within your heart’s desire will be that of a servant. Will you let Him do it?
Day 4• Does He Really Care?
“When Jesus had finished saying all this in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. There a centurion’s servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die” (Luke 7:1-2).
Thus opens one of the most remarkable stories of faith in the New Testament. Jesus never saw the man He healed or the one who made the request—or at least so the text indicates.
Here is a Gentile, not a member of the house of Israel, yet Jesus turns aside to heal his servant. Jesus respected both the centurion’s unusual faith and the love he had for his servant. The reason: Jesus was Himself a servant.
Reflect on Daniel, God’s servant who refused to bow before the king—choosing rather to honor the one true God. The king, trapped in a law he hated but could not reverse, acknowledged to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!” (Daniel 6:16) Even this king who had not bowed his knee to Jehovah understood that God looks after His own.
Do you wonder if you can risk the role of a servant when all the world recommends against it? Rely on Jesus’ promise, “I will never leave you nor for sake you” (see Hebrews 13:5, KJV).
INSIGHT: Your Lord can be trusted. His promise is especially precious to those who have left all to follow Him.
Day 5 • In Someone Else’s Hands
“Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). “The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
When we become servants, we really are putting ourselves in Someone else’s hands. It’s the sort of thing we don’t like to do, however. “I’ll take care of myself, thank you” is a familiar phrase.
The turning over of ourselves is another part of servanthood that Jesus teaches us. Because He turned Himself over to the Father and became a servant for our sakes, He can now work in our lives every day, helping each of us do the same.
As servants we become lost or identified with Another. That’s what faith is—trusting ourselves to Someone else. Jesus did just that—every day. And, when you consider it, that’s exactly what being faithful is-placing your trust in Someone day after day.
After more than two million miles of air travel, my getting on the plane still requires faith, for at 39,000 feet, my life is most certainly not in my own hands. I am in the hands of the pilot.
You may feel as though you’re at “39,000 feet” with circumstances that are just too complex. Jesus the Servant trusted Himself to His Father. Can you?
INSIGHT: The only hope we have for servanthood is trusting Him who gives all life and conquers death.
Day 6 • Cause and Effect
“[Christ Jesus] made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant. … Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name” (Philippians 2:7, 9).
Effects do have causes. We’re in a day when that sort of thinking is unpopular. Some would have us believe that we are the result of random events in the universe—the universe itself being the result of random happenings shrouded in dim pasts.
The Scripture talks about cause and effect. One of the most beautiful examples is in its discussion of servanthood.
Jesus is the subject when Paul writes, “Therefore God exalted Him” (v. 9). Did you notice that “therefore”? It means as a result of. “So what?” you ask. Here’s the point—there are consequences for how we live our lives. In this case, God has highly exalted Jesus because He humbled Himself and became a servant.
Check your life. Are you living as though some thing will come of what you’re doing? Or are you living as though your affairs are just a random jumble of events, of no great meaning to anyone else, much less God? Know that He cares!
INSIGHT: One of life’s joys is that God in heaven really does care. Know that what you do today as a servant has lasting significance.
Day 7 • Say “Yes”
“Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him” (Hebrews 5:8-9).
Ever been in love—truly in love? One thing you discover when you’re in love is that you have an intense desire to do whatever your lover wants you to do. Would you think of that as obedience? Probably not. It is much more like pleasing the other person.
Jesus was “obedient to death—even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8). Have you ever thought that if Jesus had wanted to go to the cross, the act would have been robbed of much of its meaning? No, He didn’t want the cross, but He did want to be obedient. It’s the nature of a true servant.
We come back to faith again, for the real issue of obedience is whether we can trust God, know ing that He knows the whole picture; that He has our best interests in mind; that in obedience we will find our greatest joy.
Jose Bonino says that we know God to the extent we are obedient. Knowing God is not some theological exercise, intellectual game, or emotional trip. It is understanding God’s will and doing it.
INSIGHT: Do you love God? Then ask Him to teach you obedience. Ask Him to give you a willing heart and the strength to respond to His desires today.
Day 8 · Assets and Servants
“For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods” (Matthew 25:14, KJV).
The man wrote that he had been in a massive accident which had left him completely paralyzed, but now he had begun to recover the use of his upper body and wanted to do something for Christ. He had a typewriter. “Could I type labels for your organization?” he wrote.
My return letter indicated we could use his help. And the man’s reply was, “I wept for joy when I realized that I could do something for God.”
We each have assets—valuable assets Jesus has given us to use: hands that work, a mind that functions, feet that walk, eyes that see. When we put these assets at His disposal, He takes what we think are the ordinary things of our lives and makes something extraordinary out of them.
Assets are given to us as a trust. Most of us have much-bodies that function, minds that work, and “things” we need. What will we say as servants when Jesus returns and asks how we have used those assets? Are we “trading” with them daily in His name, asking Him to multiply their value?
INSIGHT: All that you have is from God’s hand. Acknowledge your dependence on Him, and ask Him for wisdom to use wisely what He has given.
Day 9• Acting on What We Know
“That servant who knows his master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. . . . From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded” (Luke 12:47-48).
In most cases it’s no good saying, “I do not know what God wants me to do.” For usually God’s will has been clearly revealed. More often than not in the Scripture the Lord has shown what kind of people He wants us to be, how He wants us to act. Now certainly there are daily perplexities— where to go, how to handle a situation—circumstances in which we need God’s Spirit to guide us.
However, our Master has revealed His plan His basic desires for us. He has told us that we are dependent on Him, not ourselves, that He is com ing again, and that we are accountable for what we have done with our lives. He has reminded us that we should live always ready to see Him at any time. In fact, we are more joyous as we live in real anticipation of His coming.
A gold mine of God’s will is in Romans 12 and 13. The specific principles there are part of the Master’s plan for us. Read these chapters, asking God to give you the power to make them part of your own life. Then trust Him to work through you.
INSIGHT: The challenge is not more information, but faith and the will to act on what we already know.
Day 10 • Divided Loyalties
“No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money” (Luke 16:13).
Having worked over the years in cities like Berlin, Vienna, and Prague, one gets an occasional glimpse into the world of espionage and intrigue. It is an empty world, for there is no life so lonely as that of the double agent. The spy who serves both sides is filled with terror and mistrust.
Jesus says that when an individual seeks to please both worlds he retains no confidence in either. And isn’t one of life’s basic needs a desire to have someone in whom to place absolute trust? This need cannot be met, says our Lord, for the person who tries to serve two masters.
Is the Christian life just a disguise—a handy “cover” for your real allegiance to the world system of money and power? Do you wear the Christian disguise, thinking that it makes you more respectable, or that it takes care of your conscience?
Jesus calls His servants to absolute loyalty. It is not an arbitrary demand. Rather, it is the door to His riches—riches like true confidence, peace, and His daily supply of encouragement.
INSIGHT: Working both sides never works. Cast in with Jesus, and when you do, that loyalty gives you everything else.
Day 11. Right Motives
“Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters ... in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; not with eye service, as men pleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart” (Ephesians 6:5-6, KJV).
There is a certain sense in which it seems especially spiritual to be a servant. We can be looking for the affirmation of people. It is so nice to have others think we have a gracious, servant spirit—and to have them let us know they think so. But if we play for that kind of applause we already have our reward.
Remember Jesus’ admonition about fasting? We should wash our faces, leave our closets of prayer with a smile, and let the joy of the Lord be on our countenances (Matthew 6:16-18). If we go through the day with a dark, pained, sacrificial countenance, seeking consolation from others—we have our reward.
So it is with our servanthood. Oh, it’s true that as we have the spirit of a servant there will be those who recognize it and who, in Christlike affirmation, respond with appreciation. But that is quite a different thing, isn’t it? That’s the by-product, not the goal. Do we have the right motive in our servanthood?
INSIGHT: Be a servant because of your love for Christ and His love for others not for applause or recognition.
Day 12 · Servants Versus Friends
“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15).
Friends—real, genuine friends of the King! Access to the court. Privileged to His plans. Associated with His name—and with that association all the glory, power, and security that comes with kingship. Remember how grand the words used to sound, “Lord of the Manor”? But think of “Lord of Creation”!
This Lord of Creation has called us to the spirit of a servant, both in our service to Him and to others. But our place? That’s quite different. We are positioned as children of the King. His friends!
A conversation revolves around what we know of another’s affairs. Someone speaks with authority about how things really are. We listen with respect, for here is someone who has the confidence, the closeness, the relationship with the one under discussion. In short, he has the privileged position.
That’s where we are, my friend. Jesus has given us all the Father gave Him: His Word, His Spirit, the full richness of all He is—ours as His friends, friends of God with the spirit of a servant.
INSIGHT: Servanthood means most when we choose the role in response to Jesus. As His friend, it should be a natural choice.
Day 13 • Living Responsibly
“From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked” (Luke 12:48).
Servants are charged with living responsibly. That’s what is unpleasant about it—the account ability. It is much more pleasurable, or so the Adversary would have us think, to “do our own thing.”
This living responsibly seems to raise the specter of consequences in our own lives and in the lives of others around us. It brings to the surface all those things like performance, duty, and the fact that someone, somewhere really does know and care about what we do—even in our secret moments. We want to be autonomous—free. Also, for some reason, there always seems to be a number of attractive alternatives to what one knows is right. Not unattractive. Attractive. Like satisfying my ego, my sensual nature, my desire for ease. Then there’s the option of procrastination, of just doing nothing. These options always seem to rise at a most vulnerable period—just when we should be acting responsibly.
But Jesus calls us to play for long-term stakes— the biggest prize. And any other option than responsible living is playing for the short-term.
INSIGHT: Responsible living is made possible only by His power and it brings peace that no other alternative can offer. Ultimately it will bring that cherished, “Well done.”
1 THESSALONIANS 5:12-24
Day 14 • The Energy Problem
“May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless… The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).
Some time ago I wandered on the docks of Dakar, Senegal. It was early morning. The mist was just clearing, adding to the mystery of that exotic West African port. Her tramp steamers, little ferry boats, and fishing vessels were alive with activity. I stood by the towering hulk of a great freighter, reflecting on the complexity of her machinery, the beauty of her lines, and the tons of goods she could carry to the far corners of the world. She was just being refueled in preparation for another voyage. Without that vital energy in the form of petroleum, that ship would not carry an ounce of cargo anywhere. She, for all her wondrous character, would be worthless.
Now that’s exactly where we are. God has made us—wondrous potential. As His children we have been given the privilege of carrying the Good News. But without His power filling our lives, servanthood is an empty shell of our good intentions.
Will you trust Him? He provides the power for servanthood—the only power that is possible.
INSIGHT: Do you find the spirit of a servant impossible? Reflect on the promise of the One who started the good work in you. He will bring it to completion. He will do it!
Day 15 • Aspiring to Greater Things
“Whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:44-45).
We all want to get ahead. We all want to know that our lives are growing in value, that for all our work and effort there will be some sort of reward someday.
Two of Jesus’ inner circle of friends were concerned about the same thing. James and John wanted to be sure to have a place close to Jesus when He came into His kingdom. They figured that the hard ships and obscurity they were enduring, the abandoning of their trade and the security of their incomes—well, it should be worth something when Jesus ascended to the throne. Their ambitions were extraordinary—they wanted the seats that would flank His.
Jesus’ response is worth repeating here, for we each need His reminder. “Whoever among you wants to be great must become the servant of you all, and if he wants to be first among you he must be the slave of all men! For the Son of Man Himself has not come to be served but to serve, and to give His life to set many others free” (vv. 44-45, PH).
INSIGHT: Serve now and let the Father set you in the position of reward and prominence—when and how He will.
1 CHRONICLES 29:1-9
Day 16 •The Joy of a Willing Heart
“Who then is willing to consecrate his service this day unto the Lord?” (1 Chronicles 29:5, KJV) “This service that you perform… is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God” (2 Corinthians 9:12).
There is nothing quite like the joy that comes from doing something for someone because you genuinely want to do it. Down inside there is a sense of satisfaction that renews our spirits.
And it is that kind of willing spirit that we must bring to serving the Lord if we’re to have the joy of being His servants. Grudging service will never do— either for the benefit of the kingdom or for the benefit of our own spirits. Condescension will never do, for there is no service so repulsive as that given in a demeaning way.
No, it must be with a willing heart. “The people rejoiced at the willing response of their leaders,” we read, “for they had given freely and wholeheartedly to the Lord” (1 Chronicles 29:9).
David added his own wonder as the joy of the situation was seen by everyone. “Who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand” (v. 14).
INSIGHT: Ask the Lord for the strength and the spirit of love to distribute, through your servanthood, the good things you have from Him. Your heart will be filled with joy!
Day 17 •The Inescapable Conclusion
“But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching.… You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness” (Romans 6:17-18).
One Sunday afternon as I took a long, reflective walk, familiar verses from Romans 6 turned over and over in my mind. The conclusion was inevitable: You always serve something.
Possibly you serve your ego. It may be your sense of power or success—the image you think others have of you. These masters are among the most readily found, but are by no means the only ones we cater to. You always serve something.
God calls us to make a conscious decision-a decision to serve Him. It is a call to turn away from sin, for sin is a master too, a dreaded master. And the reality is that those who do not serve Christ ultimately serve the only other possible master, Satan and his option—sin.
Paul observes, “Thank God that you, who were at one time the servants of sin, honestly responded to the impact of Christ’s teaching.” He goes on, “Sin pays its servants: the wage is death. But God gives to those who serve Him: His free gift is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:17, 23, PH).
INSIGHT: As you reflect during this day, ask, Whom am I serving? You are serving someone—that’s certain.
Day 18 • A Step at a Time
“Blessed be the Lord God of my master Abraham, who hath not left destitute my master of his mercy and his truth: I being in the way, the Lord led me to the house of my master’s brethren” (Genesis 24:27, KJV).
Actually the assignment was impossible. First of all, it was to go out and pick a wife for the heir of the empire. That was enough in itself. But on top of that, the description of the girl was ambiguous and the details as to where she would be found were virtually nonexistent.
That’s what Abraham’s servant faced as he mounted his camel and started out. It was impossible—at least humanly. But this faithful servant went, trusting Abraham and God. Step by step God gave him ideas and questions to ask and individuals to talk with.
Why God met the servant is clear-he was “in the way.” He was doing what God wanted—obedience. He was doing it where and how God wanted it. In short, the servant was filling the prerequisites. The task seemed impossible, but the prerequisites were simple. They usually are. Just do those few things we know are right to do.
And from all this Isaac received Rebekah, due to the faithfulness of a servant who took things one step at a time.
INSIGHT: Jesus is always ready to guide us just when we finally admit that we have come to nothing—to the end of our resources.
Day 19 • Looking Out and Looking In
“Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant… just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:26, 28).
Lord, many times I wish it were possible to stop —to be served rather than, once again—for the hundredth or thousandth time—having to get up and serve when my body and mind and spirit are so weary. Lord, is it selfishness or is it just that I’m human? But I know—selfishness is being human.
“All right, Lord, I admit that there are times when being a servant is beyond me. Like those times when I have a Christian sense of responsibility to someone who has been unkind. Or to someone who has been irresponsible with me. And, Lord, You want me to be a servant to them, to be responsible when they’re not.
“Lord, how long can I go on giving out in this servant business? When do I take in? When do I get served? It’s true that I am always looking in to my own hurts and needs when I should be looking out, ready to serve others.
“Help me, Lord, to keep looking to you so that I can, in turn, keep looking out, not in.”
INSIGHT: You can depend on the Lord’s help as you rest in His power to give you
strength to do what you cannot do on your own.
Day 20 • Master
“And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, “Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17, KJV)
The man was himself a ruler—the rich young ruler. Yet, despite his wealth and power he came running and knelt down in front of Jesus before all the people. He was serious about eternal life. Are you?
The young ruler understood what it was to be a master, but he also understood that, in Jesus, he had found a Master of a different order.
“Good Master” is what he called Jesus. And He is that-good. His servants never have to fear Him. But Jesus reminded this young ruler that all real goodness comes from God the Father. It does not stem naturally from our own hearts. But God is good and as His servants we know that all from His hand is good. No matter if it brings smiles and happiness or tears and sorrow—He can be trusted.
The young ruler was faced with just one difficulty—his money. He was willing to take the servants position on his knees before Jesus, but he gave away the fact that deep down inside he did not really trust this Master—with everything.
INSIGHT: Do you believe God is truly good? Trust Him as the complete Master of your life. Believe that His goodness will provide you with everything you need.
Day 21 • Keeping On
“His master replied, Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:21)
There are some who would like to characterize the Christian experience of servanthood as one in which everything turns out all right—with happy endings to all our stories..
When the whole picture is viewed, there is no truer promise. In His hands we have certain victory and joy. Praise Him! But right now it is faithfulness that counts. We often hear sermons preached from faith’s “hall of fame,” Hebrews 11. But typically those sermons come from the chapter’s first half, where everything turned out all right. The second half of the story tells of God’s servants who wandered in the desert, lived in caves, and were sawn in two, but who were faithful, “that they might gain a better resurrection” (Hebrews 11:35).
What gallery are you playing to? If we play for this life’s gallery we’re bound to lose everything eventually. “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36) Trust Jesus with everything. He will give you the heart for faithfulness and the strength to walk with Him.
INSIGHT: Keep on keeping on. Jesus is looking for those who are expecting the records to be kept in heaven. His joy is the eventual crown, and we will share in that joy as we are faithful.
Day 22 • Good Intentions; Bad Priorities
“Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’” (Luke 10:40)
The Master had arrived and the house was in a flurry. It wasn’t just that He was a very close friend, one they loved and spent considerable time with; it was that they had a sense of who He really was. It was natural, then, that Martha should think about the “over and above” kind of hospitality due such a guest.
But here service was a disservice. For in trying to do something for Jesus, Martha was missing Jesus Himself. What a commentary—to be so busy serving the Lord that we don’t spend time with Him.
In spite of the fact that Jesus had come into the world as a servant—that He had called His disciples and friends (including you and me) to have the spirit of a servant—He said to Martha, “Only one thing is really needed. Mary has chosen the best part and it must not be taken away from her!” (v. 42, PH)
Serving is good, of course, but it should come after we have spent time with our Master.
INSIGHT: Only a few, simple things in life really must be done, and the time we spend with the Lord is the most basic of all.
2 CORINTHIANS 5:11-21
Day 23 • In His Majesty’s Service
“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:19-20).
It is usually quite a privilege to serve an earthly king. But think about being a servant of The King—the One who made heaven and earth. Those in Scripture who delighted in calling themselves servants of Christ were numerous. Among them were Peter, Paul, Jude, Epaphras, and Timothy. There must be something to it.
Paul spoke of ambassadorial service-speaking on behalf of The King. I was once in a diplomatic briefing in a foreign country. The ambassador stepped forward and started, “On behalf of my President, let me say …” It’s the sort of thing people expect of ambassadors. Behind your words, fellow Christian, are the power and authority of The King.
A.W. Tozer once indicated that when you find a person controlled by and filled with the Spirit of God, you see God walking among men. If you know Christ, in a very real sense you are God to those around you. Terrifying responsibility? No, because it is not our own brilliance, strength, or spirituality that makes it possible—it is His.
INSIGHT: Jesus promises, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). What a promise! What a remarkable adventure to be in His Majesty’s service!
1 SAMUEL 3:1-18
Day 24 · Listening
“Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:9). “I will listen to what God the Lord will say; he promises peace to his people, his saints… Surely his salvation is near those who fear him” (Psalm 85:8-9).
I was sitting in a coffee shop with an acquaintance. We were talking, or I should say I was talking, since it was apparent my friend’s mind had decided to tune in somewhere else.
It’s a familiar problem for all of us, this matter of listening.
Listening is one-half of verbal communication. As good listeners, we first of all must place real value in the person speaking. Then there must be attention to what is being said and an understanding of the words being spoken. And, finally, our reflection on the meaning or implications of the message is essential.
As servants of the Lord we need to know His will-hear His voice. We listen to Him as we read His Word; then pray as we read, asking the Lord to help us understand the meaning. Read again slowly, thinking about the words and their meaning to us and our personal lives. This kind of attentive reading, prayer, and meditation is a first step toward good listening.
INSIGHT: Your Master, who loves you be yond the ability of words to describe, wants to communicate with you out of the goodness and love of His heart. Are you listening?
Day 25 • It’s a Matter of Choice
“Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. … But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve” Joshua 24:14-15).
If it were a natural thing to have this spirit of a servant, then where would be our sense of dependence and the manifestation of God’s power in our lives? Not only is servanthood an unnatural spirit to us; being a servant in the name of Christ is something that calls for a specific choice.
Satan is active and wants our most selfish, inde pendent spirit to dominate. But think of Christ Himself. He chose to become a servant, taking “the very nature of a servant” (Philippians 2:7). It speaks of a conscious, willing decision.
Have you asked the Lord specifically, consciously, to fill you with His spirit of a servant? Coming to Him with such a request is the starting point. Then as we continue to seek to serve, we learn more and more of the servant’s role. It’s a role that is not always easy—certainly not ordinarily sought after.
Of course, not choosing is choosing, isn’t it? By letting this matter slip through our minds we have already chosen-in this case to step away from Jesus.
INSIGHT: Have you chosen Christ? If not, would you consider Him now—choosing for Him? Then, if you already know Him, choose to serve Him by serving others in His name.
Hebrews 2:14-18; 4:14-16
Day 26 • Head and Heart Together
“We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are yet was without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).
Not far from my office is a little park. Dozens of times I have gone there to walk and pray, trying to get my head and heart together. Many a time it has been hard to see the path for the tears—tears at the prospect of having to do what I knew was right.
Does that sound strange? It’s a fact that often the most basic test is whether we will obey the Lord when everything within cries out to do just the opposite. My conversations with others seeking to be Christ’s servants only confirm it—that the agony of yielding my innermost heart to Him, to His way—that is the most difficult.
But friend, Jesus was tempted in all the ways you are tempted. How well He understands that it is not just your mind making some kind of abstract decision. He sees your heart—with its dreams, its hopes, its love, its laughter, and its joys. He knows that the heart is the most formidable obstacle to being a true, obedient servant. Because He knows you perfectly, He promises to give you His strength to master your heart—for His sake.
INSIGHT: When you know what is right, but want so badly to do something else, that’s when you can turn to Him for strength to get your head and heart together.
Day 27 · Life Comes After Death
“The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be” (John 12:25-26).
Life is full of relationships: mother-daughter, employer-employee, husband-wife, friend ships and acquaintances. Out of these relationships comes much of what makes life meaningful. A person left alone, absolutely alone, is a pathetic and maladjusted creature.
It is this sort of picture Jesus paints for us in John 12. The servant who is not prepared to die to himself will eventually die alone, having never really lived. What a startling statement! Jesus says further that if we love our life here on earth and seek to cling to it selfishly, we will lose real life and its eternal glory.
Real life—that’s what we want-life in its full ness. It is important for us to see that Jesus put the whole thing in the context of servanthood and death. How strange, in light of the world’s view of life. It’s Jesus who gives life. As we give our life up to Him we, in fact, die to self. It’s a true transformation. Jesus is our reason for living—no matter what place or task He’s given us.
INSIGHT: The world says, “Get all you can get.” “Hold to everything you can get your hands on.” Jesus says, “Come to Me and find life-real life. I am the back side of death!”
Day 28 • Mark of a Free Man
“You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. (Galatians 5:13-14).
Next door you have a difficult neighbor. (No matter that he may view you the same way!) Or it may be a fellow employee or your supervisor. When was the last time you took some fresh flowers to the neighbor? When was the last time you took a pie you so carefully baked for your family and gave it to that neighbor-for them to enjoy?
Paul doesn’t suggest that this kind of servant spirit is to be reserved just for friends, those we love or like to be with. As with the Gospel we are called to share, our servant spirit is for everyone.
As bearers of the Good News, we presume a great deal when we are selective in giving of ourselves. For what do we know about what God wants to do in the heart of that difficult neighbor, except that Christ died for and loves him?
You see, the fresh flowers on your table do nothing to speak to that neighbor of Christ’s love. But given away, they speak volumes. The favorite pie, eaten by yourself, only speaks of self-indulgence if that same pie could help heal a neighbor’s heart.
INSIGHT: Free indeed! To give it all away and trust Him with the consequences that’s a mark of a free man.
1 CORINTHIANS 9
Day 29 · Who Made the Appointment?
“Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible” (1 Corinthians 9:19).
It is always a good exercise to stop and realize again how we got where we are. Too often in our busy living we just let things slide along, assuming this or that, and eventually find ourselves coming to wrong conclusions.
If you are a servant of Jesus Christ, how did you become such? Most certainly there was first the claim of Christ—His calling you to servanthood. Who made your appointment? Was it some other mortal? No, for then we would have had an earthly master, not a heavenly hope. We are called by Christ to this role—not by some individual.
Further, we have chosen, of our free will, to take this assignment. It is something we have reached out to take as Christ offered it to us. It has not been forced on us. Remember? Christ chose to become a servant. It was a conscious act for Him, so He understands our hearts.
All of this sets us free from human bondage. At the same time it give us that glorious freedom to serve, to make ourselves servant to every person.
INSIGHT: We choose to be servants, knowing Christ has called us—Christ who lives in us and will bring us to glory for having accepted this privileged title: servant!
Day 30 • Final Payments
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:23-24).
W here are you expecting to receive your payment for living as Christ’s servant—here or there? Now or later?
Many labor for wages paid every Friday night. If their labor is honest, those wages are due them. Others make investments with their funds, expecting a payoff at some future date. For them, obviously, Fridays do not have the same significance. For a Christian it is vitally important to keep the world’s and heaven’s system of payments sorted out. They are different.
If you’re looking for Friday night wages for having lived as a servant, you are in for disappointment. But if you are investing in heaven, then your life as a servant is certain to be richly re warded. Can you lay aside the short-term, short lived benefits and toil for the lasting ones?
Paul gives a most reassuring promise from God, “Your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (3:3-4).
INSIGHT: Christ is our life now. His power and understanding with us is what makes servanthood possible. And He will be our glory in the future. Praise His name!